Misleading instructions to voters: is Duncan Macintyre trawling for 4th preference votes?

A voter in the Oban North and Lorn ward has sent us the election leaflet of Independent candidate, Councillor Duncan Macintyre, with an anxious query arising from the instructions at its foot.

The query is: ‘Does this mean that if I only vote for one or maybe two candidates, my vote won’t be accepted? He says I’m EXPECTED to vote for four.’

The answer


So long as any voter puts the number ‘1‘ against a single candidate of their choice, that vote counts.

Nothing else is necessary.

You MAY vote – in number order of your personal preference, for as many or as few as you like on the list of candidates on your ballot paper – but you NEED only vote for one to register a valid vote.

This instruction on Duncan Macintyre’s poster is flatly misleading and mischievous in a situation where there are folk who do not – and need not – understand the Single Transferable Voting (STV) system.

All that the STV system does is give a voter the best possible chance that their vote may counts for someone. There are plenty of folk who don’t care about that and only want  to be sure that they do what they can for the person or people they really want to see elected.

So – start with a ‘1′ against the name of the person you most want to see elected and if there are others you would also like to see elected, give them a ’2′, then a ’3′ etc.  But, so long as you have given one candidate a ‘1‘, nothing else matters.

Multiple misinformation

Duncan Macintyre has served long as a councillor and is arguably best known for his manipulativeness.

This leaflet’s front page is obviously peddling wrong interpretations of the voting procedure and in the case of so experienced a local politician, this can be nothing other than strategic.

The leaflet declares first that a single vote can elect FOUR councillors:

‘The single transferrable (sic) vote process entitles you to elect the FOUR Councillors of your choice to represent your interests in order of preference.’

This is simple nonsense. Your vote entitles you to VOTE. Whichever system is being used, that vote may or may not serve to elect anyone.

Then there is the misleading instruction:

‘ … you are expected to vote 1,2,3 and 4 on your ballot paper.’ (Ed: our emphasis)

You are NOT expected to vote  for more than one candidate – but you MAY vote in descending order of number preference for as few or as many of the others as you like.

The move

The recurrence of the number four in both of these piece of misinformation is unlikely to be a coincidence.

The situation here is that the discredited Alliance of Independent Councilors is standing three candidates in the Oban North and Lorn ward which is represented by four councillors.

In the present public standing of the Alliance, it would be a brave pollster who would predict all three Alliance candidates getting in. Of the three,  Elaine Robertson is, by a long way, the most popular, with Neil Mackay second and Duncan Macintyre last.

We understand that Mr Macintyre was part of an effort to try to persuade Councillor Robertson to stand in a different ward – where she might well not have had sufficient recognisability. Rightly, she stood her ground.

This means that if two of these three may, at most, make it across the threshold, Duncan Macintyre is indeed struggling for as many 4th preference votes as he can get so try to see off Neil Mackay.

With a politician so canny as Duncan Macintyre, the repeated emphasis on four votes in his misleading instructions to voters could not credibly be considered accidental.

While any candidate is entitled to as many of any level of preference votes as they can get, none are entitled to mislead the electorate in this way.

To repeat the position, you NEED only vote for ONE candidate to register a valid vote. You MAY vote in number order of preference for as many or as few of the candidates n the list as you really want to see elected.

And another move

When the Oban North and Lorn voter sent us this leaflet, we noticed that, directly below Duncan Macintyre’s name is the website address for Argyll and Bute Council.

This gives the improper impression of official endorsement of his candidacy.

We are, to date, unaware of any other candidate who is currently an elected member trying this manoeuvre to impress voters.

At election, no candidate has any status greater than another and a great deal of attention is paid by the authorities in ensuring that candidates currently serving as councillors do not take improper advantage of their position.

It would be interesting to see what the Electoral Commission made of this piece of slight of hand.

For information and to support what we have said here on what it takes to make a valid vote, here is the document the Electoral Commission issues to the media as a guide to the entire process of the 2012 local authority elections. SCOTLAND-local-govt-media-handbook-2012 Voting is explained, with admirable lucidity, on Page 19 of the document.

Deceptive voting advice

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77 Responses to Misleading instructions to voters: is Duncan Macintyre trawling for 4th preference votes?

  1. it is an offence to publish misleading information. this should be reported to electoral commission. it won’t be the first citing of independent councillors.

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    • Robert, Only a little while before we can stop hearing the “Dreadful Lies” and welcome “the Gallant Band —-with Courage high and Hearts aglow.” There is much for them to do.

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  2. Who has reported this to the Electoral Commission? It has to be done immediately.

    And Duncan MacIntyre is one of Tricky Dickie’s lapdogs, so far from Independent.

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  3. It is true that you are NOT “expected” to vote “1, 2, 3 and 4″ in a 4-member ward. It is also true that your vote will be counted if you mark “1″ against only one candidate.

    However, it is very much in your best interests as a voter to continue to number the candidates until you are unable to make a choice among the remaining candidates. You can do that safe in the knowledge that with STV your second choice can never count against the election of your first choice, your third choice can never count against your first choice or your second choice, and so on.

    There are ten candidates in this ward and so it is likely that vote transfers will be very important in determining which four candidates are elected. To secure the representation you want you should mark as many choices as you can.

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    • With the caveat that you should mark as many transfers as you WISH.

      In the end, the ‘none of these’ or the ‘only one, two, three etc of these’ option is a democratically important statement of how one individually responds to the menu.

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  4. Cunning and devious yes – but in all his handling of the transport business, incompetent to boot. The whole airport scandal is down to his personal ego, and his inability to get a proper contract.

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  5. Appalling. Duncan MacIntyre’s own web site is not “www.argyll-bute.gov.uk” and it is entirely unacceptable for him / his agent to imply otherwise. Electoral Commission — yes plz. Advertising Standards Authority — I don’t know if this is within their remit, but if it does fall into their area: yes plz. To ABC (as a continuing corporate body) — is this candidate (D MacI) misusing your credentials for his (possible) personal advantage or benefit, which need not be a financial benefit? if so you (ABC) should yourselves refer the matter to the Electoral Commission.

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  6. The instructions (Guidance to Council Employees) that the Council issues to all staff and to councillors prior to the election clearly states that:

    “Council resources must not be used by employees, Councillors or any other person for party political/campaigning activity. “Resources” include stationery, typing, e-meil, printing, photocopying, telephone, faxes, transport and accommodation (unless authorised in particular circumstances – refer to Section 4 on “Temporary use of Council Property for Election Purposes”.

    It is clear that the Council website is a Council resource. That being the case, it appears that Duncan MacIntyre is using a Council resource in his election campaign. The instructions state that: “If in doubt about any of these matters, advice should be taken from the Executive Director of Customer Services” (Douglas Hendry).

    I would have thought that the other candidates in the Oban North and Lorn ward would be raising this matter with Douglas Hendry as a matter of urgeny on Monday morning.

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  7. I was wondering when this website was going to start slagging off all the non-SNP candidates. Two articles in a day and probably more to follow.

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    • On a point of fact, you and anyone will find that by far the most positive thing we have published in the course of this election campaign has been on the Labour Party’s manifesto – a model of positive honesty with a clear set of values and a practical approach to sorting out the current mess.
      And we cannot see, in this piece, criticism of Councillor Robertson who is not an SNP candidate but a member of the Alliance of Independents.
      We have also been the only media presence to comment critically – and unequivocally – on The Herald’s recently politically manipulative and unfounded adventure in support of the SNP on education issues.
      And we do not feel any need to self-censor any positive comment we might make on any worthwhile achievements or activities by the SNP or by any other party or group.
      On that front, we have been more consistently and positively supportive of Argyll First than of any other party or group. Because they merit it.
      Similarly we have probably been more supportive of the political activities of Jamie McGrigor than of any other individual politician – because he has an instinctive sense of an important issue and he will pursue it.
      And be it criticism or support, it is merit on the issue and the integrity of the individual that drives what we publish.

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  8. Have you seen Bruce Marshall’s stuff indicating that voters should mark “x” on their voting paper?!

    Mind you a huge number of voters in Cowal could be persuaded to mark “x” against school-closer Marshall

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  9. Lol this is the great warrior of the law Ha!Ha! see Mr MacIntyre has been within the inner kremlin of argyll too long Mr MacIntyre a reminder of your words “How could a country be governed or protected if every individual remained free to respect or not to accept the law according to his private opinion” (from an email communication between Mr MacIntyre and myself)
    I see it is ok for you to bend the rules and regs

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  10. As a matter of interest, does anyone know if a ballot paper that is marked with an ‘x’ as opposed to 1 to 7 is still counted? or is it marked as soiled or whatever they call it?

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    • The ballot paper will (or should) make it clear that the voter can put as many choices as they wish and should further make clear that you put a 1 by your first choice, 2 by your second etc ec

      Standard text on guidanc provided is that you need to follow the instructions as per the ballot paper or your vote MAY not be counted which does leave it open to interpretation and therefore, as Ken says, at the discretion of the returning officer. Given that A&Bs returning officer has a lot more to lose if the next council is not made up of the Alliance of Independents one could argue that her discretion MAY not be all that impartial!

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  11. As long as the preference of the voter is clear and there is no ambiguity, an “X” as first preference would be likely to be accepted; but the final decision is at the discretion of the Returning Officer

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  12. I hope Larry has his MacIntyre’s mixed up! Noticed earlier today I have had one of my lovely banners stolen or just ripped down! Do you think I am annoying people! ha!ha!
    They were beautifully made by Mark Gowdie at Digital Kangaroo. Although I am certainly biased, they were the best on show. If someone really wanted them all they had to do was ask – I know they could be collectors items in the future. Obviously someone with no interest in “Time for Change” but they can keep ripping them down, the message will still be there. I have my party workers on the look out for them anyway. Power to the people, even with no banners.

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    • Mea Culpa I apologise, it is more than unusual. For some reason I did not check, before I sent.

      Sorry to hear about your street publicity being vandalised. Are there anything I can do help?.

      There should be more punitive council by laws on vandalisation of election banners and posters.

      Misleading candidate leaflets such as Duncan MacIntyre’s should be severely punished as no one should feel any sharp practic is acceptable to the Oban community

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  13. Neil,

    I noticed that your poster near the Guide Hall jn Oban was missing on Saturday. The SNP has experienced regular instances of people taking down / dumping our posters and banners over the years although nothing this year so far.It is a particularly juvenile response to the democratic process but sadly one that exists within our society.

    During the election last year one member of the public who was displaying an SNP banner in a prominent situation on his property received an anonymous phone call suggesting that they might encounter “difficulty” with a pending planning application if the banner was not removed.

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  14. For Ken and Anne.
    Thanks for your response.I have a Large following among the ladies in Oban so wouldn’t be surprised if it’s hanging on a bedroom wall somewhere.Keep the faith the change is here.
    Power to the People.

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  15. Like it Ken and thanks Larry I was sure you were getting mixed up.The election is getting more interesting every day.
    The feedback I get is that they are not very clear on how the numbered voting works and why you have to be careful how you rate your choice.If they like two or three people the same they think that number they put them down in doesn’t matter.Also if they just vote for one person will it be valid.
    Just some of my responses when canvassing, will the staff on the day have time to give a short briefing to people coming into vote?
    Cheers Neil.

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  16. The returning officer damn her.

    Why is she not to be seen to respond properly to stop sharp practices.
    Is it not duty bound on her office to ensure all rules are strictly adhered too and breaches are reported to the electoral commission by her?
    Can anyone tell me Does the returning officer only turn up for the count and her fat bonus for appearence money?

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    • We understand that the former and Scotland-wide respected Returning Officer, Nigel Stewart, offered to come back to run this one since the Council is clearly under great internal stress at the moment – but was rebuffed.

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  17. You’s are all so suspicious! LOL

    Maybes Sally Bin Loudon is only trying to make some extra cash before she takes that extra long leave of absence when the results of the Spygate Enquiry come in! You know the absence where she has to look for a new job! :lol:

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  18. I have always felt it inappropriate that a Chief Executive be a Returning Officer due to potential conflicts of interest. This is not meant as a specific reference to A&B Council as the CE is the returning officer in a lot of local authorities (although one must wonder why A&B’s CE felt the need to replace the normal returning officer with herself).

    The CE’s position is very much tied to the administration, in fact it is the only post within the Council over whose appointment (and removal) elected members have influence over. Given this it seems quite clear that they shouldn’t play a role which has any influence whatsoever over the election process.

    That isn’t for one second to say that CE’s do, as a matter of rule, make inappropriate use of this influence however removing them from the role would protect them from any accusations of having done so.

    A&B provides a great example just now. If I was Sally Loudon I would desperately want Dick Walsh as Council Leader with his Alliance backing him – it’s the most protection she could dream of having. What I wouldn’t want is a new administration who have been critical of her corporate management team and, therefore, her leadership. If she feels that is a distinct possibility then I would imagine her CV has been getting circulated for a number of months now. If that is the case the fact that she is still in post suggests she is not an attractive proposition to other Scottish Local Authorities and therefore her best strategy is to cling to her job with A&BC. As returning officer a few decisions may fall on her plate which would help that strategy.

    Whether she makes the right decision for the appropriate reasons is not something I can question as it hasn’t happened yet (and might not happen) but it begs the question ‘Why is she, or any other CE, in a position to make these decisions?’

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    • As we understand it, Returning Officers are usual senior council officers, often CEOs.

      They are paid additionally for performing this duty. Some give that money to charity and some keep it, as they are entitled to do.

      The former Returning Officer Nigel Stewart, was a senior Director before they got their titles egged up to Executive Director.

      Mr Stewart retired and Mrs Loudon then took over as Returning Officer.

      Mr Stewart’s work in this field was so widely regarded that he had been responsible for training Returning Officers.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • A new broom sweeps clean but not with this incumbent administration of dead headed chiefs of single digital IQs.
      They are attempting to bury their misdeeds with the conniving Independent Alliance.
      If I am wrong, then please tell me why “Spygate” was not speedily resolved before the election period. After all we do have an admission of guilt from the culprit.

      The public need to know as this is more than a disciplinary matter. It is obvious that the civil rights of the general public has been infringed.

      The chief executive department is not a “star chamber” or have proceedings held “in camera”. The public have a right to know about this sordid conspiracy and obvious cover up.

      Duncan MacIntyre should not be protected and I hope the first thing the new council do is report his leaflet indiscretions to the electoral commission. I will be dismayed if they don’t or cannot

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        • Phill and Integrity,
          I have a lifetime experience from the womb to the tomb in dealing with authorities of all sorts.
          I have found it a long and debilitating experience in seeking natural justice from the likes of Sally Loudon, Douglas Hendry, and adult director Jim Robb.
          In legal aid alone, I must have cost the public purse thousands, to no avail. Cases dragged on for years with no satisfactory results other than my increased stress and anxiety levels.
          Now I expect more from councilors who I vote to represent my needs for adequate service provision. The case you put of doing it for yourself,does not work,in most cases. It takes up more time than appreciated and you are dealing with an army of council lawyers who are masters of spin and the dark arts.
          No, I leave it for my SNP councilors to represent my service provision needs. It cheaper than the public purse and gives councilors a much needed insight into the uncaring executive department and in this case the manipulative Duncan MacIntyre.
          I want my franchise expressed by councilors prepared to ask questions and not have their heads ducking and diving below the parapets.

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  19. Sadly Duncan’s leaflets are not the only ones from a sitting Independent candidate in that ward which give an incorrect description of the workings of the electoral system. What chance for the voters when experienced councillors can get it wrong?
    We urgently need a clear explanation of the whole process, including how the excess votes are redistributed at the count.

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    • Unfortunately it’s too late for some, Norman. My father-in-law has a postal vote due to ill-health and has already submitted his vote. He was under the impression that ALL candidates had to be ranked, and so has inadvertently given a fourth place vote to a candidate he does not want to see elected. I’m sure he won’t be alone – if you have any relatives who seem a bit unsure of the process it might be worth a quick chat!

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      • The postal vote gives me full access to exercising my democratic franchise.
        However, in times of lack of debate on all issues that impact on my disabilities,I cannot feel confident that rural councilors have the same commitment as their colleagues from large conurbations on disability issues.
        One of the chief problems is the lack of disability awareness training in A&B rural areas. So it is not just geography and demography. We need a recognised disability awareness officer that will encourage chronically sick and disabled people to participate on matters that will improve employment, education,housing and transport for all sections of our rural communities. I believe that is more important a prize than being envious of city slickers.
        Thank God ForArgyll website. At least their service brings rural issues and its problems closer to all the far flung airts and pairts

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  20. The STV system should never have been introduced in sparsely populated rural/small town areas for council elections.

    The confusion it causes voters (and indeed some councillors, it would seem) is bad enough – much worse, it has severely diluted the clear link which used to exist between each councillor and his or her constituents.

    PR/STV might make some sense in city areas where it can help to break single-party domination, but not in predominantly rural councils where the wards are now geographically far too big.

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  21. The present system has encouraged far more people to stand which is a very good thing and made election very competitive indeed. It has stopped the old failing of lots of councillors getting in uncontested and it also means that any councillor in any ward is kept on his or her toes as the elector has the choice of going to another councillor. Much preferable to the old system which was okay of you had a good councillor but a bit of a drag if you had to put up with a dummy for four years. And there were (and are)lots of dummies

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    • To have such a small number of wards in a huge geographical area is wrong and makes it easy for less competent members to hide.
      There are more candidates coming forward these days due to the salary and expenses being provided to give a fair chance to all wishing to stand. Time to get back to fairer smaller wards for accountability.

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    • Dave McEwan Hill’s point that we used to have too many uncontested council seats is certainly valid.

      Mind you, maybe more people are standing for election these days for other reasons….

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  22. The financial point from Phil is spot on, how could you encourage younger people to get involved before if they have to live on fresh air and expenses.The number of councillors to a ward might give you choice but if you don’t see them from one election to the next what good is that.The Islands should have their own ward and be able to deal with the different aspects of Island life themselves.I think the story about 12 or 15 councillors heading to Islay for a half hour meeting tells its own story.
    First past the post,nice and simple.
    Like a one question referendum,Power to the People.

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    • Oh dear what a short memory some people have, harking back to the good old days when we were represented by a random selection of crusty colonels and retired businessmented, if an election arose, from the old undemocratic FPP system, so beloved of Westminster. Local government now has a much more direct line to our government, if used properly, many more complex issues to be dealt with and is far more accessible to the electors if they are interested enough to engage.Island issues are not separate from mainland issues although they may reflect slightly different emphasis – confining their councillors would only isolate them and make their representation less effective.

      I had not previously heard of it but the story of 15 councillors heading for Islay for a half hour meeting does indeed tell a story. It suggests that A&BC need to make better use of the video conferencing facilities that are available.

      If certain members in a multi-member ward duck their responsibilities – fail to make themselves available for cross examination, for instance- the remedy is clearly in the hands of the electors and the opportunity for such action is close at hand

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        • Phil,

          If you genuinely believe that you know what most voters want how about predicting the outcome of the Oban wards for next week?

          If you want an illustration of how politics have changed over the years I recall living in Lochgoilhead at the end of the 60s. The local MP for Argyll was none other than the Hon Michael Noble, Secretary of State for Scotland and he was truly local as he lived in Cairndow just over the hill. At the 1970 General Election Mr Noble visited the village and spoke to around 60 folk in the village hall explaining the vital importance of ensuring that he and his party was re-elected. When the Chairman asked for questions at the close an elderly shepherd rose and asked the MP why it had taken him all of 4 years since the last election for him to call upon his Lochgoilhead electors.
          After a faltering response Mr Noble departed the meeting in some haste.
          He survived that particular election but stood down to become Lord Glenkinglas before the seat was lost in February 1974.
          Elected members pay far more attention to their constituents those days or they pay the consequences.

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          • Ken – politics certainly has changed since the 60s, and your story is a good example of that. There are doubtless many reasons for this, but the voting system is arguably not one of them – our MPs and constituency MSPs are still elected by FPP.

            True, the regional MSPs give a more proportional result at Holyrood, which I have no argument with.

            At local authority level I’m less convinced that the PR system has been an improvement. The wards are geographically too big for the councillors to get completely to grips with, especially in the rural areas. They can work together to divide up the wards into ‘patches’ which they nominally take responsibility for, but that responsibility is greatly diluted.

            That’s not to say that there are not some advantages – as pointed out above by Anne & Dave McEwan Hill, but personally I still think the new system is not an improvement overall.

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          • Ken
            I was stating that voters want to identify with one councillor in a smaller more personal ward, (irrespective of affiliation). Michael Nobles case you specify was 50 years ago, and things have changed considerably for the better, particularly the modest salary and expenses paid that allow people from all walks to put themselves forward. this is true democracy.
            However, i would think in south oban ward the 4 would be, R McCuish, S Macintyre, N Macintrye, and F Hall.
            In the other ward E Robertson, L Glen-lee, D Macintyre, R Rutherford.
            delighted to set the ball rolling Ken
            Now would you like to predict who will get in?

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          • You have to trust the voters, give them as much information as possible, and accept their verdict.I would not claim to know all the answers.
            That much I have learned over the years.

            I am not The Donald

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    • Then again, don’t bother. I contacted them re the above-mentioned MacIntyre claim and was told that they ‘do not regulate their [candidates'] campaign material’.

      So basically, as far as the Electoral Commision is concerned, you can say what you want on yer campaign bumf.

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    • Phil,

      As you seem to think that you know what voters want and tell us so with some regularity I merely asked you to put your knowledge on the line. You have done so and we will see, in due course, how accurate your predictions are.
      I don’t have that particular conceit although I admit to my own opinions sincerely held. I am content to wait for the voters’ verdicts

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      • That will be a surpridse that you can not respond to a request that you are happy to put to others.
        Cmn Ken, what are you scared off.

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  23. There is no need for a Disability Awareness Officer in Argyll & Bute. It is the councillor’s job to make that he represents ALL his constituents and not just a select few.

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    • Yes that is his/her duty to “represent all constituents”. And that means ensuring all sections have equal access to all departments and officers.
      The councilors are not qualified or trained to be disability officers. Please read a book on )(he social model on Disability) before you make a fool of yourself again and I thought Duncan MacIntyre was the only one

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  24. Some fair points Ken.
    But what Happens when a councillor like Mary Jean Devon, jumps from one party to the next, is that the standard we look for. Surely if we want to increase the turnout and change the perseption of politics for our younger people we have to set the bar higher than we are at this moment.
    Sadly it has taken the schools issue to highlight what levels some of our present councillors will stoop to just for the sake of a little power and a few quid.Adding a councillor to score a point might not always work in your favour,time will tell.As for our Island councillors I have been at many community council and residents meetings since the last election but I certainly have not seen Gordon Chalmers, Mary Jean at one or two yes, but they are supposed to be councillors for Oban South.I doubt they could find Glencruitten.
    Just my thoughts but looking forward to seeing what the local reaction is at the election.Hopefully one way or another the change will come.
    Power to the People.

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    • Wow! Thats what youre up against here Neil- 4 thumbs down for dare critcise a turncoat. I like ‘forargyll’ but is not a representative cross section of opinion, and to be fair doesnt pretend to be. Good luck to you.

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  25. I really do hope that my local pub does not loose it’s license or the shades of a pyrrhic victory do descend on Stuart McQueen.

    Local authorities can wreak a terrible revenge – lets see if the Anchor Pub looses it’s licence – the Planning Dept has a negative field day – business rates rise – how many lessons are going to be imposed ?

    Let’s see if the Anti Enterprise mechanisms kick in.

    Pleasequote this in the next coming couple of years !!!!

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  26. I’ve just received a copy of Duncan Macintyre’s election blurb. He is totally out of order and should be disqualified. I think his record in office shows that he is WELL past his sell-by date. Not only did he get it all wrong with COSLA and cost us 5 million quid, lost the plot completely over road repairs, but also, and unforgivably, during the school closures debacle he actually identified Barcaldine School as a ‘receiving school’ having previously voted to close it! More recently,I understand that he objected to a Saltire being worn at Corran Halls on Saturday on the grounds that it contravened electoral regulations. Is he SO scared of the SNP that he’s prepared to subjugate his nationality? (And he allegedly ‘a direct descendant of the gaelic poet Donnachd Bhan MacIntyre’) Dear oh Dear – the poor wee soul…. But you would nae VOTE for him wudya??? GRRR (but more in sorrow than in anger…) Tyger

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