Aberdeen’s depute provost has defended her comments after being accused of a “bizarre stunt” in a row over her disgraced predecessor.
During an interview on BBC Radio Scotland, Jennifer Stewart claimed Alan Donnelly, who was sentenced last month after being found guilty of sexual assault, should be free to continue serving on Aberdeen City Council.
And she claimed Mr Donnelly, who was thrown out of the Conservative party and the ruling administration, was the victim of a “witch hunt”.
Mr Donnelly has faced repeated calls to step aside and has been removed from all council committees.
Mrs Stewart said it was Mr Donnelly’s decision alone to continue as a councillor.
She said: “It is up to Mr Donnelly to decide if he wants to step aside. Legally he is allowed to do that.
“The council has made the decision that he is not allowed to be on any committees but he is still allowed to represent the public. I don’t think it’s right that other councillors are ganging together to try to get rid of him.”
The depute provost also questioned the use of the word “attack” to describe Mr Donnelly’s sex crime.
She said: “I would wonder if it was an attack. To me an attack is a much more physical and aggressive thing but sentence has been passed.”
SNP group leader Alex Nicoll hit out at Mrs Stewart’s comments and reiterated calls for Mr Donnelly to resign.
He said: “Alan Donnelly is a convicted sex offender. There should be no question that he should resign as a councillor immediately.
“The people of Aberdeen agree that he has to go and they’ll be shocked that a top member of the council administration is suggesting otherwise.
“But let’s not forget, the real victim in all this is the person who went to work only to receive unwanted physical contact from Councillor Donnelly.
“It’s time for this toxic administration to get a grip and remember the very real consequences that Alan Donnelly’s action have had.
“The people of Aberdeen will see this bizarre stunt for what it really is – a thinly veiled attempt from this toxic administration to try to keep their jobs.”
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden also said Donnelly should “do the right thing” by standing down.
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He added: “The council passed a motion back in December which was backed by all group leaders calling on Mr Donnelly to resign.
“Mrs Stewart has her own opinion but the fact is he has been convicted and it is up to him to do the right thing.”
Lib Dem group leader Ian Yuill added: “A convicted sex offender should have no place on Aberdeen City Council and Mr Donnelly should resign in the interests of the city, its citizens and the council.”
MP Stephen Flynn said: “I was absolutely stunned by Mrs Stewart’s comments regarding Mr Donnelly.
“A convicted sex offender should not hold public office and to argue anything other is to defend the indefensible – plain and simple.”
Mr Donnelly did not respond to requests for comment.