A Conservative councillor struck from the teaching register over offensive tweets about Nicola Sturgeon is now in charge of scrutinising education in Fife.
Kathleen Leslie was voted in as convener of Fife Council’s education scrutiny committee on Tuesday morning.
The move has been branded astonishing by the SNP, who said they were finding it “difficult to fathom”.
Ms Leslie agreed to her removal from the teaching register in 2017 after admitting her fitness to teach was impaired.
It followed a series of tweets in the run up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum in which she called the First Minister “a wee fish wife” and “a drooling hag”.
She was employed by Fife Council as a teacher at the time.
Ms Leslie said she had a strong record of scrutiny and was best placed to lead the committee.
However, Fife’s SNP education spokesman Craig Walker said: “I suspect the public might have a different view on that.”
SNP say appointment ‘beggars belief’
Mr Walker added: “She may well be a good local councillor but when it comes to having an specific and important role in the future of education, to have somebody who has previously been suspended by the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) is stretching credibility.
“It’s really astonishing and it beggars belief they would even consider nominating Councillor Leslie for that post.”
The council’s SNP leader David Alexander agreed, adding: “It’s absolutely shocking.
“I just do not believe it.”
Ms Leslie hit back, however.
She said: “My job is to scrutinise council policy on education.
“I’m coming at this with a background of five years on the education and children’s services committee.
“I attended every single meeting of that and I have a pretty strong record of scrutinising policy.”
‘I intend to scrutinise the council’s policy on education’
The Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy councillor has led on a number of campaigns against Fife’s education policy.
“I didn’t do all of these things by myself but I did lead on most of them,” Ms Leslie said.
“My role is a continuation of that and I intend to scrutinise the council’s policy on education.
“I’m not here as a mouthpiece for the administration.
“I’m more than willing to work with the SNP and the Lib Dems on what they want to see scrutinised.”
Resigned from teaching
Ms Leslie was a teacher for 16 years, latterly working with children with additional needs at Woodmill High School.
She was required to resign from her post when she was elected to the council in 2017.
Speaking following her removal from the teaching register, she said: “During my years of teaching I was never under any scrutiny as regards my professionalism and performance in the classroom.
“I took my responsibilities very seriously and never allowed politics to intrude in the teaching environment.”
She was appointed to lead the scrutiny committee by eight votes to seven, with SNP members voting for their own candidate Alycia Hayes.
Labour and the Lib Dems voted with the Conservatives to elect Ms Leslie.
Kirkcaldy SNP MSP David Torrance described it as a “grubby deal”.
“This is laughable, you could not make it up,” he said,
“But it demonstrates the depths the Labour party will plunge to in order to make a deal with the Tories.”