Cranston to learn fate within days

Hawick Rugby Trust's Alastair Cranston
Hawick Rugby Trust's Alastair Cranston

Nationalist Councillor Alastair Cranston could be on the verge of a second standards investigation following a council probe into his expenses claims.

The Hawick and Burnfoot councillor was due to meet council officials yesterday (Thursday) to learn his fate, but he could not be contacted and the council is now “actively pursuing a meeting” with Mr Cranston, which officers hope will take place within days.

The Hawick News understands that there is a strong likelihood that the former Greens captain and Scottish internationalist will be hauled before the ethical watchdog for the second time in less than a year.

Mr Cranston was handed a three-month suspension in October for failing to declare an interest during a renewable energy debate in December 2013 and last month he was appointed to the council’s scrutiny panel.

Mr Cranston’s expenses claims have been the subject of a 12-week council investigation and this week a source close to the council said: “Scottish Borders Council have dragged their feet on this and it’s all a little bit embarrassing now. They’ve little choice other than to fire this off to the standards commissioner. They’ve been trying to pin Cranston down for a few days and are desperate to speak to him.”

The Hawick News broke the expenses story on December 12 last year, and withing days it had made national headlines.

At the time Councillor Cranston, who had almost 50 expenses claims disallowed by SBC, said: “I will just have to stop claiming for daft things.”

Claims included £6.45 to travel to Zandra Elliot’s funeral and various travel claims for rugby and Common-Riding related functions.

When the Hawick News contacted Councillor Cranston on yesterday afternoon, he said: “I am meeting council officials on Monday with someone from my political group to discuss my expenses. I’ll have to wait and see what they say. I will be defending myself.”

Asked if he feared the prospect of another standards investigation and possible further ban, Mr Cranston added: “I just cannot think about that at the moment. I will just have to take things as they come. I have always said that I have done things properly and that I have nothing to hide.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “The council is actively pursuing a meeting with Councillor Cranston to discuss the internal investigation into the alleged inappropriate expenses claims.

“It is hoped the meeting will be arranged as soon as possible, which will then allow a decision to be made.”