The principal and another senior figure at a Scottish college have been suspended amid signs of a breakdown in relations between staff and the institution’s board of management.

The Herald understands Aileen McKechnie, Principal and Chief Executive of South Lanarkshire College (SLC), and Brian Keegan, Interim Clerk to the Board, were temporarily removed from post at the end of a board meeting last week.

College bosses said they had acted so “various complaints” could be addressed fairly and to ensure “ongoing good governance” at their institution.

It comes after the SLC Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) branch overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in the Board Chair, Andy Kerr.

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In a statement posted on social media towards the end of last month, branch members also expressed their “full support” for the principal. They said: “Following member claims of bullying, harassment, breaches in governance and behaviour and conduct, the members of EIS-FELA at South Lanarkshire College have tonight taken a vote of No Confidence in the Chair of the Board Andy Kerr.

"There was an emphatic result of over 99 per cent of members voting in support of this action.

“We will write to the SLC Board, the Lanarkshire Board and the Scottish Funding Council to voice member concerns. We will also write to the Regional Chair and ask what actions he is taking to address the issues of concern at the college.

“Finally we will reach out to our @unisontheunion colleagues to ask for their support and solidarity on this issue.”

The statement, which appeared on Twitter, added: “The Branch have given their full support to the Principal and will write to the Board accordingly.”

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Earlier this year, Ms McKechnie ordered an external probe into allegations of misconduct at the college.

It reportedly took months to complete and resulted in auditors producing a document that made “a number of recommendations for improvements to internal procedures”. College bosses said they accepted “all the recommendations in full”.

A college statement that was published in September said: “Complaints made were initially investigated internally before an external forensic investigation by our internal auditors was introduced earlier this year. The investigation concluded in May and provided a report with a number of recommendations for improvements to internal procedures.

“The college has accepted all recommendations in full and has already agreed its management response with its audit and risk committee in July. An action plan is now in place to take this forward.

"At South Lanarkshire College, we provide a supportive learning environment that is safe, respectful, equitable and inclusive for all students, faculty and staff. As a learning organisation, it is important that we are always on a cycle of continuous improvement.”

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Ms McKechnie, former director of advanced learning and science at the Scottish Government, has received strong backing from members of the college community. One told The Herald that she was viewed by the majority of staff as “a person of integrity with a strong sense of right and wrong”. 

The latest developments at the college have sparked alarm. John Kelly, EIS-FELA national salaries convener, said: “FELA fully supports calls at the South Lanarkshire Branch for transparency and good governance in the running and operations of the college.”

Last night, a college spokesman said: “South Lanarkshire College has taken steps to allow various complaints to be dealt with in a fair and proper manner and has made arrangements to secure the ongoing good governance and sound leadership of the college and positive outcomes for students.”

Ms McKechnie was approached for comment.