A meeting of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in Edinburgh today heard strong complaints that the information in the HM Inspectorate of Education report was up to six years old, and was therefore "inaccurate and out of date".
It emerged that Rory Mair, Cosla's chief executive, has taken the unusual step of writing personally to Graham Donaldson, the senior chief inspector, complaining of the way the publication of the report was handled and its contents.
Mr Mair said that, despite having had the opportunity during meetings to warn councils that the report was imminent, Mr Donaldson failed to do so.
It was only when the president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland asked for copies to be sent to councils, following media enquiries, that this was done. The Cosla chief said there was little reference by HMIE to the follow-up reports on councils which had shown the improvements many had made since their initial inspection.
Charles Gray, Cosla's education spokesperson, was even more hard-hitting, saying he would take "some convincing that it was not deliberate" to publish the report before councils had a chance to see it. "It was a blatant attempt at cheap publicity," he said. "HMIE have gone for a selective story which is not in the interests of education. Their interest has been in using historical information to make education authorities look bad. It is as alarming as it is dishonest."
Mr Donaldson has replied, expressing regret at the lack of advance warning and promised it would not happen again. He pointed out that reference was made in the report to improvements noted in follow-up inspections.
This spat has come at a sensitive time for local authorities, as was made clear in today's report which accused HMIE of having "played into the wider political agenda" of whether Scotland needs 32 councils and whether small councils can be effective.