THE Labour leader of one of Scotland’s largest councils has been suspended for two months after leaking confidential material for “political gain” while in opposition.

Joe Fagan, who became boss of South Lanarkshire Council last May, received the sanction after a Standards Commission for Scotland hearing in Hamilton. 

The SNP called on him to stand down and linked his fate to the likely Rutherglen & Hamilton West byelection, where the SNP is facing a tough Labour challenge.

The Commission said it had considered a longer punishment, but took account of mitigating factors, including Mr Fagan’s more  recent conduct.

He was found to have breached the Councillor’s Code of Conduct by leaking a list of leisure and culture facilities identified for closure under the previous SNP administration.

He included the confidential material in a press release on 30 April 2021, a few days before the Scottish Parliament elections.

Cllr Fagan said he regretted what had happened but said his conscience was clear as he had been acting in good faith.

The suspension is expected to start within days, once the council receives the formal judgment in writing.

Labour currently runs South Lanarkshire Council as a minority administration with the support of Independents and Liberal Democrats.

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Although Cllr Fagan could in theory appeal the decision, this is thought unlikely given the agreed evidence and his cooperation with the process.

Suzanne Vestri, a Standards Commission member and Chair of the Hearing Panel, said failure to respect confidential documents can “damage the reputation and integrity of a council, and can also impede discussions and decision-making.”

The panel agreed it was legitimate for the council to have decided the information should stay confidential until decisions were finalised and communicated properly. 

Having reviewed all the available evidence, the Panel was satisfied “that it was clear that the information was confidential at the time Cllr Fagan disclosed it to the press”. 

Although there was evidence that Cllr Fagan “disagreed strongly” with the closure plans, the Panel also believed the leak was motivated “at least in part, for political gain” given the backdrop of the Holyrood election.

At the time, the SNP Government's funding of local services was an issue.

The Panel noted, in mitigation, that Cllr Fagan had cooperated fully with the investigation and hearing “and further noted his contribution to public life and to his community”.

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There was no evidence of other leaking, dishonesty or concealment, or of any previous contraventions of the Code Of Conduct by Cllr Fagan.

Nevertheless, the Panel found that he “had deliberately disclosed the information and that he had done so, at least in part, for political gain”.

This could have had an impact on council officials and could have caused “undue and unnecessary concern” about possible closures before final decisions were made. 


Depute council leader Gerry Convery, who is set to be taking over duting the suspension, was previously censured by the Standards Commission on two occasions.

South Lanarkshire councillor Katy Loudon, the SNP's candidate for the potential Rutherglen & Hamilton West by election, said: "Joe Fagan and his Labour party have always cared more about their own gain than the people they have been elected to serve, and the Commission's findings make that crystal clear. 

"Mr Fagan should do the right thing now and resign, after letting down people across South Lanarkshire and his council colleagues. 

"If he is not willing to resign – then Anas Sarwar should show leadership and sack him. 

"With a potential by-election in Rutherglen & Hamilton West on the cards, people across the constituency will have a chance to reject this type of grubby politics." 

In a statement, Cllr Fagan, who represents the East Kilbride Central North, said: “I regret what has happened but my conscience is clear.

"I did what I believed to be right and that’s why I got into local government in the first place. My accusers said I leaked information and yet I openly disclosed it in good faith.

“I believe the Standards framework in Scotland should go after real wrongdoing in local government, it should not tie the hands of those working to expose it.”

A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said: “We note theroutcome of the hearing of the Panel of the Standards Commission for Scotland and we await the written judgment, which we expect to receive within 14 days.”