By Bob Duncan
The SNP has condemned the appointment of former Labour minister Tom McCabe as a policy advisor to Land and Environmental Services in Glasgow City Council.
Just over a year after losing his seat and salary as an MSP, it has emerged that Mr McCabe has been recruited by the Labour-run local authority as a ‘policy manager’ on a salary of nearly £50,000 a year.
Though purported to be a non-political role working for the Council’s Land and Environmental Services, McCabe’s past history as a senior Labour party politician has led to accusations that it is his ties to the Labour party which secured him his employment.
It has also emerged that Mr McCabe was chosen for the role less than one day after being formally interviewed. Despite asking where and when the role was advertised, and how many other applicants received interviews, Newsnet Scotland has received no response from the council.
The appointment of the former Labour minister, which has yet to be formally announced, has been met with outrage by Graeme Hendry, leader of the Glasgow Council SNP group, who dismissed the decision to appoint the Labour figure as indicative of the party's underhand, “jobs for the boys” tactics.
Mr Hendry said: “Glasgow Labour’s murky history is clearly not in the past after appointing a failed Labour politician to a post that is supposed to be politically neutral. Not only is he a former Labour minister, he also ran the council campaign in Glasgow and has aligned himself to ensure he gets a top spot.
“Earning a reported salary of just under £50,000 a year is yet another slap in the face to the people of Glasgow. The list of incompetence and jobs for the boys goes on. I’ve raised my concerns with the chief solicitor at the council.
“Tom McCabe has mastered the art of golden handshakes and has been handsomely rewarded for his part in the council campaign. This post is supposed to be non-political – what assurances can he make to the people of Glasgow that he will not be putting his allegiances to Labour first?”
Glasgow Council spokesman Colin McKenzie has claimed that Mr McCabe was interviewed by senior Council officials and not elected members. However Mr McKenzie also confirmed that Mr McCabe’s interview for the post took place only yesterday.
Questions are certain to be raised over Mr McCabe’s qualifications and the haste with which the Labour run council appear to have rubber stamped the decision to award the job to the ex-Labour MSP. Many will also question Mr McCabe’s suitability for a role that involves land and the environment given his apparent reluctance to support a local campaign in his former South Lanarkshire constituency.
McCabe, who had also been a local councillor in the area before becoming an MSP, refused to back a campaign against a waste incinerator after it had been voted through by Mr McCabe’s former council colleagues.
Mr McCabe’s electoral agent was Labour councillor Jackie Burns who voted in favour of the hazardous waste plant. The firm proposing the incinerator, Scotgen, owned a plant at Dargavel which was one of Scotland’s top 20 polluters.
In 2007, Mr McCabe was the campaign manager in charge of former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander’s leadership campaign. In November of that year he publicly admitted that donations made her campaign had been “clearly illegal”, Ms Alexander subsequently resigned as leader in disgrace.
The donations had been solicited by another former Labour MSP, Charlie Gordon, who was also a former Glasgow Council leader.
McCabe, who is a former partner of former Labour advisor and TV commentator Lorraine Davidson, was one of several Labour casualties following the elections on May 5, 2011, losing his seat to Christina McKelvie of the SNP in the newly formed Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse constituency.
Commenting on the appointment, James Dorman, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart said: "It certainly appears that once again Glasgow Labour is using council taxpayers' money for party political purposes.
"The people of Glasgow will be watching this appointment with interest given the recent spate of retirements and redundancies. It certainly appears that once again Glasgow Labour is using council taxpayers' money for party political purposes."