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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Provost accused of racism reported to standards watchdog (Scotland)

A council leader accused of making a racist remark is to be reported to a standards watchdog amid calls for him to quit.

Laurie Fraser, provost of Nairn, made the remark when objecting to a bid to turn Nairn County FC social club into a sports bar.

Claiming it would increase noise and would not be an asset, he told a Highland Council planning committee that some of the 150 letters sent in support were by former social club members. He then added: "One or two of them are actually Muslim."

He was immediately interrupted and told to sit down by Jimmy Gray, the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey committee chairman and provost of Inverness, although Mr Fraser later apologised.

Mr Gray said afterwards that although Mr Fraser was not a member of the committee he was allowed to comment as a local councillor but was not allowed to vote.

He said: "I asked him to sit down because he never added anything to the discussion and his comment was inappropriate. I don't know why he said it but he apologised and the committee accepted it."

Mr Fraser, an Independent councillor, has also sent a letter of apology to the council's chief executive.
He said: "I flipped and lost my temper because I wasn't given a vote as a local member."

Highland Council, which showed the meeting on its website but has since withdrawn the webcast, confirmed it had received two complaints.

John Finnie, the SNP opposition leader, has complained to Sandy Park, the council convener, and is to write to the Standards Commission calling for an investigation.

Mr Finnie, who is a former member of Grampian Racial Equality Council, said: "I was shocked Councillor Fraser, an elected representative of our multicultural Highlands, would think it appropriate to comment in the offensive way he did."