Billionaire brothers call for SNP councillor to quit after conduct breach

The Inverclyde councillor was suspended for a month for failing to declare an interest before voting on a £350m property development by the McGill's brothers.

Billionaire McGill’s brothers call for SNP Inverclyde councillor to quit after suspension over conduct breach McGill's buses brothers Sandy and James Easdale

The billionaire owners of McGill’s have called for an SNP councillor in Inverclyde to resign after he was suspended for a month for failing to declare an interest in a huge property development.

Innes Nelson was found by the Standards Commission of Scotland to have breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct when he failed to declare an interest before voting on the £350m housing project at the former IBM Site in Spango Valley.

Brothers James and Sandy Easedale had submitted a proposal to build 450 houses as part of a mixed-use development that would include retail, leisure and commercial units.

But in 2022, Nelson was among the politicians who voted to restrict the Greenock project to 270 houses. The two businessmen said this made the project unviable.

Inverclyde councillor Innes Nelson's farmhouse was next to the development he was voting on.Inverclyde Council

The Standards Commission found the Inverclyde south west councillor failed to declare that his farmhouse was the nearest property to the development, only being separated by the A78.

Ashleigh Dunn, Standards Commission member and chair of the hearing panel, said: “The panel found that Nelson failed to declare an interest in the planning application and, instead, took part in the discussion and decision-making, despite the site that was the subject of the planning application being located near his property.”

The Commission found that while it did not have “sufficient evidence” on whether the development would have had an impact on Nelson’s farmhouse people could “reasonably consider that Nelson’s connection to the site of the development proposal would be sufficiently significant as to be likely to affect his discussion or decision-making”.

The panel found that Nelson should have declared his interest and withdrawn from any decision-making on the project.

Commission said Nelson had cooperated with the probe fully and had a previously “unblemished record as a councillor”.

They added: “The panel accepted that there was no evidence or suggestion that Nelson had tried to conceal his interest.

“The panel was not satisfied that it had evidence before it that would lead it to conclude that Nelson’s interest had affected his discussion or decision-making as a member of the planning board, or that he had acted in anything other than good faith when taking part in the decision-making.

“The panel agreed, however, that it was necessary to impose a suspension in order to reflect the seriousness of the breach, to promote adherence to the code and to maintain and improve the public’s confidence that
councillors will comply with the code and will be held accountable if they fail to do so.”

‘Innes Nelson must resign’

The transport tycoons behind the project have threatened the councillor with legal action.

They say the delay in having their project approved led to a time-consuming a costly appeal process.

The Easdale brothers have called for Nelson to resign.

“It is beyond contempt that he put his own interests above those of his constituents regarding a planning application that sought to regenerate a landmark site in Inverclyde,” Sandy Easdale said.

“He should have stepped back from the decision-making process but instead voted against the original planning proposal.

“Rather than attempt to hang onto office and the benefits he obtains from that, it is time for Nelson to finally do the decent thing and resign.”

Sandy and James Easdale (pictured) have called on Innes Nelson to resign.McGill’s buses brothers Sandy and James Easdale

James Easdale added: “The delay that Nelson created caused untold damage to the project.

“Not only have we personally encountered huge fees to appeal the original decision, the delay also coincided with a period where building costs and interest rates went through the roof.

“He had no thought for the families who might make the development their home or for those who would be employed during the build phase, including new apprentices.

“We are considering our options on whether to pursue Nelson on a personal basis for the costs incurred by his dreadful actions.”

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