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Labour urged not to support new Aberdeen City Council co-leader

Councillor Ryan Houghton is expected to be named co-leader of Aberdeen City Council in the coming week
Ryan Houghton, who is expected to become Aberdeen City Council co-leader this week.

Labour has been urged not to support the expected appointment of new Aberdeen City Council co-leader Ryan Houghton.

New Conservative group leader Mr Houghton is in line to assume the role after Douglas Lumsden stepped down following his election as an MSP last week.

The Tories are in coalition with the Labour group as part of the council’s ruling administration – a move which saw the latter group suspended from their party nearly four years ago.

However, Mr Houghton was previously suspended from the Conservative party for six months in 2019 after controversial comments regarding homosexuality, Muslims and the Holocaust dating back several years were uncovered.

The 29-year-old RAF veteran’s bid to assume the council co-leader role would require the support of the nine Aberdeen Labour councillors.

Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn, a former SNP group leader on the city council, has now written to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on the issue.

Stephen Flynn MP has written to Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

He urged Mr Sarwar to intervene and instruct the councillors not to support Mr Houghton’s appointment.

‘Actions speak louder than words’

Referring to the Labour leader’s previous comments, where he described the councillors as “colleagues” despite their ongoing suspension, Mr Flynn wrote: “You have so far refused to condemn this alliance and you have even described the suspended Labour councillors as ‘colleagues’ who were the victims of a ‘political decision’.

“This despite the fact that the disgraced Labour and Tory administration remain reliant on the votes of convicted sex offender, Cllr Alan Donnelly, to retain power in the city.

“Given Aberdeen City Council now looks set to be co-led by a man who has made antisemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic remarks, I trust you will now seek to intervene and instruct your ‘colleagues’ to turn their backs on appointing Cllr Houghton as a co-leader of this great city.

“I have admired your work in the Scottish Parliament in the fight against all forms of racism and discrimination and you will know that actions speak louder than words.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

“On that basis, I am sure you will agree that you cannot sit silent on this issue. Any failure to act will be an endorsement of the votes of your suspended colleagues in favour of this Tory councillor.

“This announcement has caused uproar in Aberdeen and, given that the vote will take place this week, I expect an early response and even quicker action.”

SNP ‘duplicitous’ over calls

However, Mr Houghton expressed his surprise at Mr Flynn’s comments, revealing the pair had spent 30 minutes talking at Friday’s election count.

He accused the SNP of being “duplicitous” over its stance on his potential appointment.

“It is a little surprising to hear this from Stephen Flynn given only on Friday we spent half an hour talking about Aberdeen, the future of the city and the way it needs to be taken forward,” he added.

“Once again what the SNP say in public and what they say in private are two different things.”

Last June, after he was readmitted to the Scottish Conservatives, Mr Houghton said: “I apologised at the time and have done so in-person to anyone who has contacted me about the matter.

“The comments which led to my suspension were isolated and took place nearly a decade ago.

“They in no way reflect my political or professional record and I find prejudice of any kind abhorrent.

“I will continue to work and represent my constituents to the best of my ability.”

In response to Mr Houghton, Mr Flynn said: “I appreciate that Ryan is likely unhappy that his past is once again in the spotlight but having a discussion with someone does not equate to endorsing them – the fact that I even have to explain that to a likely leader of our great city should worry everyone.”

Scottish Labour and council co-leader Jenny Laing were contacted for comment.

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