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Dons chairman says councillors are ‘missing the point’ as SNP divided over ‘cost of inaction’ on new stadium

Speculation is growing that Aberdeen SNP councillors are divided over a new Aberdeen stadium
Amid claims council leaders are "missing the point", there is said to be growing unrest in the SNP group over the new Aberdeen stadium. Supplied by Clarke Cooper, design team

Aberdeen FC chairman Dave Cormack says councillors refusing to help fund a new stadium are “missing the point”.

The “disappointed” Dons chief aired concerns that the much-touted wider benefits of the £80 million ground are being ignored.

It comes after council co-leaders Ian Yuill, of the Liberal Democrats, and the SNP’s Alex Nicoll yesterday said they would not “spend public money on football stadiums”.

Now, senior Aberdeen SNP figures have warned the city leadership of the potential price of letting the plans slide.

The Evening Express front page recounted Mr Yuill’s comment that the council is “not in the business of funding football stadiums”. Image: Michael McCosh/DCT Media

What was Dave Cormack’s reaction to funding snub?

The club says the new ground will bring about a billion-pound boost over its 50-year lifespan, breathing new life into the seafront and city centre.

Mr Cormack contrasted the current leaders’ stance with that of their “visionary” predecessors, ousted at May’s local elections.

The chairman said the previous Labour and Tory administration “understood the significance” of the “community facility”.

He told us: “The council’s previous administration had the vision to deliver something special for Aberdeen.

“They understood the significance of an integrated, community facility within the beach regeneration, which is why they approached us.

It’s disappointing that some seem to be missing the point.”

Dave Cormack has said some “small capital investment” will be required from the local authority. Image: Wullie Marr/DCT Media

Is Aberdeen’s SNP group splintered over stadium plans?

Meanwhile, council insiders say Aberdeen’s SNP group is becoming fractured over leader Mr Nicoll’s stance.

The party’s Aberdeen South MP, Stephen Flynn, warned against the possible future “cost of inaction” to the city.

And Tory finance spokesman Ryan Houghton told us “at least five” Nationalist councillors think Mr Nicoll is in the wrong.

Aberdeen City Council co-leader Alex Nicoll urged his SNP councillors to "carefully consider" whether to attend the Aberdeen FC stadium briefing. He was "happy" for them to go, despite announcing he would not attend due to potential planning issues further down the line. Image: Chris Donnan/DC Thomson.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Alex Nicoll urged his SNP councillors to “carefully consider” whether to attend an Aberdeen FC stadium briefing last month. Image: Chris Donnan/DC Thomson.

What did the SNP manifesto say about new Aberdeen stadium?

Before May’s local elections, the SNP group campaigned successfully on a promise to “work with Aberdeen FC to deliver new sports facilities and a new stadium”.

The beachfront revamp was the party’s “priority” ahead of polling day.

This cutting comes from the SNP’s manifesto released in the run-up to the council elections this spring. Image: Michael McCosh, design team

Mr Nicoll yesterday claimed that did not represent any sort of commitment to help get the scheme off the ground.

And he insisted that he remains “amenable” to talks with the Dons – if not to provide any cash.

Aberdeen City Council co-leader Alex Nicoll agreed a power-sharing deal with the Liberal Democrats. It placed responsibility on Aberdeen FC to prove it was "mutually beneficial" for the council to provide funding for the planned new stadium at the beach. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Alex Nicoll brandishes the winning manifesto. Image: Wullie Marr/DCT Media

‘There’s a cost associated with inaction’

Last month, as Mr Nicoll urged his colleagues not to attend talks on the new ground, SNP politicians spoke out in favour of the stadium.

And today, MP Stephen Flynn and MSP Kevin Stewart appeared to go against the local group leader’s decree.

Mr Stewart said: “I hope that there will be meaningful discussions about how progress can be made”.

Cooperation between the public and private sector is vital to ensure the future prosperity of our city and for the people who live here.”

The SNP's Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said an "overwhelming majority" supported the plans to keep Aberdeen FC in the city centre with a new stadium at the beach. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn last month said an “overwhelming majority” supported the plans to keep Aberdeen FC in the city centre with a new stadium at the beach. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Mr Flynn said the city could later pay the price for failing to act now.

Echoing his SNP colleagues’ manifesto word for word, he added: “It’s incredibly important that we revitalise our waterfront through working with partners, including Aberdeen FC.

“There is always a price associated with action, and a cost associated with inaction – and I have no doubt that councillors will carefully consider which route is in the best interests of our city.”

Council ruling group is ‘split over this’

Former council finance convener Ryan Houghton is one of the members Mr Cormack praised for their “vision” in championing the stadium.

The Conservative told us the opposition group remains open to help cover the construction costs.

The bold vision for Aberdeen beach has always been tied to the creation of a new Aberdeen stadium along the shoreline – could that be about to change? Image: Aberdeen City Council

He said: “It’s incredibly concerning that the SNP and Lib Dem partnership seems to be stepping away from the plans for a new community stadium at the beach

“But I understand there’s a split in the administration over this and councillors should make their positions clear.

I know there’s at least five SNP councillors who share my opinion… And people need to be up front about what their position is.”

What could happen next?

Should there be a revolt within the SNP ranks, it could still be all to play for when councillors meet on Wednesday, December 14, to discuss the future of the seafront.

A council spokesman said club representatives would provide the authority with further information before the major meeting.

He said: “We look forward to hearing from Aberdeen FC regarding funding for the stadium element, so the vision can be further developed, subject to the usual planning process.”

Alex McLellan at Aberdeen Beach in July, at the time the council applied for money to cover major park upgrades attached to the seafront revival scheme. Image: Wullie Marr / DCT Media

There could also be an update on the £20m of UK Government Levelling Up cash being sought for the revamp – but it’s already been confirmed it would not be going towards any new stadium.

Do you think councillors in favour of paying towards the stadium should defy their leader? Let us know in our comments section below

Cormack urges SNP to think of ‘massive prize’ on offer through new Aberdeen stadium

Mr Yuill and Mr Nicoll shot down the idea of paying for the ground on Wednesday after Mr Cormack went public on “premature” requests from the council.

He revealed that top brass had asked him if the club could foot the entire £80m bill themselves.

The statement that sparked the stand-off:

Mr Cormack today said it was “understandable” there could be some nerves about investing in such projects at a time when council coffers are coming under increasing strain.

However, he stressed that the recent economic study should allay any concerns that the council won’t see a return on its investment.

The blockbuster dossier indicated that, over its 50-year lifespan, the net-zero “community stadium” would reap rewards possibly in excess of £1 billion.

“That’s a massive prize for Aberdeen,” he said.

Alex Nicoll ‘unaware of any SNP unrest’

Mr Nicoll played down the supposed discontent, insisting none of his councillors have approached him with differing views.

And he denied there being any clash with Mr Flynn or Mr Stewart, saying both had his telephone number if they want to discuss any issues.

Councillor, Alex Nicoll told us that our phonecall was the first time he learned about Stephen Flynn and Kevin Stewart having opposing views. Image: Jim Irvine/DCT Media

The SNP group leader also doubled down on his stance regarding the new Dons ground.

He said: “They are a big business, and we have got to be sensible at a time when we are facing serious financial pressures.

“I’m perfectly happy if a successful football club wants to meet us and tell us exactly what they’re proposing and how they’ll pay for it.”