ARBROATH West and Letham councillor Ewan Smith has quit the SNP group on Angus Council citing differences with key figures over the Arbroath Schools Project.
Councillor Smith announced his decision today (Monday) but says he intends to see out his remaining four year term but will be an independent.
As well as leaving the SNP, Councillor Smith who was elected last May, will also relinquish his post as vice-convener of education.
It also means the SNP no longer have a majority on Angus Council with the nationalists holding 14 seats but all other parties and independents holding the remaining 15.
Explaining his decision he said: “Clearly, after just ten months as a councillor, this is not a decision that has been taken lightly. Neither is it a knee-jerk reaction.
“It is the culmination of a series of events over the core issue I campaigned on - the Arbroath Schools Project.
“I have held in-depth conversations with close family members over the potential ramifications of my resignation from the SNP and exhausted all other viable alternatives.
“I no longer feel supported by key senior figures within the group on the Arbroath Schools Project and firmly believe there has been a clear shift in policy from the one which those members stood hand-in-hand with me on in May.
“I opposed any form of an amalgamated Muirfield and Timmergreens Primary School then and I oppose any form of merger now.
“I also continue to support options which will benefit the greatest number of children within the constraints of a £10.6 million investment.
“Some members of our group continue to stand by the pledges they made in May but, in a clear split in our camp, some senior figures do not.”
Councillor Smith added that as vice-convener of education he believes he was not consulted on options being discussed for the Arbroath Schools Project.
He added: “My concerns first surfaced just a few months after I was elected when it became clear that some options were being actively considered and developed by officers that I could not support.
“To do so would be a clear breach of the promise I made to voters during the election campaign.
“These options have developed to such an extent that I believe they were extensively discussed during a meeting between the convener and director of education, chief executive and director of corporate services.
“As vice-convener of education I could reasonably expect to be informed of this meeting but I was given no notice or briefing on its outcome.
“As such I have been given no opportunity to make an input into proposed reports on the Arbroath Schools Project.
“I visited all ten schools prior to the consultation period, canvassed views from head teachers and staff and have read every submission made.
“If, as I have requested, these responses are published in full it will be absolutely clear the the vast majority of respondents wish to see improvements across all ten schools.
“Sadly, some of the live proposals within that consultation document, would not only provide a real drain on finances for this project but leave the vast majority of Arbroath children without improved facilities.
“I cannot and will not support any proposal which leaves up to eight schools with no significant investment for a decade and beyond.
“I have worked extremely hard behind the scenes to try and make a real difference and to provide alternative solutions to the ones being promoted and will continue to do so as an independent councillor.
“I have made my position on this clear and now feel that my only option is to move forward as an independent who will strive to ensure the democratic wishes of the people elected me are fulfilled.
“I apologise to any SNP supporter who elected me purely on the basis of the party I represented but wish to underline that my issue is not with the party as a whole but the attitude of some of its members to this specific project.
“I will continue to serve the people of Arbroath West and Letham and will be fully accountable to them over the next four years and, hopefully, beyond.”