MSP calls for Scottish government to step in and solve Musselburgh crisis
A Lothian region MSP has called for the Scottish government to step into the ongoing row between Musselburgh racecourse and the local council as "bad blood on both sides" is endangering the future of the track.
East Lothian Council announced this week that it would create an interim committee to run the course, with fewer racing representatives involved than at present.
That prompted an angry response from the Lothian Racing Syndicate, the racing body that currently runs the track alongside local councillors, which has challenged the legality of the council's move. Staff at the track have also threatened industrial action over plans to make them council employees.
Miles Briggs, Conservative MSP for Lothian region, which includes Musselburgh, has written to Aileen Campbell, minister for public health and sport at Holyrood, asking her to act as a mediator to resolve the crisis.
Briggs, who is also convener of the Scottish parliament's cross-party group on Scottish horseracing and bloodstock, said: "I don't think [the latest council move] is a satisfactory outcome. What I want to see, and what I'm trying to move forward on a cross-party basis, is all interested parties to get round the table as soon as possible and look to the future.
"I hope that will happen as soon as possible, otherwise you just have a stalemate. That's why I want the Scottish government and Aileen to play a positive role, because all the history is now stacking up and people are judging each other on that.
"There is a lot of bad blood on both sides and everyone needs to be a bit more grown-up, and I think the Scottish government could cut through that."
Briggs suggested an arms-length external organisation (ALEO) could be used to run Musselburgh. Often used by councils in Scotland, ALEOs are separate to local authorities but subject to their control or influence through representation on the board. At Musselburgh it could take the form of equal representation between racecourse and council with an independent chair, Briggs suggested.
"From the discussions I've had behind the scenes I think the Scottish government will be up for that, which will cut through all the nonsense we've seen on both sides, as otherwise this will just drag on and I would then we worried for the future of Musselburgh," Briggs added.
"Councils have said to me that Musselburgh is really the jewel in the crown of East Lothian, so they have to be incredibly careful with it. I want to make sure this interim measure is just that and we can get Musselburgh back on track as soon as possible."
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