A group of independent Edinburgh councillors have sparked outrage after trying to elect a councillor who is set to go on trial for alleged sex crimes to the council’s committees.
Former SNP councillor Lewis Ritchie, who represents Leith Walk, has not turned up to council meetings for six months after being charged last year in relation to alleged offences between April 2016 and October 2019 in Leith.
Another alleged incident was said to have happened in October 2017 in Kelvinbridge, Glasgow.
Since leaving the SNP in March 2018, before party bosses could discipline him, he has since joined the Edinburgh Party of Independent Councillors, or EPIC.
At a meeting of the full council on Thursday May 27, EPIC councillors provoked the ire of ruling SNP/Labour administration councillors by trying to elect councillor Ritchie to the homelessness and fair work committee, the planning committee, and the development management sub-committee.
In response, SNP councillor Kate Campbell said: “I feel quite saddened by this. I’m going to read the headline of an Edinburgh Evening News headline that was published six days ago – ‘Edinburgh councillor facing sex charges set to leave elected office after failing to turn up at meetings’.
“I wouldn’t have made a contribution if the Conservatives had now accepted EPIC’s amendment, but at least we have clarity now of all of the members of EPIC.
“One of the appointments is to suggest that a councillor who hasn’t turned up at any council meeting for the last six months, until today, is to join my committee – that’s the councillor who is the subject of the headline that I just read.
“And I find that amendment, and to ask a councillor who hasn’t turned up for six months to meetings, that he’s allowed to turn up to, to replace a hardworking Greens councillor who turns up to every meeting of the committee and engages respectfully.”
However, Conservative councillor Jim Campbell explained the Conservatives were backing EPIC’s proposals as a matter of democracy, and who the group put forward for committees is for the electorate to judge.
Councillor Campbell told the meeting: “I want to talk about the broader principle here. It seems to me we have a group in our council who meet the terms set out in our procedures and the way we historically have done our business.
“Officers have recommended they be counted as a group. Therefore, we should respect that and recognise they have a right to represent their constituents on committees.
“I think it’s profoundly undemocratic to prevent a group of councillors from participating in the full functioning of this council.”