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Police quiz ally of Purcell over contract award

A political ally of Steven Purcell who was questioned about corruption and drug abuse last week has now been quizzed by detectives over the award of a contract to run a gay and lesbian drop-in centre.

Councillor Ruth Black faced almost four hours of questioning at the Castro Centre in central Glasgow on Tuesday, a week after being quizzed on whether she had a role in the supply of drugs to Mr Purcell’s circle after the former leader admitted to having taken cocaine in the past.

It is the third time she has been questioned by Strathclyde Police in recent weeks.

The latest questioning comes as documentation passed to The Herald shows Ms Black allegedly declared the support of Mr Purcell for the £50,000 contract that has been the focus of police interviews some five months before it was awarded.

According to confidential minutes of a meeting from June 2009, Ms Black told rivals for the bid to run the gay and lesbian drop-in centre that they would not be supported by the Labour administration that would award the lucrative contract, and that a proposal she would be fronting would secure it instead.

Ms Black said other senior Labour figures were backing her proposal along with Mr Purcell, who quit two months ago amid revelations of cocaine abuse and blackmail fears and is now the subject of a major criminal investigation.

The minutes relate to a meeting between Ms Black and Professor Maggie Kinloch, the vice-principal of the Royal School of Music and Drama who is also the chair of the Glasgay organisation, which lost out in the bid to run a new LGBT centre.

Ms Kinloch claimed at the June 9 meeting that Ms Black mentioned the names of several leading figures, including Mr Purcell, backing her bid. The meeting had been set up with Ms Black in her capacity as the deputy spokeswoman for equalities, but she later unveiled her own bid. Also at the meeting was James Doherty, another close friend of Mr Purcell and the spokesman for one of the council’s arm’s-length bodies, Culture and Sport Glasgow.

Mr Doherty yesterday told The Herald he had no recollection of any names being mentioned at the meeting and struggled to recall advising Ms Kinloch against writing a formal letter to Mr Purcell about Ms Black’s claims and suggesting that “talks be had on the side instead”.

Mr Doherty later resigned from Glasgay, in part due to the issue.

Also present at the meeting where Ms Kinloch made the claims about Ms Black were Green MSP Patrick Harvie, former Labour councillor Irene Graham, Lynn Sheridan, sister of Tommy, and Steven Thomson, head of the Glasgay Festival.

In October Ms Black’s group secured £50,000 to run the LGBT centre, now called Castro, despite not being a fully set-up organisation.

Ms Black had run a previous incarnation of the drop-in centre, but quit in December 2007. The centre went bust at the end of last year with outstanding debts of more than £300,000.

Last night she insisted she had been assured she would face neither charges nor a police investigation.

She added: “The meeting with Maggie Kinloch came at a time of some real bad feeling and I got the impression we got on very well and I discussed a joint venture. The wrong impression has been given about the meeting we had. I genuinely think there is some mistake.

“I couldn’t possible dream of openly discussing the views of other councillors. It would be political suicide to do so.”

Strathclyde Police refused to confirm or deny detectives had spoken with Ms Black on Tuesday, while the City Council said it would be inappropriate to comment because of the police investigation into Steven Purcell “and other matters”.

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