A CITY leader is at the centre of claims he was “nobbled” by the Chinese government after cancelling a speech timed to coincide with the visit of the Dalai Lama.
Dundee’s Lord Provost Bob Duncan pulled out of the speaking engagement at Dundee University, blaming a family bereavement on his wife’s side.
But Councillor Duncan is known to have met the Chinese Consulate General recently on a “courtesy visit”.
SPIRITUAL LEADER – The Dalai Lama on arrival at Edinburgh Airport during his last visit to Scotland in 2004
An insider claimed today that it is “not a secret” within the council that the SNP administration had been “nobbled by the Chinese”.
The source said: “The Lord Provost was going to make a speech at the Caird Hall but he has pulled that.
“This is not a secret around the council and a lot of people are angry about it.
“The administration have basically been nobbled by the Chinese. It has all happened in the last week.”
According to the source, the SNP has been trying to distance itself from the visit with First Minister Alex Salmond also coming under fire for making no effort to meet the Dalai Lama.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie last night blasted the SNP’s attitude towards the visit.
He said: “The SNP in Dundee have clearly been given their orders from Alex Salmond in Bute House.
“The SNP has been nobbled by the Chinese Government and warned off from any kind of relationship with the Dalai Lama.
Mr Rennie also claims the SNP would rather protect relations with China.
He said: “[They’re] putting their interests before human rights – Tibet and the Dalai Lama is not the kind of Scotland I hoped the SNP stood for.”
Labour MSP Jenny Marra echoed the Scottish Lid Dem leader’s comments.
She said: “Alex Salmond seems to want the rights of a sovereign nation without any of the responsibilities.”
Councillor Duncan, who took up office in May, insists the cancellation is not politically motivated.
He said: “I’m planning to meet him inside the hall and I will be in the hall to hear his speech.
“There has been a bereavement on my wife’s side and I am not entirely sure I will be able to attend so I have had to cancel the speech.
“I am not taking a political view on it. He is here as a guest of the university and we will welcome him as we would any other guest.”
Councillor Duncan maintains the visit of the religious leader was organised by Dundee University and is a “university event”.
A Dundee University spokesman said: “The university’s principal, rector and chaplain will meet the Dalai Lama and welcome him to Dundee to deliver the Margaret Harris Lecture on Religion, an event organised by the university.
“The day will be a celebration of Dundee, with local schools, individuals and community groups taking part in a programme of events that will live long in the memory of all involved.”
But the official website of the visit says Dundee City Council was one of the organisations which extended the invitation to the Tibetan leader.
And the visit was first arranged with Councillor Duncan’s predecessor, Lord Provost John Telford, who said at the time it would be “a privilege” for Dundee.
Tibet has been under the control of China since the 1950s and the Nobel Peace Prize winning Dalai Lama’s tireless, worldwide travelling has infuriated Beijing.
The Chinese government aggressively lobbies foreign politicians against giving the Dalai Lama a political platform.
The last time the Dalai Lama visited Scotland was in 2004.