Councillor case goes to watchdog

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For the second time since his election to Scottish Borders Council in 2012, Alastair Cranston has been referred to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS).

Last year, that watchdog concluded after an investigation that the 64-year-old SNP member for Hawick and Denholm had breached the councillors’ code of conduct by failing to declare a business interest during a debate on renewable energy.

That finding was later passed to the Standards Commission for Scotland which, after a hearing in October, suspended Councillor Cranston for three months.

It was while he was serving that suspension that an investigation was launched at SBC into his expenses claims, around 50 of which have been rejected since his election.

In February last year, out of 32 mileage claims submitted by Mr Cranston, eight were rejected, including a bid to recoup the cost of travelling from his home near Lilliesleaf to Hawick to sign a condolence book following the death of Councillor Zandra Elliot.

The internal probe, conducted by SBC’s monitoring officer Brian Frater, was requested by Councillor Stuart Bell, leader of the nine-strong SNP group at Newtown.

A spokesman for SBC said yesterday: “An internal investigation has concluded that a technical breach of the Councillors Code of Conduct appears to have occurred as a result of the way in which Councillor Cranston submitted his expenses claims.

“However the investigation found no evidence that Councillor Cranston had expected to receive payment for journeys or activities to which he was not entitled and the investigation was able to confirm that Councillor Cranston had not received payment for journeys or activities to which he was not entitled.

“The Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life will now be informed of the outcome of this investigation. It will be for the Commissioner to decide whether any further action is necessary.”