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Ex-councillor David Maitland – who quit amid Aberdeen FC stadium sleaze row – aims for political comeback with Alba

Ex Labour councillor David Maitland, pictured with Alba leader Alex Salmond, is standing for the pro-independence party in Northfield and Mastrick North. Picture from Alba Aberdeen Facebook
Ex Labour councillor David Maitland, pictured with Alba leader Alex Salmond, is standing for the pro-independence party in Northfield and Mastrick North. Picture from Alba Aberdeen Facebook

A former Aberdeen councillor – who resigned amid a storm over political sleaze surrounding plans for a new Dons stadium – is campaigning to make a dramatic Town House return 20 years on.

Alba’s Northfield and Mastrick North candidate David Maitland claims a legacy at the council which includes “singlehandedly” securing the Aberdeen bypass and bringing Teca to fruition.

That’s despite both opening more than a decade after he quit in 2002, claiming he was chased out of the job by an “extreme alt-right mob”.

Former Dons chairman Stewart Milne with drawings of the plans for a new stadium near Kingswells - long before Kingsford. Picture by Colin Rennie/DCT Media.
Former Dons chairman Stewart Milne with drawings of the plans for a new stadium near Kingswells – long before Kingsford. Picture by Colin Rennie/DCT Media.

The then-Labour man’s resignation came amid claims he tried to force through now long-abandoned plans for a £30million Aberdeen FC stadium at Bellfield Farm at Kingswells.

After a nine-month police investigation, prosecutors took no action against the 54-year-old, who was accused of illegal vote rigging.

But Aberdeen Journals reported at the time that he was found to have “seriously breached” strict planning rules, which forbid members from talking about voting intentions.

David Maitland quit as family were targets by ‘alt-right mob’ against Dons stadium

Mr Maitland today claimed if he had stayed on as a councillor, instead of resigning, he would have been able to clear his name.

Then Newhills councillor David Maitland looks on as Dons chairman Stewart Milne took questions at Kingswells Community Centre about the proposed stadium development. Picture by Raymond Besant/DCT Media.
Then Newhills councillor David Maitland looks on as Dons chairman Stewart Milne took questions at Kingswells Community Centre about the proposed stadium development. Picture by Raymond Besant/DCT Media.

But the Alba candidate says his life was being made a living hell, with his young family being targeted by angry campaigners.

“My family and I were the victims of an alt-right mob out in Kingswells.

“My six-year-old daughter found blood splashed against our lounge window one morning.

“My wife had to take our young children in and out of school at different times from everyone else because of the abuse, harassment and threats she was getting in the playground in front of our children.

“I was assaulted in a supermarket. My elderly parents were being followed and I was getting letters outlining their activities.

“The list goes on and it was all about the application for the football stadium.”

David Maitland: Alba gives the working class a voice

Now, two decades on, he is aiming to return to the Town House having switched party allegiance.

Alba Aberdeen, introducing Mr Maitland in a online profile shared alongside a photo of the candidate with party leader Alex Salmond, makes no mention of his past life as a councillor.

Instead, the 54-year-old is presented as an oil industry veteran of 35 years, who has lived in his prospective Northfield and Mastrick North ward “for his whole life”.

Mr Maitland has confirmed that is inaccurate, as his long-time family home remains in Kingswells.

Despite around 25 years’ Labour membership, the former councillor had no desire to re-enter politics until he saw the current Aberdeen Labour and Conservative ruling coalition.

“I felt without a political home until I saw what Alba stood for,” he revealed.

“Joining the party and leaving Labour was not an easy decision but working class people have no one to vote for any more. Enough is enough.”

The lobbying scandal that forced David Maitland out the door

The ex-Newhills member claims he was “totally vindicated” after the vote-rigging allegations – and says a media conspiracy against him and Labour at the turn of the century is the reason it has gone unreported.

But an official council probe found Mr Maitland had approached a minimum of eight members about the proposed stadium, suggesting to one colleague that his “personal business interests” might be affected if he opposed the new ground.

The Press And Journal front page on August 22 2002, detailing the allegations against David Maitland as plans for Aberdeen FC's stadium were approved. Picture by DCT Media.
The Press And Journal front page on August 22 2002, detailing the allegations against David Maitland as plans for Aberdeen FC’s stadium were approved. Picture by DCT Media.

Another – former Lib Dem Garthdee councillor Scott Cassie – alleged Mr Maitland had promised him Labour support for a new sports centre in his ward if he supported the stadium.

Mr Cassie – who was later jailed for embezzlement – brought forward the concerns to the local authority’s top brass.

“The person making the allegations in the first place was jailed for dishonesty… that’s the level and type of people we are talking about,” the Alba candidate fumed.

On August 22 2002, The Press And Journal reported the findings of the council’s legal chief Crawford Langley – who was tasked with investigating the allegations.

“Councillor Maitland had predicted unfortunate consequences in relation to certain personal interests outwith the council were he to vote against the proposal,” he told members.

“The potential consequences were of a commercial nature.”

Claims lobbying row was a political and media conspiracy against David Maitland and Labour in Aberdeen

It was a political drama that shook the council, resulting in turn in an investigation into the conduct of former Lib Dem councillor Matthew Duncan, who had covertly recorded Mr Maitland at a social function.

Mr Duncan – who was eventually found in breach of council rules himself – called his home answering machine using his mobile phone to tape the conversation clandestinely.

The Press And Journal's coverage of the probe into the secret recording, which was never used in evidence against David Maitland. The former Labour councillor claims that's because there was nothing on it. Picture by DCT Media.
The Press And Journal’s coverage of the probe into the secret recording, which was never used in evidence against David Maitland. The former Labour councillor claims that’s because there was nothing on it. Picture by DCT Media.

The non-consensual recording – which Mr Maitland had blocked through the courts by getting an interim interdict – was not considered in the council investigation as legal bosses feared it  might breach European human rights law.

Mr Maitland claims once his solicitor heard the tape, it was clear there was no evidence against him.

And he said it was “absolutely right” that he approached the councillors before the crunch planning vote on the stadium.

“I was lobbying for something – quite rightly – I believed in.

“That was my job. That was not inappropriate and well within the rules.

“If you read that full report it was vastly more damning of the people who were accusing me but the media did focus more on what was said about me.

“That was the media we were up against at the time, one which would do or say whatever it took to get Labour out of Aberdeen.”

David Maitland’s tarnished name led to turmoil in Aberdeen council’s planning department

The impact of the scandal was further reaching than only the stadium application though.

Mr Maitland had been heavily involved in the remapping of the Aberdeen local plan, making a number of controversial changes to much protest from the communities that would be impacted.

David Maitland (centre right) looks on anxiously with seasoned Labour councillor Len Ironside as the close count in Newhills in 1999 neared completion. Picture by Aberdeen Journals Ltd.
David Maitland (centre right) looks on anxiously with seasoned Labour councillor Len Ironside as the close count in Newhills in 1999 neared completion. Picture by Aberdeen Journals Ltd.

The plan was thrown out after his political departure, though he claims it was later adopted mostly unchanged.

At an online event at the weekend, Mr Maitland doubled down on his assessment of his legacy in Aberdeen, boasting that he was solely responsible for the success of a  number of high-profile projects, including the city’s bypass.

He told the panel audience: “I achieved a great deal.

“It was myself who singlehandedly got the western peripheral route for Aberdeen.”

He told The P&J similar, also taking credit for the replacement Aberdeen exhibition centre, only built in 2019.

‘Look at Aberdeen now… it was designed on my dining table 20 years ago’: David Maitland on his own Aberdeen council legacy

Defending the lobbying that brought about the storm which saw him quit, he said: “It was fighting for what I believe in got us a school in Kingswells which otherwise would never have been built.

“It was fighting for what I believe in got us the amendments to the local plan, which now sees Aberdeen looking the way it does.

The A90 AWPR at Dyce. Picture by Kami Thomson/DCT Media.
The A90 AWPR at Dyce. Picture by Kami Thomson/DCT Media.

“The developments at the airport, Teca, the developments in the south and north of the city and the western peripheral route.

“If it wasn’t for me shouting and screaming, because I was the only one, we still wouldn’t have a western peripheral route.

“The green space between Kingswells, Bucksburn, Northfield, Mastrick, Sheddocksley was all going to become a mass of concrete jungle.

“You look at Aberdeen now and it was designed on my dining table 20 years ago.

“I achieved a great deal and perhaps it got people’s noses up, it may have cost me my political career but look at the benefit of that to Aberdeen.”

You can see a list of all 99 candidates standing for election to Aberdeen City Council here.

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