Calls for the Provost to resign

Friday September 23rd 2016

Joe Wallace Midlothian Provost

Midlothian Council Provost and Armed Forces Veterans Champion, Councillor Joe Wallace has branded Armed Services Veterans as drug addicts and alcoholics and has questioned the right for some of them to be referred to as Veterans.

As a result the Labour Group of councillors within the council are calling for the Provost to either step down or be removed.

During a Scrutiny Committee meeting discussion on the 7th September on the Scottish Government’s 23% cut in funding for Drug and Alcohol work in the County, which they demand should result in no reduction in service levels or outcomes, the SNP councillor was asked if he would be prepared to lobby the Scottish Government on the issue.

Fellow Councillors on the Committee were astounded when out of the blue Councillor Wallace launched into an attack on the MOD and veterans, some of whom he suggested had only been in the TA for a day.

Continually referring to veterans as “these people”, he criticised the fact that Midlothian was required to provide housing and jobs to returning veterans.

This was particularly surprising given that Councillor Wallace, as Provost, is also the Forces Veterans Champion for Midlothian and a Councillor for the area in which the barracks are located.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Derek Milligan who chairs the Committee said:

“I could not believe my ears. The issue being discussed was cuts to funding for drugs and alcohol services. For the Provost, particularly given his role in defending the interests of the Veterans from our Armed Forces who settle here in Midlothian, to lambast our veterans in this manner was absolutely disgraceful. It was not just what Councillor Wallace said, but the manner in which he said it.

The statements that were made by the Provost are completely incompatible with both his position as Veterans Champion and as Provost of our County. The Labour Group will be calling on the SNP administration to remove Councillor Wallace from both these posts, unless he does the honourable thing and resigns.

No doubt that there will be attempts to suggest that we have taken what he said out of context, however I would urge anyone who thinks that is the case to simply listen to his contribution which is available on the Council’s website.”

Below is a transcript of the section of the meeting in question:

Joe Wallace: Besides us approaching the Scottish Government and asking them to mitigate once again for Westminster’s cuts, maybe we should, especially with the MELDAP [Mid and East Lothian Drug and Alcohol Partnership] thing, because we have the army in Midlothian, I find that the MOD impose on us, time and time and time again, maybe we should be approaching the MOD and say, seeing you send us these people with these problems, send some money to go with it.

We are expected to give people houses, jobs and things like that if they are called a veteran. A veteran is somebody that can sign up for one day to the TA’s and I believe that in Scotland we have some 200,000 people that can be called a veteran, its maybe time for us to approach the UK government and the MOD and say, please send us some money to help us deal with the problems that you created by sending these people to illegal wars.

Derek Milligan (Chair): I’m not actually sure what you’ve just asked there Joe, I’m not sure what the MOD or the Army has to do with this issue or am I missing something?

Councillor Joe Wallace: I think you might be missing something there Convenor because the MOD send us people with mental health problems, they come out the army with drugs and drink problems and they get passed on to us. The MOD take no care of them whatsoever, maybe about 6 months and they get passed on to the NHS and Midlothian are expected to give these people houses and jobs.

A recording of the full meeting should be available as normal HERE. [Though as of 23/09/16 16:00 the council had not yet made the recording available, so Midlothian View have asked them to make it available.]

A week later on the 15th September the Provost issued the following reply via the Midlothian Council SNP Group facebook page

“I apologise unreservedly if my comments caused offence.

I was expressing my frustration at cuts to the MELDAP budget (Midlothian and East Lothian Drug and Alcohol Partnership) and I accept I should have chosen my words better. I am absolutely committed to ensuring our veterans in Midlothian receive the support they need”

Commenting on the apology to Midlothian View today, Derek Milligan said:

“It is a simple fact that, on the basis of clear views expressed by the Provost at the meeting, he should not continue to hold the post of Veterans Champion.

The Provost has issued a non apology, apology. He says “I apologise unreservedly IF my comments have caused offence” I should have chosen my words better”

He has not denied saying it or explained why he made the remarks, just that he should not have made them.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Councillor Wallace’s position as Midlothian Veteran’s Champion is completely untenable. The post holder has a duty to actively promote the welfare of ALL veterans, irrespective of the length of their service, or who at the end of the day pays for the services provided. Certainly in the view of a number of veterans who have written to me, he has no credibility to remain in post.

Councillor Wallace says that he was frustrated at the cuts in funding for Drugs and Alcohol work in Midlothian. The cuts in question are being made by the Scottish Government and this was a ham fisted attempt by Councillor Wallace to try to pin the blame on someone else. In doing so he simply let the veil slip.”

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