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Complainant Name:
Councillor Nan McFarlane

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Ayrshire Post

Complaint:

Cllr Nan McFarlane, SNP Group Leader at South Ayrshire Council, complained about a reader's letter in the newspaper which had been published about her. The complainant had been able to show that the name and address to which the letter was attributed were fictitious and that the content of the letter itself was inaccurate and misleading.

Resolution:

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following letter from the complainant, in addition to explaining the circumstances of the matter to its readers:

In March the Ayrshire Post published a letter in good faith about Nan McFarlane, SNP group leader on South Ayrshire Council. The writer asserted that Mrs McFarlane was "removed from her position of planning convener having been found lacking in the necessary skills department". Mrs McFarlane was able to determine after detailed research that the name and address was fictitious. She complained that the letter contained inaccurate and misleading allegations about her and that the reference to her being removed from position was defamatory. Mrs McFarlane raised the matter with the Press Complaints Commission and the Post responded by allowing Mrs McFarlane to address the allegations in an article of her own. Here she gives an insight into her experience and explains her role in South Ayrshire Council's long term performance strategy.

"I would like to thank the Ayrshire Post for allocating me space to refute the claims contained in a recent letter and to clarify my position and indeed my performance and that of my group in South Ayrshire Council.

Firstly I would like to set the record straight on why I was chair of the Regulatory Panel and the reason for standing down a year later. Before being elected in 2007, I had served ten years on Troon Community Council as both secretary and planning convener and latterly as chair. Throughout the decade both myself and other members of the planning group received intensive training on planning. In addition I personally financed an in-depth training course for myself on local and joint development plans, national policy framework and specialised training on presentations at public inquiries. I successfully prepared and presented a case for Troon Community Council against a residential development between Loans and Troon at a five day public inquiry. I represented the Community Council at a public inquiry for a Troon Harbour Diversionary Order and successfully defended the people of Troon at an eight day Public Inquiry on the destruction of the Darley Woods for another residential development. My term on the Community Council was almost full time but I believe I was standing up for the people of Troon and I am continuing to do this work as an elected member of South Ayrshire Council.

I have no doubt I was one of the best trained planning conveners the council had and I'm certain my past planning experience was a deciding factor when being considered for the post. Reluctantly I had to stand down when promoted to the Leadership Panel as the portfolio carrier for Community Services.

The SNP Group, under my leadership, has taken on a responsible role in the council, all within the spirit of the intentions of STV. We have worked collaboratively with the Conservatives and Independent members, together representing over two thirds of the council, with the sole aim of putting the council on a firm financial footing and it has worked. Audit Scotland criticised us last year for our lack of financial planning with nothing in reserves. Since then we have moved from a deficit of 0.5 million in 2007 to a surplus of around 5 million today and for the first time the council has a long term financial strategy in place to build up reserves.

An inherited PPP deal for five new schools with no way of paying for them has been transformed into completed schools along with a 30 year repayment plan. A further 1.8 million has been set aside from our capital budget to replace Colmonel Primary School. Another first is a 15 million plan to maintain our remaining older schools and buildings.

We also have a comprehensive review of our school estates completed along with, and for the first time in the history of this Council, an Asset Management Plan on the table. We were one of the first Councils to sign up to the Scottish Government's Concordat and we now have our SOA (single outcome agreement) in place. We have established a Community Planning Partnership and a joint working arrangement in various areas with neighbouring councils.

We have worked positively through the areas of concern raised by Audit Scotland to put them right. I believe this could not have happened if the SNP Group under my leadership had taken an opposition stand. I am proud of what I have achieved in this council but I did not do this alone. Behind me I have a strong and loyal SNP team who have worked tirelessly for the people who voted for them. I am proud to state they will continue to do so in the future".

Report: 79



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