Lang fails to endorse Monklands inquiry

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The Independent Online
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MONKLANDS district council yesterday accused the Government of 'playing dirty politics with the lives of the people of Lanarkshire', writes John Arlidge.

The accusation came after Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, refused to guarantee that councillors would not be surcharged over a planned inquiry into allegations of sectarianism, nepotism and political corruption.

Earlier this week the council agreed to order and pay for a 50,000 public inquiry into the long-running 'Monklandsgate' scandal.

But after the council's legal advisers warned that councillors risked being surcharged if they used local authority funds members said the inquiry could only go ahead if Mr Lang gave an assurance that they would not be held financially liable.

Mr Lang said yesterday he was 'in no position' to do so. It was 'up to councillors themselves' to weigh up the risk of being surcharged.

His comments drew a furious response from Jim Brooks, the council's Labour leader. He said: 'When it has come to the crunch, the Tories have backed off because they know there is no evidence against us.'

Councillors will meet next week to reconsider the inquiry proposal.