Russell referred to standards commissioner

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Education minister Michael Russell has been referred to the Scottish Parliament's standards commissioner over accusations that he interfered in Argyll and Bute Council's school closure programme.

Mr Russell, in his capacity as the SNP's Holyrood election candidate in Argyll and Bute, emailed Oban councillor Donald MacDonald with his views on the council's proposals in November.

The email's contents were passed to local and national media earlier this week (see story here).

Now David Graham, who fought the Argyll and Bute Westminster seat for Labour at last year's general election, has written to the Scottish Parliament's standards commissioner expressing his concern at Mr Russell's conduct - focussing in particular on his involvement in an Argyll and Bute issue when he is not, at present, an MSP for the area.

Alan Reid, the Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, has also renewed his criticism of Mr Russell - whose wife Cathleen is currently the interim head teacher at Sandbank Primary - in the light of the council's decision to suspend consultation on its controversial school closure plans.

Mr Reid said: "I don't criticise the minister for trying to save some schools. What I do criticise him for is cutting the council's grant and handing a hit list of schools to the council whilst claiming publicly that he would have nothing to do with the process."

But Mr Russell has dismissed his opponents' concerns as "political froth".