(Clarified) At the meeting of Argyll and Bute Council back on 28th June 2012 Councillor Vivien Dance from Helensburgh moved a motion seconded by Councillor Maurice Corry from Lomond North.
The heart of this motion was in its third paragraph:
‘ Agrees that the management of the Cowal Highland Gathering be advised that the current discriminatory practice in the Highland Dancing competition whereby Helensburgh and Lomond dancers are excluded from the Argyllshire Championships ceases from 2013 onwards as a condition of the continuation of all funding, both “in kind” and through the SLA, provided by Argyll and Bute Council.’
The supporters of the motion withdrew it before it was debated, meaning that no discussion took place and – critically – that the straightforward facts of the matter as circulated in writing to councillors beforehand by Cowal Games Director, Malcolm Barclay, were neither discussed nor put on the record.
The withdrawn motion was later submitted verbatim to Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee on 14th August – a week before the Games took place.
As we explained in an article at that time: No substance to political mischief making on Helensburgh dancers and the Cowal Games – this was a completely manufactured allegation and its creator, Councillor Dance, was shown on evidence, to be fully aware of that before she put it to the area committee.
This was naked political mischief-making, arousing the anger of an misinformed public at the notion of discrimination by the Cowal Games against Helensburgh dancers.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now the Helensburgh councillor is at it again.
We have been told on good authority that, with grateful newbie, Maurice Corry in tow again, Dance has pulled together a local rainbow coalition including Depute Leader of the Opposition, LibDem Councillor Ellen Morton, Morton’s newly elected daughter, LibDem Councillor Aileen Morton and Conservative, David Kinniburgh. (The first headline for this piece was going to be Helensburgh’s lunatic fringe attracts more nits in Dance attack on Cowal Games but the knowing deception involved is the core issue.)
This bold brigade is evidently planning to take the same attack back to the council meeting on 20th September. Through a recommendation to the council for the Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee (minute here), they are allegedly to call for council funding and support for the Cowal Games to cease from 2013 unless one event at the Gathering, the historic Argyllshire Championship, is opened to allow Helensburgh & Lomond dancers to participate.
There is an amendment to this motion supported by Councillors James Robb, George Freeman, Richard Trail and Robert Macintyre.
They are said to be bringing the backing of a petition claimed to be of 1,000 signatures.
We understand that the petition is inflammatory in claiming that Highland Dancers from Helensburgh wre not allowed at all to compete at the Cowal Games.
If this is the case, it is utterly – and knowingly dishonestly - incorrect.
As we published in August in the article No substance to political mischief making on Helensburgh dancers and the Cowal Games, several Helensburgh dancers competed at the Cowal Games, in 25 open contests.
Three additional contests related to a particular traditional event, the Argyllshire Championships. These three are geographically specific and age-related: one is for dancers under 13; one for dancers between 13 and 16; and one for dancers over 16.
The Argyllshire Championships itself is one of 13 qualifying events for a long-standing Scotland-wide contest, based on the 13 historic regions of Scotland and culminating in the National Area Finals which take place in Oban each year.
Helensburgh dancers compete in the same Scotland-wide Championships, through the West Dunbartonshire Championships hosted by the Bearsden Games.
The Scotland-wide championships are not run by any particular games but has 13 local events – qualifiers – hosted by selected area games and open to residents within the boundaries of each historical region of Scotland. These 13 regions cannot correspond to the 32 local authorities.
The historic regions to which the Scotland-wide Championships has always worked include the region of West Dunbartonshire, whose championships are hosted annually in Bearsden and where competitors from Helensburgh and Lomond compete.
The Cowal Games has traditionally hosted the historic area of Argyllshire, which includes a large part of Ardnamurchan and Glencoe, both outside the current local authority area of Argyll and Bute.
It is not in the gift of the Cowal Games to change the rules of the Argyllshire Champi0nships, as that contest is under the responsibility of its own umbrella organisation. Cowal simply provides the opportunity.
Councillor Dance is fully aware of all of these facts. She had them explained to her face to face, as well as in writing, by the Director of the Cowal Games, Malcolm Barclay, when she began to whip up local Helensburgh agitation on the matter.
Argyll’s interests irrelevant
This managed controversy is the mark of an irresponsible local councillor desperate for attention and with no care for the economic good of Argyll as a whole.
We are all in Argyll together and its economic sustainability matters to every person and every part of it.
There can be absolutely no advantage to anyone in civil war, in deliberately trying to set one ward of Argyll and Bute against another – on a false premise – so that a reputationally damaged councillor can be seen to ride to battle in its non-existent need for defence.
There is absolutely no issue here.
There is only dishonesty – the fabrication of a situation that does not exist and its use in inflaming a sense of injustice in honest folk who are pawns in a game that can only bring dissent to the area in which they live, while making desired headlines for a demonstrable conniver.
Councillor Dance has been shown to be fully aware of the facts of this matter and has chosen to ignore them. The other sillies in her train are just there for the mischief and where they have a track record at all, it does not indicate any inclination for background research or a preoccupation with facts. This does them no credit whatsoever, if they wish to be taken as serious and capable local politicians.
What’s the game?
This can be nothing other than an excursion for personal publicity.
If such a recommendation is put to full council for support, it cannot succeed.
The Cowal Gathering is, by some way, Argyll’s largest annual event. It is almost the sole regular draw for visitors to Dunoon at present, in any serious number. It’s economic impact locally and regionally is crucial.
An attempt to destabilise the Cowal Games by threatening its funding could put at risk its other substantial hosting – of the prestigious final major pipe band championships of the year.
The administration councillors, the majority, responsible for economic sustainability, are not going to support an irresponsible motion with absolutely no substance.
Some of Councillor Dance’s opposition colleagues are never going to support such a proposal either. Former Councillor leader, Dick Walsh and the perpetual parrot on his shoulder, Councillor James McQueen, represent Dunoon.
Councillor Walsh will know the true facts of the matter as Councillor Dance does, It is impossible to imagine that he would vote to damage the single real earner in his constituency. And Councillor McQueen would support him.
It is equally unimaginable that other opposition councillors for Cowal, like Bruce Marshall and Alex McNaughton, would support such a move. We also note that the able Helensburgh opposition Councilor, Conservative Gary Mulvaney, is not involved in bringing forward this recommendation.
No intelligent and responsible councillor of any colour would damage their credibility by putting their name to this.
All the council needs to do is nothing at all. Record the facts, vote and leave it at that.
No serious time should be spent giving the oxygen of publicity to this self-interested made-up monodrama.
Should Dance decide to whip up the deceived local troops to the fervour of a demonstration at Kilmory, councillors owe nothing to a matter wholly lacking in foundation and wholly dishonest in its fabrication. This nonsense is doing Helensburgh no favours, It is making it look like a collection of zombies who dance on command to any old tune.
It would be a serious mistake to make any concession at all to a stunt like this. None is necessary.
A confident administration and an honest opposition with the interests of Argyll at heart would – will – simply put this one to bed on the facts and leave it there.