Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems calls for SCVO chief to resign for being 'too close' to SNP

The SCVO says that the allegations against Martin Sime are 'preposterous'

Martin Sime
Martin Sime

Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has called for the resignation of Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, because he claims Sime is too closely affiliated with the Scottish National Party.

Rennie wrote to Alison Elliot, convener of the SCVO, suggesting she ask for Sime’s resignation, after the publication of a leaked email from Alex Bell, special adviser to Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and first minister of Scotland, which appears to suggest that the SNP wants to use the SCVO as a front to promote a second question in a referendum on Scottish independence.

Bell’s email to the SCVO said "Read this", followed by a press release suggesting strong support among trade union members for the inclusion of a "devo max" option, which would transfer more powers to the Scottish government.

Sime has publicly supported the inclusion of a "devo max" option. The SNP is known to support the inclusion of a second question, but has said it will only be included if there is widespread public support for it.

Commentators in Scotland who have viewed the email say it has been seen as evidence that the SNP is trying to use the SCVO to create that public support.

But the SCVO has said the allegation was "preposterous", that the email is a "non-story" and that it is normal for it to be in regular contact with special advisers from all parties.

Rennie claimed that Sime had also attempted to "undermine" the launch of the Better Together campaign, which opposes independence.

"Martin Sime's behaviour is threatening the independence and credibility of the SCVO," said Rennie in a statement.

"Voluntary organisations across Scotland will be alarmed that Mr Sime is allowing the SNP government to use the SCVO as a front organisation to make its case for a second question in the referendum.

"Martin Sime is displaying poor judgement and should consider his position as chief executive," he said.

Elliot has rejected Rennie’s call, in a reply to him.

"I consider your allegations preposterous, your interpretation of the incidents fanciful and your attempt to interfere in the business of an independent organisation unworthy of a public leader," she wrote. "I have no intention of asking Martin to resign."

"Special advisers from all the main political parties, including your own, have been in dialogue with SCVO in recent months; that is their job.

"We welcome these conversations and engage in them vigorously from our perspective as a civil society organisation that has an interest, on behalf of our members, in contributing to policies that shape the environment in which the third sector works.

"SCVO is not a front for anyone, nor will it be told by outsiders what it will or will not debate or how it should conduct its business," the letter says.

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