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Boundaries Scotland has released details of its investigation into Argyll and Bute councillor Alastair Redman from Islay, after he was suspended and expelled by the Scottish Conservative party.
Councillor Redman, who represents the Kintyre and the Islands ward, was suspended for the second time by the Tories in August 2021 pending an investigation, though the party gave no detail why.
Last week, a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives confirmed: ‘Following disciplinary proceedings, Alastair Redman is no longer a member of the party.’
Councillor Redman, who has changed his status to Independent, said claims he used different names to respond to a public consultation were used by Central Tories as ‘a tool’ to take him out of the party.
Boundaries Scotland, the body responsible for reviewing the number of wards for local government elections, has now given details of its investigation into Councillor Redman.
Boundaries Scotland explained it was ‘directed by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 to conduct a review of electoral arrangements for the six council areas with inhabited islands.
‘The commission conducted a 12-week public consultation on its proposals, for councillor numbers and ward boundaries, for Argyll and Bute Council area from November 4 2020 to January 26 2021.
‘The commission invited respondents to submit comments via its consultation site. In late December 2020 it became apparent that a number of responses, opposing the commission’s proposed Islay, Jura and Colonsay ward, came from the same source. One of those responses was from Councillor Redman.
‘At this time we phoned Councillor Redman and he admitted submitting responses purporting to be from other people as part of our statutory consultation.
‘Councillor Redman advised he had notified the individuals to advise the responses could not be considered by the commission and that they would be deleted. As far as we are aware none of those names submitted a later response. There were no further suspicious responses received after that telephone call.
‘In February 2021 the commission wrote a letter of complaint to the Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life, copied to Argyll and Bute Council.
‘In late March the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life responded and advised they are taking no further action on the letter of complaint regarding Councillor Redman’s actions.
‘The commission was disappointed in this response and agreed to write to [the] Scottish Government regarding the Councillor Code of Conduct.
‘In June 2021 the commission wrote again to Councillor Redman stating its disappointment with his actions. Councillor Redman did not respond to this.’
We asked what led to the investigation. A Boundaries Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Staff of Boundaries Scotland noted that a large number of responses to its consultation portal were coming from email addresses with foreign domains (.lv and .ru) as well as other unusual domains and these were deemed suspicious.
‘All came from the same browser and following an internal IT investigation, the same IP address. All the responses argued against the commission’s proposals concerning Islay, using similar language. The first response from that browser and IP address came from Councillor Redman.’
Councillor Alastair Redman reiterated: ‘I certainly don’t believe for a second that helping out my constituents fill out forms for the boundary changes in what was a successful campaign to stop the changes was the wrong thing to do.
‘However it is my personal opinion that this matter was used by the Central Office Tories as a tool for taking myself out of the party.
‘I believe the real reason for my expulsion was myself being unwilling to blindly toe the party line and for being too much of a maverick and independently minded for the modern iteration of the Scottish Conservatives.
‘Putting loyalty to your constituents before loyalty to your party will often put a target on your back unfortunately.’
‘I will be seeking re-election next year as an independent candidate in the local elections and I promise to continue to put the people before any political party or special interest group without fear or favour.’
The former postmaster in Portnahaven Post Office, Islay, added: ‘[W]hen I was in the post office I used to help out my constituents fill out forms all the time. So I really don’t see the issue here.’
An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of and accept the decision made by the Ethical Standards Commission that there has been no breach of the Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson added: ‘It is important that those in elected office, including councillors, adhere to the highest standards of behaviour.
‘The Councillors’ Code of Conduct which sets out openly and clearly the standards that are expected of councillors was recently revised and approved by the Scottish Parliament and is expected to come into effect on December 7.’