A motion to scrap a controversial £33million revamp of Aberdeen Art Gallery was withdrawn at the 11th hour in a surprise move at a full council meeting yesterday.
The proposal from SNP councillor John Corall had called for the upgrade to be abandoned amid claims of spiralling costs and widespread objections from the public.
However, Mr Corall stood up in the chamber yesterday to say he did not wish to proceed. The move prompted scorn from the administration benches, with council leader Jenny Laing attacking the SNP for putting £10million in Heritage Lottery grant funding at risk.
The refurbishment scheme for the Schoolhill attraction, which already has planning permission and the majority of funding in place, has proved highly contentious.
The design has been described as “cultural vandalism”, while the planned removal of a marble staircase has provoked anger among many Aberdonians.
It emerged last week that costs have increased substantially, particularly for a new museums collection centre for expensive artwork at Granitehill Road, Northfield.
The estimate for the work started at about £1.2million, but it is now expected to be closer to £6million.
Speaking after the meeting yesterday, Mr Corall said his decision was based on the numbers of councillors present and fears that his group would lose any vote.
Three opposition members, SNP councillors Bill Cormie and Andrew May and Liberal Democrat Jennifer Stewart, were not at the meeting.
Mr Corall said: “There was no way that we would have won (a vote) on the art gallery. But I would not say that it was dead, not at all. I would hope, when we have the full complement, that we can debate this again.
“I speak to people from all walks of life, and they all agree that the project should be scrapped. We have got to ensure that the city invests wisely and avoids runaway costs.”
Last night, Mrs Laing said: “For some time I have been concerned by the blatant political opportunism being displayed by SNP councillors and today’s turn of events appear to indicate these concerns are well founded.
“I believe investing in our city centre will ensure Aberdeen has a bright future and that is why Labour and our coalition partners will continue to work together to bring about further regeneration. “