A row has broken out over how Aberdeen should thank NHS Grampian staff and volunteers for their heroic efforts throughout the pandemic – as plans to bestow them with the city’s highest honour falter.
The Liberal Democrats on the city council suggested last May that all involved in the health board’s coronavirus efforts should be given the Freedom Of Aberdeen.
But before group leader Ian Yuill‘s motion can be debated by members, it first requires the backing of a majority of 23.
Now more than 10 months after his idea was first floated, Mr Yuill – backed by his Lib Dem colleagues and the SNP – remains one name short.
The predicament has prompted calls for Lord Provost Barney Crockett to lend his name to it in the interest of having the debate heard.
NHS Grampian workers would join a list of famous names if given Freedom Of Aberdeen
If his plans are passed, the health board’s full staff would join an exclusive list of freemen and freewomen of Aberdeen – alongside Ballon d’Or-winning footballer Denis Law, comedy trio Scotland the What?, Sir Alex Ferguson and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.
Mr Yuill said: “Awarding NHS Grampian the Freedom Of Aberdeen has everything to do with recognising the exceptional efforts of NHS staff and volunteers during the pandemic.
“It has nothing to do with party politics.
“That’s why I invited every single member of the council, including the Lord Provost, to join with me in making this proposal.
“Very sadly the Lord Provost has not even acknowledged any of the emails I have sent him about this over those 10 months.
“I cannot understand why the Lord Provost and his Conservative and Aberdeen Labour colleagues will not support, or even acknowledge, my proposal to grant NHS Grampian the Freedom Of Aberdeen.”
Lord Provost: ‘No change’ from agreed ‘suitably costed event’ for key worker heroes
But the council has already formed a planning committee for a “suitably costed event” to mark the city’s gratitude to all key workers after the pandemic is over.
The Lord Provost, Depute Provost Jennifer Stewart and a number of city organisations are drawing up proposals to celebrate the work of NHS and emergency service workers, council and school staff, cleaners, caterers and carers over the last year.
Mr Crockett told us: “The council has deliberated on this already, and the priority for me as Lord Provost is the event we are planning to thank key workers involved in the response, which is coming along really well.
“There is no change from what the council discussed earlier.
“We are still looking that the event, which will have different threads to it. There are some very good ideas.
“It will be profoundly moving to thank key workers on behalf of the city as we realise the kind of pressure people have been under and the massive workloads being shouldered.
“We all feel so appreciative and can see the light at the end of the tunnel with the huge success of the vaccination campaign.”
The SNP: Existing Covid key worker plans ‘disheartening’
But those efforts to plan a suitable event – stopping short of giving all 17,000 NHS Grampian staff, and the voluntary legions signed up during the pandemic the Freedom of Aberdeen – have been described as “disheartening” by SNP group leader, Alex Nicoll.
Having backed Mr Yuill’s proposal, he said: “NHS Grampian staff have done so much for the people of Aberdeen and the north-east and it is only right that we honour their efforts in this manner as a mark of gratitude for the work they have done throughout this immensely challenging period.
“It is disheartening that the Lord Provost does not appear to share this sentiment.”