Council comes clean over complaint issue

Twinning Delegation from Alabama afloat.
Twinning Delegation from Alabama afloat.

Aberdeenshire Council has admitted that an allegation contained in an email from a staff member, which has sparked fury between two groups in Stonehaven, was never actually made!

The row broke out after it was alleged, and stated very clearly in an email from Aberdeenshire Council’s acting area manager for Kincardine & Mearns, that Stonehaven’s Town Partnership had complained about the local Twinning Association.

Twinning group welcomed at Aberdeen City Town hall.

Twinning group welcomed at Aberdeen City Town hall.

The Partnership told us they hadn’t made any complaint so we asked the council to produce proof of it.

The council said this: “We have not had any complaints from either Stonehaven Town Partnership or the Business Association but the council did become aware of local concerns surrounding the event, which led to the decision not to be involved.”

They went on: “While we appreciate the positive intentions of the event, it became clear that the twinning event in Stonehaven had become contentious and it didn’t feel appropriate that Aberdeenshire Council or its civic head should be involved.”

Recriminations have been rife since we broke the story of the Provost’s intended involvement at a signing of a twinning concordat between the town and Athens in Alabama.

The Leader has been told that part of the reasoning behind the acrimony is Alabama’s abortion laws, which have apparently angered a number of local people who are unhappy at the thought of twinning with a state which expounds such a hard-line approach to abortion laws.

Chairman of the twinning group Phil Mills-Bishop has hit back over the unnecessary and quite unacceptable behaviour of a few people.

A spokesperson for Stonehaven Town Partnership (STP) said: “STP has never made a public utterance on this matter and we can confirm that as a group have not lodged any complaint with Aberdeenshire Council in regard to the Athens twinning or, indeed, about Stonehaven & North East Twinning Group (sNEST). However, STP has never been approached by sNEST and consequently we have not formed a considered opinion on this project.”

Local councillor Dennis Robertson said: “I was first made aware of the twinning when a constituent raised the issue. I had no prior knowledge of such a project. As an elected member I thought it strange that I had no knowledge of this and it now appears that Aberdeenshire Council were not aware of it either.

“I have made my views clear and have distanced myself and believe this may also be the view of the Stonehaven community, who were not consulted and asked for their opinion.”

Mr Mills-Bishop rebutted the councillor’s suggestion there had been no consultation, saying: “The Stonehaven & NE Scotland Twinning Group is glad that Aberdeenshire Council has admitted that it got it wrong and that there was no widespread objection for the Provost’s attendance at the twinning event with the Mayor of Athens.

“However, the approach by the provost led to the cancellation of the event at Dunnottar Castle. This caused the Twinning Group disruption and embarrassing explanations.

“The event was finally held at Rickarton House, very successfully, with local goodwill and support from the US principal officer to Scotland Ellen Wong. We now hope the Provost’s gifts to the Mayor and City of Athens will be sent with an apology.

“We trust that Aberdeenshire Council will also reverse its decision to remove a display in Stonehaven Library that contained information about the intended relationship with Alabama.

“The Twinning Group maintains its position that while not supporting the strict Alabama State laws on womens’ rights it was not the correct approach to snub the mayor of a city nor his delegation which included their director of tourism and superintendent of schools that had travelled 4000 miles in friendship.

“The Lord Provost of Aberdeen City Cllr Barney Crockett and Cllr John Reynolds, chair of the International Trade Committee, made the right decision welcoming the delegation at the town hall.

“As to not involving others in our activities or communicating them. When the twinning initiative was first mooted two years ago there was no interest from local groups nor from Aberdeenshire Council. Since that time various other attempts were made to no response. However, information on the twinning group has been available for a long time on https://www.facebook.com/stoneytown/ and at http://www.twinningscot.com/. The Twinning Group is more than prepared to finds ways to improve communication and make presentations to interested groups, agencies, including the Kincardine & Mearns Area Committee and work collectively to help make Stonehaven a first stop ‘place of destination’ for overseas visitors.”