The councillor who quit the Angus administration over the “unhealthy culture” in its ruling group has spoken of her shock after a one-time coalition colleague was outed as a vicious Twitter troll.
Arbroath Independent Lois Speed left the ruling ranks in March feeling isolated by the behaviour of some within the administration.
Monifieth councillor Ben Lawrie followed her just days later, sparking claims of a “toxic culture” within the corridors of power.
The pair have now emerged as victims of Arbroath Conservative councillor Derek Wann’s abuse through his (Lady Whistledown) AngusFreeofSNP anonymous Twitter account.
Tory party chiefs are investigating after Mr Wann who, following strenuous denials, admitted being behind the vindictive social media profile fashioned after a character in the popular Netflix series Bridgerton.
On Monday, the Angus Council cabinet met to discuss the issue and authority leader David Fairweather has said a statement on the situation will be issued later this week.
The now shut-down social medial profile targeted local politicians with content described by opposition councillors as “misogynistic and transphobic”.
Ms Speed came under attack from her fellow town councillor over a selfie she had posted with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at an awards event.
Mr Wann trawled up the picture six years after it was taken at the Scottish Charity Awards in 2015.
“It was at a pinnacle time whilst being a disability rights campaigner where I met and was supported by cross-party representatives and politicians both locally and nationally,” said Ms Speed.
Mr Wann’s abuse included jibes at Monifieth Lib Dem Mr Lawrie over his Scottish election performance and a description of Ms Sturgeon as the “Bute House golem”.
He also used the account to question Scottish Conservative Douglas Ross’s leadership.
Ms Speed, 42, said she had struggled to comprehend the reasons behind her council colleague’s behaviour.
Mr Wann is the council’s children and learning convener but pressure is mounting on him to step down from both that position and as an elected member.
He has regularly spoken out in support of anti-bullying initiatives, including an Angus Think Before You Type campaign.
Last September, Mr Wann and council leader David Fairweather condemned the ‘sustained online bullying’ of an Angus environmental group.
Sad day for Angus
An emotional Ms Speed said she had struggled to comprehend her fellow ward councillor’s actions.
“I am just so shocked and very disappointed,” she said.
“It is difficult to finds the words to properly describe how I felt when this emerged, and it is still difficult.
“I guess it just felt for me a really sad day for Angus Council.”
She admitted the past months have left her questioning whether to stand for re-election next May.
“I knew being a councillor was always going to be hard work and I was prepared for that, but this has really shook me.
“I’m not political, I wanted to do things differently but this takes away from what is the huge honour of being a councillor elected to represent people in your community.
Plea for change
“Ultimately people will get the opportunity to make their feelings known when the time comes around next May, but you do get disheartened when this brings the sort of attention to Angus Council that you would never wish to see,” she said.
“I think I will be standing again, but the experience of these last few months, and now this, have made me reflect and seriously question whether I should.
“These are not healthy conditions or state of affairs to work in and I would make a plea for change.
“We need more kindness and compassion in politics – that’s what will make the real difference to the lives of the individuals and families we are elected to serve
“Throughout all my time I have done my best to advocate the needs of my constituency and Angus residents.
“But I now look back and realise that sometimes that didn’t go down well with administration colleagues, when all I was doing was being true to both myself and those I represent.
“It doesn’t need to be like this.
“We need to have a much more welcoming environment.”
Do the right thing
Ms Speed has resisted adding her voice to calls for Mr Wann to step down.
“I don’t want to get involved in mud-slinging because that is ultimately what destroys local democracy.
“It is not for me to say what he should do, other than to look at his behaviour and do the right thing.”
She issued a similar message to council leader David Fairweather.
Independent Mr Fairweather followed and interacted with the vitriolic Twitter account, and Mr Wann is known to be one of his closest administration allies.
The leader has so far refused to condemn Mr Wann’s behaviour and said the issue is a matter for the Conservative party.
Ms Speed added: “Again, what Mr Fairweather decides to do is a matter for himself in terms of what he things is right or wrong.
“But we should not lose sight of the fact that this has happened on his watch.”
Mr Fairweather said the administration cabinet met on Monday.
“We looked at a way forward,” he said.
“That will remain confidential and that will now go to a group meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.
“We will then issue a statement on Wednesday.”
Mr Wann has been approached for comment.
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