Accusations fly in councillors’ row

A WAR or words has broken out between Montrose councillors Paul Valentine and Mark Salmond who have accused each other respectively of “electioneering” and “unprofessional” behaviour.

The row blew up last week after Mr Salmond intervened in a dispute between local businessman Henry Pinder, who runs the beachfront cafe, and Angus Council to have a Saltire flown at the town’s promenade.

The council had told Mr Pinder that the national flag could not be flown until September, when three other flags were removed, but Mr Salmond appealed to the authority’s assistant chief executive to reconsider the decision.

A flag suitable to be flown at the beachfront was sourced and was hoisted at the end of last week.

Mr Salmond said: “I phoned the assistant chief executive and raised my concerns about how Mr Pinder has been treated.

“I fully support Mr Pinder’s request that the Saltire be flown at Montrose beach. It is very important that we should support our Scottish identity and what better way than to have Scotland’s flag flying at Montrose’s premier beachfront.”

But local SNP councillor Mr Valentine accused Mr Salmond of involving himself in the matter for purely political reasons.

He said: “As a member of the Angus Alliance Councillor Salmond wanted to take the Saltire down in 2007 and replace it with the Angus flag. He has got to back up what he says with what he does. He hasn’t been a supporter of flying the Saltire in the past so his sudden leap to patriotism is a little baffling.

“Undoubtedly with 10 months to go before an election he is trying to position himself as a patriot so when the time comes he is a friend of the Nationalists.”

Mr Valentine further attacked comments Mr Salmond made in connection to the introduction of an outreach post office service in Ferryden following closure of the local branch, accusing him of “misleading the public” and implying it was “his intervention only” that had prompted the move.

In a wide-ranging criticism, he also questioned Mr Salmond’s independent status as a member of the Angus Alliance, “the most politically motivated group Angus Council has ever seen.”

Mr Salmond had said: “I had been in discussions with the Post Office after the closure came to light to support the calls for the retention of Post Office Services in the village and as the old ward councillor for Ferryden I was only to aware how popular the post office was and that many local residents relied on its services for their pensions and postal service. It was therefore vital that a service was retained.”

While Mr Valentine said he accepted Mr Salmond had been involved in discussions with Post Office Ltd, he added that Mr Salmond had missed an important meeting with representatives from the company while representing the council meeting at a CoSLA meeting in Stornoway.

He said: “Whilst Councillors West, May and myself were meeting with Post Office officials soon after the closure of the Ferryden Post Office, Councillor Salmond was attending a CoSLA meeting in Stornoway. Whilst I accept that he contacted the Post Office, Councillor Salmond is misleading the public when implying that it is his intervention only that has brought about this proposal.”

Mr Salmond pointed out that while the Ferryden meeting had been called at short notice, the CoSLA meeting had been in his diary for months and he was confident that his fellow councillors would be able to argue a strong case, in his absence, for a service to be retained.

He added: “I think Paul is being very unprofessional criticising me for non-attendance when he was well aware I was going to the CoSLA conference with his party leader and former leader.

“I gave my apologies to the community council and my fellow councillors. I was disappointed I couldn’t be there but I also have responsibilities as a senior councillor.”