Edinburgh SNP councillor off sick amid row over whistleblowing article in Evening News

© Alison Dickie is vice chair of education and SNP councillor for Southside/Newington

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Alison Dickie, vice-convener of the education committee, wrote a full page in the paper earlier this month on her concerns about how the council had responded to allegations from whistleblowers and called for “full accountability for any wrongdoing”.

But her forthright comments have caused tensions within the administration.

It is understood she has been criticised for “pre-empting” the official inquiry being conducted by a top QC into the council’s organisational culture. And some have claimed she presented historical issues as current problems.

In her piece Cllr Dickie described existing and former council employees coming to her “in desperation because they felt no-one was listening and that walls were going up”.

She said: “Over the years, I’ve been told to ‘stand back’, ‘it’s too big’, ‘we always knew there was something wrong but you’ll get nowhere’, and even ‘watch yourself, it’s dangerous’. Most often, I’ve been told ‘it’s all historical’, but the cases stretch to unresolved events of today and allegations about perpetuating culture. How, then, can we be confident about today if we haven’t properly dealt with the past?”

And she concluded: “The council has nothing to fear because much good work is going on. Instead, a failure to look deeply behind those walls and ensure full accountability for any wrongdoing uncovered poses the greatest risk – especially to our children and young people.”

It is understood concerns were voiced by council officials and by some in the SNP group.

And a Labour source confirmed their group had raised the article with the SNP group. “We’ve asked for clarification. Is what she said the view of the SNP group? Are the SNP aware of outstanding accusations that Alison seems to be suggesting no-one is doing anything about?”

Labour group leader Cammy Day said: “I think there is a robust process in place and if anybody knows of cases that are unresolved or allegations they need to report them to the appropriate authorities.”

Cllr Dickie is now off work sick and is not expected to attend Thursday’s full council meeting, where the agenda includes a report on the case of John and Deidre Travers, who were subjected to a vile campaign of harassment and abuse after Mr Dickie raised concerns about alleged misuse of £400,000 of taxpayer funds by the council’s arms-length company Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership.

A debate on the report was postponed from last month’s full council meeting after angry exchanges over attempts to hold some of the discussion in private. Cllr Dickie has been prominent in speaking up in support of the Travers.

Last year the council set up an inquiry into its organisational culture headed by independent lawyer Susanne Tanner QC and current and former staff were invited to present their concerns. More than 200 witnesses came forward.

An SNP spokesman confirmed Cllr Dickie was off sick but said they hoped for a “speedy recovery and return to her excellent work”.

Read more: Alison Dickie: Edinburgh council must be more open about its investigations into bullying and child protection failures

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