May 9 2012 by Judith Tonner, Airdrie & Coatbridge
THE bitter council election battle was branded “the dirtiest ever” by members of both main parties amid fury over controversial campaign flyers.
Labour were furious about an opposition leaflet featuring claims over a lack of assistance provided to a disabled man; while the SNP hit back over allegations made concerning expenses and committee attendance.
Airdrie Central councillor Jim Logue was enraged by an SNP communication stating that a pictured man in a wheelchair “badly needs a chairlift and a wet room; the Labour council says they can’t afford it”, before listing headlines regarding the authority’s spending on taxi fares and senior officials’ pay.
He called it “repugnant” and is demanding an inquiry, saying: “You cannot use a vulnerable adult like this man in any way for political gain and that’s what happened here; it’s absolutely outrageous.
“This leaflet is totally wrong and misleading but it was sent out across the whole of Airdrie; it’s clearly influenced voting patterns and if the party’s leadership has any integrity, they will take full immediate action.
“Nobody at all in North Lanarkshire has been assessed and is waiting for a chair lift; and enquiries have revealed that this man isn’t from this area but has been placed in a local nursing home by another authority.
“This was scaremongering of the worst type and it’s so inaccurate. Why have the SNP spread among elderly people the concern that this council’s priorities are about bonuses and taxis when they clearly aren’t?
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen and this has been the dirtiest campaign I’ve experienced in 10 elections; the nastiness which pervaded throughout was disgraceful and a lot went on which was personal.
“Fortunately it wasn’t the case in my ward – I get on very well with David Stocks and although we’re in opposite parties, we work well together and I have the greatest respect for him.”
SNP councillor Michael Coyle, returned in Airdrie South, insisted that the leaflets illustrated an important issue, and condemned anonymous literature sent to homes in his ward criticising his and daughter Sophia’s committee attendance.
He said: “There are people out there who have been in council houses but couldn’t get stairlifts and wet-floor shower rooms; they end up taking ill and having to be looked after in care homes.
“Stuart, who was featured, is like many others and he’s an illustration and an example; we have to fight for disabled people, and he knew about his photo being used and signed it all [to give permission].
“Labour are getting their knickers in a twist and trying to divert attention away from the truth on that leaflet, whereas I could give examples of what’s been done to me and inaccuracies that have been put out there.
“There were really disgusting leaflets put out in this area and my family and I didn’t deserve that; it was the dirtiest campaign I’ve ever known.”
Sophia had told the Advertiser at the election count: “Overall, I felt it was a dirty campaign – I feel that Labour tried to undermine not only the party, but also the Coyle family.”
See pages four and five and our website for full coverage of all the results and reaction in the North Lanarkshire Council poll.