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Councillor is blamed for bank closure

A PROMINENT Scottish Government minister has accused a controversial Labour councillor of being responsible for the closure of a town's bank.

Roseanna Cunningham, SNP Government Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, said Glasgow councillor Sohan Singh failed to repair structural damage to a historic Perthshire hotel he had owned.

She said this forced the ground floor occupants, the Royal Bank of Scotland, to close down.

Ms Cunningham, MSP for Perthshire South & Kinrossshire, said the ceiling of the RBS branch collapsed as a result of Mr Singh's failure to maintain the Drummond Arms Hotel in Crieff.

She said the bank was forced into a portable building, which it has now vacated, claimed she was issuing an open challenge to Mr Singh to "face up to his responsibilities" and said he had treated Crieff with disdain.

Mr Singh is facing legal action. He also owns several hotels and restaurants in Glasgow and was recently suspended by Glasgow City Council's ruling Labour administration.

Mr Singh said he could not secure funding to make the Crieff scheme work and sold the Drummond Arms almost a year ago to a firm called Strathfare.

A director's search shows Strathfare is headed by Ranjeet Singh, with an address given on Glasgow's Hope Street. The address is the same as Sohan Singh's boutique Artto Hotel and companies where he has been a director.

RBS has sought disrepair notices from the local council for the hotel to force the issue and confirmed there were ongoing court proceedings.

One case against Sohan Singh relates to a bid to recover the costs of having to move out of the branch in early 2012. Another court case seeks permission to sell the branch and hotel under the Tenement (Scotland) Act 2004.

The Drummond Arms Hotel, where Bonnie Prince Charlie held his last war council before a final defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, has been shut for about eight years and has been in need of major investment.

Mr Singh, who has been criticised for operating illegally as a landlord and been warned over breaches of liquor laws at his Kelvin Lorne Hotel, purchased it in 2008 but said that "funding proved impossible" as a result of the recession.

Wetherspoon's had shown an interest in basing a business in the venue but it came to nothing, while the owners of the Crieff Hydro ruled out a takeover.

Earlier this week RBS announced it would close its temporary facility in June.

Ms Cunningham said: "My anger is not directed so much at the RBS as at the owner, or immediate past owner, whose failure to maintain, let alone redevelop as promised, this historic building has to a great extent forced the hand of RBS.

"Sohan Singh bought the Drummond Arms and promised much but delivered nothing.

"For an elected representative to treat any community with the disdain Cllr Singh has shown towards Crieff is a disgrace and if his attitude towards his own ward is in any way similar the people of Glasgow are being ill-served."

However, Mr Singh said: "Throughout my ownership, I sought support to redevelop the hotel, even speaking with RBS, but without success.

"I sold the hotel to others who assured me of their desire to bring the building back into use.

"There has been no sleight of hand on my part. I had no correspondence from Roseanna Cunningham about the hotel when I owned it, so I am confused about why she has only now chosen to speak out. Her accusations have no foundation.

"I regret that, as with so many other businesses in the recession, my business plans did not work out. I am sorry that Crieff is losing out as a result.

"I can only hope RBS can find a solution to ensure that it remains in Crieff."

An RBS spokeswoman said: "We cannot safely reopen the branch because of the disrepair of the Drummond Arms hotel.

"As an interim measure we have been renting a portable cabin from the council.

"This is not a long-term solution and we have taken the difficult decision to close the branch on June 19, 2013."

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