THE crisis at Argyll and Bute Council deepened gravely yesterday when The National’s investigation into alleged criminality by a councillor led to the police opening an inquiry.

Councillor Robert Graham McIntyre twice took part in decisions on council tax rates when he was in arrears to the tune of four figures in his own council tax payments. Voting on council tax while in arrears is a criminal offence under Section 112 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

Councillors who have arrears of two months or more are banned from even participating in discussions on council tax, and a fine on conviction is £1000.

The National can reveal that the council called in Police Scotland yesterday after our exclusive story exposed the fact that McIntyre, the Independent member for Lomond North, took part in votes on council tax matters in 2013 and 2014 when he was in arrears of £1209 and £1213, respectively.

The National also revealed yesterday that senior figures at the council blocked requests by councillor George Freeman for information of councillors’ arrears – there was only one in arrears – for more than two years until the Scottish Information Commissioner ordered the council to reveal the name of McIntyre, which was made public by another councillor, Michael Breslin.

Local MSP Michael Russell is now calling for the council to give full details of the background to the decision to summon the police: “Quite clearly the law has to take its course but it’s really important that we are told who knew what and when.”

Argyll and Bute Council issued a statement last night. The council stated: “We can confirm that a matter in relation to council tax payments is being considered by Police Scotland.” A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “The matter has been passed to Police Scotland by Argyll and Bute Council for further investigation.

Enquiries are at an early stage.”

The timing could not be more embarrassing for the council as it is due to set its budget and council tax rate today. All councillors, including McIntyre, will be able to vote on the issues as none is in council tax arrears.

Argyll and Bute Council confirmed that last night: “The council will set its budget at a meeting tomorrow, 23 February. All councillors are eligible to take part in that budget meeting.”

The member of the local authority whose final question finally prised the information from the council that McIntyre had apparently broken the law was Breslin, who is independent representative for Dunoon.

He fought for two years to clear his name after councillors and officials took complaints against him to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life. He was eventually cleared on all but one of 15 complaints against him by members of the administration and four senior officers in what he has maintained was an attempt to silence him from asking awkward questions.

Breslin is now concerned that senior councillors and officials may have covered up the alleged criminal offence. He said last night: “The involvement of the police makes this a very serious matter indeed. What needs to happen is that any involvement of other councillors and officials in this matter must be laid bare.”

He added: “The critical questions are to do with when this was first known, what did they do about it, who was warned and who knew any details.”

The National revealed that council leader Dick Walsh wrote to Breslin calling his decision to name McIntyre an “unnecessary, callous and totally unacceptable action”. Asked if he would now withdraw those remarks, Walsh did not reply.