Aberdeen’s lord provost could be probed by the standards watchdog – as the fallout from a furious council meeting continues.
Lord Provost David Cameron has had a long-running disagreement with independent councillor Jennifer Stewart.
After what was thought to be a Christmas truce struck last December, the pair have continued at loggerheads at nearly every public opportunity.
The impasse has left Mrs Stewart seeing “no other option” but to take her complaints to the Standards Commission, which scrutinises the conduct of councillors.
If she does, Mr Cameron would be the second councillor who entered the chambers on Wednesday an SNP member to be dobbed in.
But in the heat of the row, Mrs Stewart also challenged others to report her behaviour, if they think she’s out of line.
‘Racist’ jibe by then-SNP councillor started huge Aberdeen City Council row
Tillydrone, Seaton and Old Aberdeen member Kairin van Sweeden resigned her party membership after facing condemnation for an “absolutely racist” jibe aimed at Labour’s Deena Tissera.
SNP leader, First Minister Humza Yousaf, stepped in to personally apologise to the Sri Lankan, who first moved to Aberdeen for university study.
She was derided for being a “new Scot” while debating how best to help children living in poverty.
The council went from debating how best to help the city’s poorest to national news with those two words.
Mr Yousaf called Ms van Sweeden’s attack “unacceptable” and, within hours, the SNP announced she had handed in her membership card.
She has also referred herself to the party’s national executive and opened herself to investigation from the standards watchdog too.
In the coming weeks, her places on council committees will be reconsidered after she left the ruling SNP and Lib Dem administration.
Cameron v Stewart: Another rematch of battling Aberdeen councillors
But ramifications for others now look to have rippled out in her wake.
The latest Cameron v Stewart bust-up came as the lord provost tried to process and de-escalate the shocking turn of phrase used to imply Ms Tissera had little understanding of British political history.
As he tried to get the protesting Labour benches, including Ms Tissera, to sit down, Mrs Stewart jumped to her feet.
The Hazlehead, Queen’s Cross and Countesswells councillor lambasted the lord provost for failing to intervene “as soon as those awful words were said”.
A second break was enforced by Mr Cameron as she yelled “Intervene! Someone intervene!” before dismissively calling for former lord provost Barney Crockett to be reinstated.
After a back and forth of apology and angry response between councillors van Sweeden and Tissera, Mrs Stewart raised her hand again.
Mr Cameron seemed to take time – maybe eight seconds – between recognising she wanted to speak and inviting her to do so.
That was enough for another full scale incident.
Mouth half open, the lord provost looked as though he had something on the tip of his tongue.
Indeed, he later apologised for the appearance of reluctance to hear from Mrs Stewart, saying: “What I was going to say – because I was thinking of saying something before I noticed your hand – was I think Councillor Tissera summed it up quite well by saying let’s start showing respect at all the times across the chamber.”
‘Ageism’ claims after lord provost asked if he’s too old for the job
But Mrs Stewart rejected that explanation, demanding her own apology.
“You talk about respect. I have not had any.
“My (showing of) respect is actually having not referred you to the Standards Commission.
“And perhaps Lord Provost, with the greatest of respect, if it is your age that is making a delay…”
A roar from the SNP benches was met with incredulity.
“Oh Councillor Mrs Stewart! That’s ageism!” said 77-year-old Mr Cameron.
The independent replied: “Not at all. And you’ve been totally sexist to me throughout my whole time.
“I think you’re absolutely a misogynist – a man who hates women.”
“And furthermore, the lord lieutenants have to retire at 75, but that doesn’t seem to apply to you…”
Mr Cameron agreed as he broke up the meeting for lunch – “It doesn’t, you’re quite right.”
Another councillor yelled, “Standards!” as Mrs Stewart screamed: “YOU KNOW WHAT? REFER ME TO STANDARDS. Bring it on!
“Because my God I have had enough of a time with him (the lord provost). I am sick of you all.”
Aberdeen City councillors told to ‘regulate’ their own behaviour
Amid all the bedlam, milquetoast joint interim chief governance officer Vikki Cuthbert said they had all signed up to the councillors’ code of conduct and should “regulate their own conduct”.
After the meeting, which eventually got back on track to discuss citizen assemblies and winter coats for deprived kids, Mrs Stewart doubled down on much of what she had said.
Calling the lord provost a “bully”, she defended her “democratic right – not to be hung for – to voice my view”.
“I think my only option now, and I didn’t want to go down this road, is to refer him to the Standards Commission,” she added.
“There are so many situations where he has targeted me. It is unacceptable.”
Lord Provost: ‘Our council would be a better place if more people thought before speaking’
The Press and Journal caught Lord Provost David Cameron leaving council chambers.
Asked if he was a misogynist, the septuagenarian replied: “No.”
Once Mrs Stewart had told us she was going to the watchdog, Mr Cameron added: “It is disappointing that pausing briefly to think during a council meeting has resulted in me being attacked due to my age, reported to standards and defamed through the media.
“I would never discourage anyone from taking a moment to think before speaking. In fact, I think our council would be a better place if more people did so.
“Given what Councillor Mrs Stewart has said I will be seeking legal advice.”
Mrs Stewart, 59, highlighted she had made the “ageist” comment, in her words: “With the greatest of respect.”
An SNP spokesman would not be drawn on whether the jibe would be reported to the Standards Commission, indicating public threats of such were not too helpful.
But perhaps, there will be a third city councillor under scrutiny in the not-too-far-off future.