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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
- Supposing CalMac lost the Clyde and Hebridean ferries contract…
Argyll Ferries is a subsidiary company of Caledonian Macbrayne Ltd, whose parent company is David MacBrayne Limited.
The brand name’Caledonian MacBrayne’ is owned by CMAL. Apologies for using the shortened version.
However, we will find out if CalMac is also a registered brand owned by CMAL and will add the answer to that when we get it.
- The Carmichael lie: another grubby pot condemns the leaking kettle
The issue at the time was addressing what one could call a persistent local persecution of some ferrymen – and the council’s failure to offer robust protection to their employees.
The conduct of the abusers was such as to fall clearly within the council’s own criterion of vexatious complainant. They had a written protocol for dealing with such complainants yet had never employed it in relation to these behaviours designed to harrass and damage their employees. On some occasions these behaviours were very much in the extreme, like pack animals ganging up on an individual.
Several Easdale ferrymen treated in this way developed stress symptoms and had periods where they were unable to work.
We were anxious to keep readers’ attention focused on what was an issue of serious importance.
We felt that were we to identify this particular participant, whose behaviours were worryingly threatening, that could have become the main issue; and the less high profile issues of the undefended ferrymen could have got buried.
The harrassment and abuse that went on, delivered by a specific group – much of which we published – was utterly unprincipled and calculated to be as personally damaging as possible. That was the heart of the matter and that was what we wanted to keep in focus.
That was the judgment behind the anonymity used at that time.
That need no longer exists; and the deliberate predation of Carmichael is unpleasant, self-serving and hypocritical.
- Is David MacBrayne’s Solent enterprise the signal for the end of Calmac?
Agreed on all points.
- Is David MacBrayne’s Solent enterprise the signal for the end of Calmac?
We can’t see that port management expertise can be present in David MacBrayne or in Calmac at any level at the moment – because the two companies remaining in the group are ferry operators and have no port management to do – so why would they have staff with unusable expertise?
CMAL has been the port manager now for a considerable time.
So DML would have to buy in specialist expertise while retaining their most senior staff to run the non-technical aspects of the operation – of which there will be many.
Top level staff are not normal TUPE transfers since new companies generally prefer to put in their own appointments.
If CalMac retain the Clyde and Hebridean Ferries contract, they will not be able to run Marchwood as well – because they won’t have top management staff to spare and will have to hire in even more.
This just doesn’t fit with a state owned company because they don’t exist to make money but to provide services.
The scenario we propose is the only one we can see making any sense.
- Weak, nervous and unsearching: Audit Scotland report into Argyll and Bute Council ADP procurement
This is a finely balanced point.
What the report has said is contradictory in spirit because what they said on the lack of correspondence [implicitly of complaint] was intended to exonerate a process in dispute.
The two third sector organisations that were unable even to bid – because of the same eccentric process that might have disadvantaged actual bidders – had been equally disadvantaged by being misled into thinking they could not responsibly bid.
Therefore the experience of the two third sector groups provides evidence which contradicts the exoneration of the process founded on the fact that no disappointed bidder had complained to the audit team.
Beyond that and on a different aspect of this matter – no one is entitled to assume that the lack of complaint and/or correspondence can safely be read as contentment with process.
Given the performance of Audit Scotland in this review, there will be those who will see no point in bothering with the Commission.
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