The leader of Highland Council’s opposition group has been cleared of an allegation that she breached the code of conduct for elected members.
A trio of local authority colleagues lodged a complaint with the Standards Commission accusing Carolyn Wilson of being “disrespectful” to a senior council officer.
The allegation was made by council leader and SNP group leader Drew Hendry, his Liberal Democrat deputy David Alston and council convener and Labour group leader Jimmy Gray.
Mrs Wilson, who represents Cromarty Firth, described the Standards Commission’s decision to reject the complaint as “a huge relief”.
The trio claimed Mrs Wilson, who leads the Independent group, had been disrespectful to the council’s assistant chief executive Michelle Morris by accusing her of “stifling democracy” following a finance, housing and resources committee meeting in January.
Mrs Wilson was angry that Ms Morris had ruled a motion from the Independents to have a 1% council house rent rise instead of a 2% increase as incompetent.
The complaint was investigated by the Commissioner of Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland, who has ruled that Mrs Wilson did not contravene the code.
Mrs Wilson said: “I feel the administration is wanting less and less challenge in the chamber and, by using a tool like this, they thought I would apologise and go away.
“However, I thought it was important to stand my ground. If I’d walked away, other people would have been scared to speak up.
“I’m not going to say this has been easy because it hasn’t. It’s been hanging over me for five months now and I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported me. It’s just a huge relief that it’s over.”
She added that she was upset that the complaint suggested she did not treat staff with respect.
It also suggested she was not a good role model and that if her behaviour was left unchallenged it could lead to a “deterioration in standards and behaviour of Highland Council”.
Mrs Wilson said: “I was totally gutted that they said this. I’ve always treated other councillors, staff and members of the public with respect and done anything I could to help and support them.”
Mr Gray said: “We asked Mrs Wilson to apologise and she refused. If we had allowed it to go unchallenged, it could be seen as acceptable behaviour and we don’t believe it was acceptable behaviour.”
Mr Alston said: “I think it was correct for us to make the complaint. I accept the ruling of the Standards Commission, but I still think what she did was wrong.”