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- Documents – and many of them – obtained under Freedom of Information and published by us at the time, showed that the then Education Spokesperson, SNP Councillor Isobel Strong, was deliberately kept out of the loop on what was going on for a considerable time.
This was done with the clear connivance of the Council Leader who was party to much of the correspondence in question. Had he been unaware of the manipulation, he would have expected to see the Education Spokesperson’s name on the circulation list and, properly, would have immediately insisted that she be party to the ongoing planning and discussion.
The correspondence from which she was excluded was from sources including external ‘consultant’ Keir Bloomer, Education Director Cleland Sneddon – and more junior members of staff who obviously followed the lead given.
This was disgracefully improper and undemocratic political manoeuvering.
So there is nothing remotely ‘kind’ about the way we have judged the SNP – and Councillor Strong’s performance in this. Had she been proactive, present, controlling – it would have been more difficult for them to succeed in their evidenced objective of keeping her in the dark as to the closure plans – and on the discussions on how to cook the cases to be presented.
And in case you object to that statement too, Simon – there is documentary evidence of it in the FoI documents.
The external consultant advised the internal staff – who went on to take the advice, to suppress the fact that Minard School, one listed to close (and again in the second (Morton/Sneddon) attempt)had the third best HMIE report in Scotland.
You may not like the picture you see above any more than we do – although for very different reasons – but it is the objective reality.
We have asked for a counter-list of substantial achievements to match the level of these multiple failures.
Perhaps you can produce something on that front?
- What happened with the first incarnation of what became CHORD is that it began as a competition with, as you say, a £10m prize pot. This was to go in major part to the winning proposal for a waterfront regeneration scheme, with a secondary amount to the next best entry.
This was astonishingly sexy and innovative for a council – at the level of an idea.
The trouble was that there was no ability to take it beyond an idea – to prepare the specification of practical guidelines to realise the idea. This was beyond the ability of the council – so they threw money at consultants whom they also did not know how to brief or monitor. The first set of proposals were too unable across the board to proceed so the timescale was extended and the consultants retained and tasked with helping the town teams to develop secure outline business cases.
As matters progressed towards a conclusion, the penny belatedly dropped.
A competition will produce a winner – but means losers and lost votes. Critically, the Dunoon bid was judged as the least capable so it was not going to win. Dunoon is of course Councillor Walsh’s own patch and that of his colleague James McQueen – there was no way lost votes were coming home to that particular roost.
So the Council Leader stood up with a flourish at a full council meeting at which we were present and pulled a long chain of linked money out of his sleeve. He announced that all the entries were great. It was impossible to choose between them. So they were raiding the reserves to the tune of a further £20 million or so, making a pot of over £30 million. All five towns would get all get the money they had costed for their projects. Hip, Hip…
We slammed that at the time for the fiscal irresponsibility, political cowardice and pork barrel lathering it was – and we were a lone voice amidst the universal celebrating of the prospect of the loot.
And what has happened since?
How many years is it exactly, from the start of the regeneration ‘competition’ to now: What has been produced in all that time? How much has this charade cost Argyll and Bute – and for exactly what – to date?
And while the airport may have started under a previous administration, the mess that was made of it was ramped up under successive administrations led by the Alliance.
Trying to spread blame around patently junior partners is itself an admission that blame is fully due.
We are identifying the primary source of the canker in Argyll – and while we have said that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have been greedy bottom feeders in supinely supporting Alliance decisions, we have said that they are not the primary predators.
When the SNP were minority partners in power, they were clearly asleep on watch. But when they woke up to the reality of what was going on, they tried to persuade their senior partners of the wisdom of binning the Sneddon proposals to close 26 rural primaries.
When they could not do so, they walked. They put the interests of rural communitiesm parents and children before their party’s role in power and before their own financial interest. In contrast, the LibDems and Conservatives have stayed in power and in the money at all costs – to others.
We have challenged anyone to come up with a list of stellar achievements of the Alliance led administrations to counter their disasters.
Let’s hear them. They are the only viable defence. So where are they?
Recent comments by newsroom
- And the 2014 Kilberry Scarecrow winners are…
Apologies. We must have missed the Thorley family one. We saw only one Clyde.
If you have a photograph of the prizewinning Clyde and would email it to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org we wold be delighted to publish the Thorley creation.
- Better Together still clueless – and about to do more harm
Nothing could ever persuade me to support one of the most irresponsible, deceiving and divisive campaigns I had imagined possible in the developed world in the 21st century.
This doesn’t mean that I or For Argyll would therefore talk up the undeserving opposing campaign – which is lazy, complacent, unfocused, tedious, unexciting, internally riven, leaderless, directionless and pointless.
The only fun has been the opportunist Northern and Western Isles seizing the chance to negotiate for greater devolution for themselves, whatever the outcome of the referendum.
I will personally vote for Scotland to stay in the Union, because I have come to believe that this is the best thing for Scotland – and for the union – not just the safest option but the one with the longest legs for the future.
What I then want to see is Scotland taking the United Kingdom by the scruff of its moribund neck and leading a root and branch reform of the shape and operation of the politics of a union too important and too valuable to let go; but that needs to work very differently to be in a position to develop and implement strategic and sustained economic development that never loses sight of social justice.
Pipe dreaming, of course – but no one should ever settle for an obviously unachievable sales pitch in the hope that it will all turn out OK in the end. It won’t.
Why have the intelligence that distinguishes us from other species – and choose to neuter it?
Today’s world is not a place for narrow parochial nationalism unable to tolerate difference. It has been disturbing to see the attitudes and practices that have emerged in this campaign – and on the nationalist side – to silence, to bully and to punish those who genuinely think differently – as they are democratically entitled to do.
I confess to noticing myself yesterday editing to protect the interests of a business whose scarecrow entry in the Kilberry festival [for God's sake] – was likely to bring the cybergnat stingers from all over the place on their heads. So I didn’t mention the entry or the business or display the photograph of it that I had taken. We are not a free society at the moment and I genuinely worry how much worse it will get if we vote ‘Yes’ and this mindset rules the roost.
- Indy and the Monarchy
The EU has a lot to answer for in the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine – and, at root, much of this responsibility lies with the UK and the helpless patsy Gordon Brown pushed to have wildly overpromoted to the level of the EU’s first Foreign Affairs Minister.
The territorial games that the EU has played with Ukraine, in offering seductions, has given them reason to imagine that they may do less than negotiate with Russia – where there are indisputably serious issues with large ethnic Russian communities in eastern Ukraine who do not appear to be treated equitably – and that thier new friends will come to their aid if necessary.
If Ukraine imagines that any one of the western states busily stoking anti-Russian international opinion, they will find themselves out on a limb with absolutely none of these states coming to their aid. Such an action is easily capable of tipping the world into conflict the like of which we have not seen – for what?
We’ll be lucky if a cold war is the worst that emerges from the actions of the current clutch of inexperienced irresponsibles – and that includes John Kerry and William Hague.
- Indy and the Monarchy
Speaking personally, it’s hard to disagree with this.
- Clyde RIver ferry: Business Scotland interview with CalMac’s Martin Dorchester
Bit of a ‘Doh’ moment. Confess to having forgotten that it’s an amphibian simply because of knowing it only as taking off and landing on the water.
Being on the tarmac at Glasgow would make it a very seductive experience for both golf and scenery packages.
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