A Fife councillor has been sanctioned for calling a convicted stalker a bully during a committee meeting.
David MacDiarmid was suspended from Fife Council’s regulation and licensing committee for two months by the Standards Commision for Scotland.
After a public hearing in Fife House, Glenrothes, an SCS panel found he had breached the councillors’ code of conduct by making remarks of a personal, offensive or insulting nature.
Mr MacDiarmid, 65, SNP councillor for the Howe of Fife and Tay Coast, was said to have called the taxi driver a bully to women and children and questioned why any woman would marry him as his application to extend his licence was refused in December 2015.
A sheriff later overturned the committee’s decision and granted the licence, stating that his comments were “tainted with prejudice and bias”.
SCS panel chair Michael McCormick said Mr MacDiarmid “should have known the importance of not only acting fairly but being seen to act fairly when dealing with decisions that were either quasi-judicial or regulatory in nature” and his conduct “had the potential to bring the council into public disrepute”.
A police report presented to the committee, on which Mr MacDiarmid sits, outlined the 2012 conviction and two historical criminal allegations against the driver.
An investigation was conducted by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland after a complaint was lodged in August last year.
Claire Gilmore, for the ethical standards commissioner, told the panel: “The complainer attended this hearing as a member of the public, he was not a fellow councillor engaged in heated debate. He was entitled as a member of the public to be treated with courtesy and respect”.
She also said comments about his attractiveness as a husband did not relate to his “suitability to drive a taxi or to the safety of the public”.
Mr MacDiarmid’s counsel Hugh Olsen said the police report about the complainer referred to “controlling and abusive” behaviour and use of the word “bully” was “quite mild”.
He said: “If it seems that this is a fair way of characterising the comments of that letter then it was perfectly fair for that interpretation to be put to (the complainer) to give him the opportunity to respond.”
Mr Olsen also claimed Mr MacDiarmid had been denied a fair hearing by the delay in the complaint being made, as he was unable to recall the words to defend himself.
However, the SCS concluded it was reasonable for the complainer to await the outcome of his court appeal.
Giving evidence Mr MacDiarmid accepted the words had been recorded by a committee administrator and council solicitor but said he could not remember saying them.
When asked if he recalled ever making gratuitous or insulting comments to licence applicants, he said: “No, I don’t think I would have been a councillor for 11 years if I conducted myself in that manner.”
He also said reading the words attributed to him was “like reading someone else’s statement”.