North Ayrshire Council’s leader Joe Cullinane has refused to back down over comments he made in a meeting earlier this summer.

Councillor Ian Murdoch asked the authority’s leader to consider apologising when he branded a colleague’s conduct  “shameful”.

But defiant Councillor Cullinane refused to withdraw the remarks he made about Saltcoats councillor Ronnie McNicol, back in June.

He made the jibe at a special meeting of North Ayrshire Council, where councillors discussed the new Ardrossan Campus plan.

And at the first full meeting of the authority following the summer recess last week, North Coast and Cumbraes Independent, Councillor Murdoch, raised the matter.

He tabled a written question to be raised during the meeting, asking: “Does the leader of the council agree that an elected member should represent their constituents, constituency and local environment as best they can, asking questions and raising concerns on subjects that may have an impact or effect on public and environmental well-being?”

Labour’s Councillor Cullinane responded: “I have to say, I’m not sure where this one is going and I’m certainly not going to respond by saying that an elected member should ever go out their way not to represent their ward to the best of their ability.”

The Kilwinning councillor said that asking questions is “one tool” available, alongside tabling motions and adding input over the development of policies, as well as serving on council committees.

But his opponent fired back on behalf on fellow independent, Councillor McNicol: “During the council meeting held on June 23, where we discussed the new Ardrossan campus and North Shore Shell site, when he was responding in summing up, the leader said, and I quote, that: ‘we are here to act in the interests of our communities and our residents.

'Let’s engage with our communities in an open and transparent form of communication, let’s listen to the concerns that they have, let’s put the evidence to them so that we can allay their fears, rather than indulging in what we have just seen from Councillor McNicol, which I think is absolutely shameful’.

He added:  “Councillor McNicol spoke passionately while doing his best to represent his constituents and constituency, we are all entitled to an opinion and the leader of the council is entitled to his, however, on reflection, does the leader of the council think that his statement was too harsh and that he owes Councillor McNicol an apology, considering all that Councillor McNicol was doing was acting in the best interests of his constituents and constituency?”

But the council leader fired back, saying: “I will not remove the words that I used and nor will I apologise for the words that I chose to use.

“I think this is in connection to the fact that Councillor McNicol has now opposed school building in St Matthew’s, the merger of Ardrossan and Auchenharvie and now seems to be opposing the Ardrossan Campus as well, and I will reiterate time and time again; I don’t think that is the sort of legacy that any councillor representing their constituents’ interests would want to have as they leave the council at some point, so I won’t be withdrawing the remarks, thank you.”

Councillor Murdoch continued to defend his colleague, saying his move to tackle the comments “had nothing to do with Councillor McNicol”, adding that the exchange had been “annoying” him “for three months”.

He added that he did not agree with Councillor Cullinane’s use of the word “shameful”.