Council bosses have blocked adverts urging people to vote ‘No’ at the referendum being promoted in one of its oldest buildings.
The SNP Group on Falkirk Council complained material supplied by supporters of the Better Together and No Borders campaigns was being shown at the Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness.
The row came just days after the council agreed such ‘propaganda’ should be treated the same way as any other election publications and banned from all its properties.
The Hippodrome, Scotland’s oldest cinema, was a major part of a regeneration programme delivered by the SNP administration which saw it re-open in 2009 after a £2 million facelift. The iconic landmark is now run on behalf of the council by Falkirk Leisure Trust.
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn claimed cinemagoers were unhappy at the ads being shown ahead of the main feature.
She said: “When we asked for permission to hang a donated portrait of John and Harry Constable and Beth Eaglesham, three Bo’ness councillors who had done most to save a cinema left to rot under successive Labour administrations, we were denied that request because it was considered political. Now we are seeing at best double standards and at worst a serious misuse of a public facility. Trust managers argued the decision to accept the advertisements was a commercial rather than a political one but this doesn’t wash with the SNP.”
A council spokesperson said: “As the Hippodrome is a public building run on behalf of the council it is subject to the rules on the display of election material. We contacted the supplier as soon as we were made aware of the adverts and the supplier agreed to remove them immediately and not to include referendum material on any future reels sent to the Hippodrome.”
In 2010 Falkirk Council agreed the display of election materials on its buildings, railings and even lamp posts would not be allowed. Under the legislation, any party posting bills on any property without the owners consent could be liable to prosecution under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act.
At its meeting on May 14 councillors agreed by 17 votes to 13 that referendum material should be treated in the same way and the guidelines changed to reflect that.