Call for council’s deputy leader to resign from post

Ashay Ghai
Ashay Ghai

The leader of the SNP group on East Dunbartonshire Council has this week called for the council’s deputy leader to resign.

The move follows allegations that Liberal Democrat councillor Ashay Ghai was involved in an altercation with SNP Councillor Keith Small, following the last full council meeting on September 25.

Councillor Small, who represents Bearsden South, alleges that Councillor Ghai (Bearsden North) was aggressive towards him and swore at him several times.

The leader of the SNP group, Ian Mackay, said: “I am appalled by the petulant, foul-mouthed and childish attack on my colleague Councillor Keith Small after the last council meeting by the deputy leader of East Dunbartonshire Council.

“With such a lack of self control you have to question Councillor Ghai’s fitness to retain the deputy leader’s position.

“In my view he should resign immediately, but he won’t.”

Councillor Small says LibDem Councillor Ghai was unhappy about comments that he’d made during a discussion of a private paper in the chambers about proposed changes to council employees terms and conditions.

Mr Small said: “He was inches from my face when he swore at me twice.

“I asked him to step back out of my space but he came back and repeated the same insult.

“When I asked him to repeat that in front of witnesses he said it again twice. I think he was trying to incite me to push him or something, but I didn’t rise to it.

“It’s certainly not the kind of behaviour you’d expect from any councillor, least of all the deputy leader.

“I was shocked and taken aback. Things often get heated in the chamber, but I’ve never experienced aggression like this before.”

Councillor Ghai and Councillor Small later met in private with the chief executive.

Councillor Small, said: “I accepted his apology, he was clearly upset by what he’d done and regretted it.”

Gerry Cornes, chief executive of East Dunbartonshire Council, said: “While I did not witness any exchange between councillors following our last council meeting, I was invited to attend a private meeting to discuss a personal matter between two of our elected members.

“Given the private and personal nature of the meeting it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”

SNP Councillor John Jamieson said: “I did witness Councillor Ghai’s regrettable behaviour, he was provoking Keith and just inches from his face - I don’t know how Keith stayed so calm.

“I personally heard Councillor Ghai swear at Councillor Small.

“I understand that the matter has now been resolved, however, the group will be keeping an eye on his future behaviour.”

Councillor Ashay Ghai said: “I’m really disappointed to have to respond to Councillor Small’s completely distorted account of a two-way argument that may have taken place following a long council meeting some time ago.

“I don’t wish to be drawn into his ‘he said, no he said’ games, so it’s suffice to say that his version of events is very much exaggerated to say the least.

“I took action to resolve any disagreement amicably and had been led to believe that this was the case several weeks ago.

“I’m really concerned that Councillor Small has chosen to openly share edited details from a clearly private/personal meeting that I arranged to move the matter on, to the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald.

“Councillors must work under bonds of trust regarding private meetings. This is a basic ethic in a public service role where we often deal with sensitive cases on behalf of those that we represent.

“I will not comment on questions put to me by the local press on what was said in a clearly private meeting and Councillor Small should perhaps examine his own standards in this regard.

“Councillor Mackay – who wasn’t even there – makes a personal and political attack that tells it all.

“If he truly believed that an event that happened outwith the council chamber and one week after the referendum vote was a resigning matter then he doesn’t strike me as the type who would wait a month to say it.

“East Dunbartonshire Council faces serious financial challenges and SNP councillors should concentrate on the important parts of their job rather than concocting politically motivated attacks designed to harm the reputation of others. I now consider this matter closed.”