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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
- Indy, research funding and Scottish universities
Anyone is welcome to put their views on this site, Graeme. That’s what the Comments facility is there to enable.
I was an academic for a substantial period and have experience both of engaging in academic research and of supervising doctoral research; of the way research funding works; of the way the research process works; of what drives it and what enables it to be the best.
Of course Scottish universities would continue to do research but without membership of the common research area we have at the moment, it is hard to see how they could hope to produce the top flight results they have been producing in the current research environment.
Most research has a value but if a small country wants to get its research into orbit, it needs a bigger rocket than it can fuel by itself.
Anyone may say what they wish on this but I defer to no one on the soundness of the argument this piece presents.
And it has nothing whatsoever to do with nationality.
- Campbeltown Picture House planning for spectacular return
In many cases we would agree with you.
In this case, with the Campbeltown Community Business working closely with the funders to ensure that they meet the requirements of the applications’ processes when they submit them – and with the general level of awareness and interest there is in this project, we are confident that the project will succeed and the work will be done.
There is little attraction in going to an event that marks a temporary closure so, while we have no information on the event or the size of its audience, it is not surprising if there were few there.
When the Picture House reopens, it will be an object of curiosity and interest over a wide area.
If the team and their consultants get the ambience right and the programming right [these are their next series of challenges - it's pretty sadistic in the continuing demands], that initial curiosity is – and must be – convertible to a regular audience.
This initiative has so much to offer to the community life of Campbeltown, to its business community and to support for economic growth, it has a strong likelihood of success – and the voluntary members of the Community Business have their feet to the Board.
- On nationalism
If you’re referring to the author of the letter, you demonstrate the process he is talking about.
If you’re talking about the author of the article, myself – I am a rationalist, not a nationalist. The two are not compatible.
- On nationalism
It has to be doubtful that the egg-lobbers of Kirkcaldy see: ‘a Yes vote about trying to protect what is left of the values and institutions that many of us used to think of as being British’.
There is though a very challenging play by the Irish playwright,Tom KIlroy – Double Cross.
This identifies the double-jeopardy of empire as being that a state newly emerged from empire into independence and forming its own identity, has no template other than empire – and so ‘creates’ itself in the image of its former imperial principal.
What you are saying here carries all of the symptoms of that particular double cross.
How can you know that there never was a better way of doing any of the British things you claim, bizarrely, that a ‘Yes’ vote is designed to preserve? [And the notion that the proposed new Scotland is conceived of as a place of sanctuary for the repository of the sacred artefacts of the Union you would destroy is the laugh of the campaign.]
The NHS, for example, is now a sacred cow by default. It would be a positive advantage to be free to start again in defining, shaping and delivering a national health service free at the point of delivery.
Your stance would be more worthy of respect had you shown an independence of mind that is willing to think newly.
It is also noticeable that you choose the soft option of engaging with the patently honest letter – from the already paralysed victim of the action you support Scotland to take; and that you are sufficiently arrogant to assume that your own idealism is in some way ‘better’ than his?.
You fail to engage with the major issues of the Achilles heels of nationalism – its chauvinism, its utopianism and its incipient racism.
And by the way, the federation that the United Kingdom should move to become and which would without doubt be the most popular option of all – cross-party and across the Union – would not be a ‘unitary state’.
- On nationalism
‘we ourselves’ and ‘ourselves alone’ have the same connotation of comfort in separateness.
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