Magisterial response from Council Leader Robb on Russell ‘Coup Two’ attempt

Council Leader, James Robb, has emailed administration councillors in a magisterial response to the astonishing email they received yesterday from local MSP, Michael Russell. [Our article on this matter is here.]

In that email, which even this morning seems breathtakingly out of control – Mr Russell expressed himself as if he was the authority in a council in which he has no formal authority whatsoever. He had actually gone so far as to intervene with the Council’s Chief Executive, asking her to stop all offficer’s work on the council decision to close the Struan Lodge care home in Dunoon.

In his response to colleagues, Council Leader James Robb  – the subject of what has all the appearance of an open coup attempt by a Russell clique in the SNP group – has been calm, objective and magisterial.

Councillor Robb’s email reads:

‘Dear All
‘I am afraid Michael doesn’t quite grasp that this is a matter for Council members to decide or understand the Council decision making process. The decision of the Council on this matter is being progressed by officers in the normal manner. Part of that is a consultation process and that is on-going so it would be quite wrong to pre-empt the outcome of that but this contribution will be taken into account.
Michael is quite correct that the Council has agreed that a viable potential buy-out of Struan Lodge as a going concern would be given careful consideration by the Council as to how it was best progressed. To the best of my knowledge not even an outline business case has been brought forward so far.
Michael clearly doesn’t understand that Struan Lodge is just a part of a strategic vision to deliver better and fairer services to all the adults in need of care in Argyll & Bute in times of great financial difficulty. There are other choices and capacity for patients leaving hospital in the Cowal area so as Michael crudely refers to it “bed blocking” should not be occurring. What is of great concern is that if the Council doesn’t realise efficiency savings there will be real problems in the future with delayed discharge putting pressure on the NHS capacity and also delays to getting future care packages in place as quickly as possible. We must look to the future as we will have increasing numbers of older people requiring care and they all deserve to be treated fairly. I am confident that we all continue to recognise that to secure that fairer long term quality of service to all our older people requiring care some very difficult decisions are required. It is disappointing that others take a different short term view that seems to have little regard for local democracy.
Finally, can I apologise to our coalition partners for this serious breach of protocol.
Regards
James’

The issue and the consequences

The Council Leader is concerned for the integrity of process, which has been at a discount in the Russell faction.

He is utterly correct in this concern. Once the integrity of process has been overridden, government at any level is into ‘robber baron’ territory where the most determined buccaneer carries the day, with rights and fairness immediate discards.

Councillor Robb is also concerned with fairness for everyone. The case here is one where, in very tight financial times, any governing body’s responsibility is to make the fairest distribution for all of scarce resources.

In this case, the three year cost of maintaining Struan Lodge for a small number of those in need of care is around £1.2 million. That sum would support care packages and other relief for a substantially larger number of the equally needy.

And that is the issue.

The real issue here is that, having taken one of the hardest decisions, it is incumbent upon the council itself to be involved in ensuring that the eventual arrangements made for the transfer of care of the Struan Lodge patients is individual, sensitive and helpful in the extreme and that the manner of the making and carrying out of these arrangements is equally sensitive and helpful at an individual level.

Elderly folk, already disoriented, can be dangerously destabilised by the removal of the last security they have.

They must not be treated as a job lot to be moved from one facility to others.

They are individuals. Each of their cases is specific to them and to their families. It must be treated as such and resolved as such

We must accept the necessary judiciousness of the council decision because there is no other just criterion to govern the distribution of very limited resources than a care for fairness for all concerned.

But we need to see a council engaged with the consequences of its actions and with a demonstrable care for the individual.

The two emails

The difference in the attitudes of Councillor Robb and Michael Russell is laid bare in their respective emails.

Councillor Robb’s is strictly about the issue and about due procedure.

Mr Russell’s is essentially about himself – his importance, his authority [which has no constitutional foundation in terms of Argyll and Bute Council] his actions, his views, his intentions.

It is all ‘I’.

His intervention with the Council CEO is wholly unconstitutional and indefensible.

The ancient Greeks had a word for this sort of behaviour – ‘hubris’. It covers a doom brought upon a man who loses sight of his given place in the scheme of things and acts as if he is himself the agent of events and not the Gods. Mr Russell’s tone and expression in his email to administration councillors is an example of just such a dangerous loss of perspective.

Where the Council Leader is concerned with the objective – as he must be – Mr Russell is concerned with the subjective – known to be fuelled by his overriding concern for the impact of this on his own career. He shows no awareness of or interest in the provision of proper care for other needy elderly folk across Argyll.

Where Councillor Robb emphasises the imperative of fairness, Mr Russell wants to do deals.

Both men are politicians who are affected by unpopular decisions.

The difference between them is that Councillor Robb supports a decision made on the tough merits of the case and accepts, without complaint, the impact upon himself of the public response in the area affected. Mr Russell is, not for the first time,  panicking about his own interests and thrashing around with no regard for the overall picture across Argyll and Bute.

Argyll and Bute is entitled to and needs stable local government, without the external political interference that has been the agent of disruption in this coalition administration from its beginning less than a year ago.

It has lost one good and honourable leader already. It cannot afford to lose another such – and nor can the party that leads this coalition.

The Council Leader has recognised this in the graceful apology he makes at the end of his email to his party’s coalition partners, which essentially respects the separate rights of their position.

Note: Our article on the email to which the Council Leader is responding, is here. This was sent yesterday by Michael Russell MSP to administration councillors, along with a copy of a press release he had already issued on his actions, is here.

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93 Responses to Magisterial response from Council Leader Robb on Russell ‘Coup Two’ attempt

  1. If this is what Independence is going to be like I might even vote yes.
    what an excellent response from James Robb, over to you Michael.
    Cheers Neil.
    p.s. I have cancelled my Sky sports channel this is much better.

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    • Yes I agree, in that this is straightforward no-nonsense response. Well done sir.
      As for Michael Russell, he must be sent to Coventry fro the short term good of the county and the medium/ling term good of the SNP.

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  2. Whilst I believe the response by James Robb to be correct, the decisions in the budget made by the SNP administration, supported by their firends, are still wrong. However, I agree that Russell’s interference is out of order and I think that a formal complaint against him should be made by the current administration. Of course they won’t because he’s ‘one of them’.

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  3. Am I the only one concerned that Councillor Robb appears to be leaking emails to a blog?
    Is that not a breach of protocol as well?

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    • They can usually be accessed via an FoI anyway so I guess it’s a good idea to make them public at the start. A lot less council resources needed.

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    • We can say categorically that Councillor Robb had nothing whatsoever to do with our access to this information.
      We will make no other comment on any sources of any of our information but, because of the current and suicidal scheming in the SNP group at the moment, we feel that it is important to make this particular fact clear.

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    • No, you are not alone and not the only one that has noticed.

      I think that the elected representatives of the SNP (and by virtue the public political face of the Yes campaign in the absence of Green or Socialist councillors in the area)should very carefully consider their actions in light of the national question. This outweighs any petty attempts at one upmanship that seems to be afflicting ABC’s ruling group at present.

      Mr Russell clearly has the right to communicate with the Council on a constituency matter and Lynda Henderson’s attempts to make this into something other than a normal and correct intervention by a local MSP just betrays her pathological dislike of Mr Russell. Mr Robb is quite correct in that this is a decision for the local councillors and not Mr Russell. But to suggest that Mr Russell is wrong to ask for a change of heart and for Mr Robb to leak internal communications to the press suggests that Mr Robb, far from being magisterial, is instead demonstrating a painful degree of insecurity. If he feels that he needs the support of For Argyll then God help him.

      Ms Henderson has obviously decided that Struan Lodge should go. This is not the view of many if not most SNP members in Argyll. It is obviously a challenging case and the status quo is not an option but there is a feeling that council officials may have engineered this as a lightening rod to avoid scrutiny of other aspects of the budget. Unfortunately, some of the current ruling group of councillors have been hoodwinked into putting good relationships with council officials above proper scrutiny of the workings of Argyll and Bute Council.

      Lynda Henderson mentions hubris (a double edged sword if there ever was one). I would point to another Greek word: eunomia which means good and just government. The people who voted for the SNP and their allies expected a new style of government in Argyll – a departure from the bad old days and a commitment to local democracy, consultation and consensus. Instead, in regard to Struan House, we see a return to the bad old days where officials lead the councillors by the nose.

      I suggest that everyone involved in this has a good hard look at themselves. Are you part of the solution or part of the problem? Are your actions about doing the best for the people of Argyll or out of narrow notions of political advantage?

      Above all, people should have a mind to the elderly and frail inhabitants of Struan Lodge and ensure that their welfare is utmost in the minds of those with power.

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      • Why should a few folk get a totally disproportionate amount of money spent on them at the expense of elderly folk across Argyll and Bute who are in desperate need of care? That is not a fair system but there again, the SNP do not appear to care about fairness.

        Instead of being led by the nose by Council officers, it appears that the local MSP is trying to lead the SNP councillors by the nose.

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        • I think the crux of the matter in recent articles has been the;
          Breslin apparent support
          then Withdrawal of same,
          subsequently adding to the uncertain limbo now excisting re this facility in Dunoon.

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      • “but there is a feeling that council officials may have engineered this as a lightening rod to avoid scrutiny of other aspects of the budget. Unfortunately, some of the current ruling group of councillors have been hoodwinked into putting good relationships with council officials above proper scrutiny of the workings of Argyll and Bute Council.”
        This is a very serious accusation against those (council officials) who work hard for the council – where is you evidence for this?
        If the elected councillors are so easily ‘hoodwinked’ and unable to apply proper scrutiny to the budget proposals, what right do they have to represent the people of Argyll?

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  4. Where it came from is irrelevant the content is the important part.Totally agree with phil on James Robb he has actually saved face for the SNP by the way he has handled Russell.Now all he has to do is get rid of Breslin and Blair and get on with the very difficult job of implementing the cuts from the budget.Not to sure about Blair but Breslin could probably rejoin Labour.

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    • Hello Neil, there are numerous examples of councilors throughout Scotland jumping ship from Labour to SNP -

      Dick Douglas (early 1990′s)
      Margaret Lynch (late 1990′s)
      Irfan Rabbani (2012)
      Elaine McBean Little (2008)
      Douglas Campbell (Ayrshire 2011) to name a few in relatively recent times.

      I struggle to cite examples of councilors leaving SNP and joining Labour so your suggestion of Mike Breslin doing so seems highly improbable unless of course you’ve got a cracking sense of humour.

      What on earth does the Labour party have to offer Mike Breslin, his ward, region and his desire for an independent Scotland?

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    • Can’t believe Councillor Breslin or Councillor Blair would go near (Labour)sorry- (Scottish Labour) with it’s wee red rose– It wouldn’t be an option due to it’s sooking up to the banks, big business and it’s love of the House of Lords and all things London as well as it’s love of means testing the poor and our young people.

      Maybe Community Cllr’s in Oban defer to London in all things?

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  5. Well these days you can never be so sure where people,s true feelings really lie. I just thought that with his old Labour ties it would be a natural home.Your SNP councillor Mary Jean Devon who changed colours three times in one year is a lovely example.As for a sense of humour well you definitely have to have a good one watching this SNP administration,s performance over Struan Lodge.Seemingly Months of planning the Budget,discussing all the relevant issues,obviously I thought there would be contact with party members in Argyll,negotations with the other groups and individual councillors in the Administration and then bring that consensus to the Budget meeting.
    Now we are lead to believe that didn,t place and the budget was a surprise to all of the SNP members in Argyll. There councillors didn,t discuss any of the budget with them.
    So what chance have the rest of us poor mortals got when we just get three weeks to have a wee look through the papers and we can,t influence the final draft.
    So if they can,t handle important decisions and resort to this shambles over contenious issues what will happen when the rural schools debate rears its ugly head again.They won,t have anyone to blame this time.
    Get Breslin,s disciplinary hearing out of the way and get on with running this council thats what they where voted in to do.
    Cheers Neil

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  6. Heading down to London later in the year with my grandkids to take in the sites they are looking forward to Harry Potter and the shops typical young ladies.
    Depending on Breslin,s disciplinary meeting thats if he turns up we might have a change in the Administration because the majority of SNP councillors want him suspended but if things get nasty how many will resign from the SNP group.They might have to go cap in hand to the Liberals or any other body to shore up the ship.Even worse Dick and the gang could be making a comeback.
    Who says Argyll is quiet the good old head bummers in the SNP are already asking what the hell is going on up here so it should be a very interesting meeting next month.
    Cheers Neil.

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    • Enjoy your time in London with your grandkids.
      Don’t suppose you fancy taking Dougie with you,I think he likes London as he’s always on about it, (just a one way ticket).

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      • Don’t mind visiting London if someone want’s to pay me to go. It would be good to see how they spend our money. I would insist on a separate room however.

        But my family and I are happily planning our holiday in Scotland –I think I might miss out on Argyll although flying into Mull International Airport might be of interest if only to see if this was value for money compared to Struan.

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  7. Fletcher “but there is a feeling that council officials may have engineered this [Struan Lodge]as a lightening rod to avoid scrutiny of other aspects of the budget”. [my brackets]

    Utter crap. And for two very good reasons
    1. This is the SNP’s budget – not the officials budget. The SNP decide what goes into it and no one else.
    2. There was no recommendation from council officials that Struan Lodge should close – so how could they possibly have “engineered” this?

    Leaving that nonsense aside – I’m hearing that there could be a challenge on the cards at the constituency meeting this weekend. The divisions in the SNP apparently are getting both wider and deeper with at least one SNP Cllr reported as saying they won’t stay with Robb as leader. That, and with local constituency members reportedly unhappy about the Struan Lodge decision, there might yet be a challenge to Robb’s leadership at/after this weekend.

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    • You could well be right, Simon.
      They’re being sufficiently suicidal for anything.
      And if they do this, the word ‘toast’ won’t come close.
      It will be like Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest: ‘To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’
      These shenanigans also highlight how relatively calm life must have been like inside the Alliance of Independents, for whom this sideshow must be a source of profound satisfaction.
      This cannot be what Argyll wanted to see and it is not what we had hoped to see.

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      • No like me to agree with you Newsie but I’ve heard the ruling group described as ‘fractured egos in a peeing contest**’. Whether that’s accurate or not I don’t know. But for certain there are some Cllrs who are just not team players and who are certainly not committed to this team.

        Night of the long knives in the offing??

        ** Yes they are all males…

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  8. So there we have it:

    “I think that the elected representatives of the SNP … should very carefully consider their actions in light of the national question. ” [under comment #3, from Fletcher of Saltoun ]

    Every vital decision must be viewed through the prism of the ‘national question’, according to Fletcher. Nationalists ask “Would closing Struan Lodge have a positive or negative impact on the independence referendum result?” and use that as the test to reach a decision. Not, is it the right service, meeting the needs of residents, offering high quality care…..? No – how will this affect our chances of winning the referendum.

    We all know that this obsession is undermining good governance of local services. And now Fletcher openly admits it too. I am disgusted, in all honesty. The people of Argyll and Bute deserve so much better. A council that reaches decisions that are in the interests of the local population. And not the destructive fixation with constitutional change and separation.

    By all means, have the referendum and the debate. But don’t let it damage proper governance of local services, likes those in Struan Lodge.

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    • Mhairi: You misunderstand my point. It is vital that SNP leaders in positions of power operate in a collegiate and professional fashion because any slip ups mean that independence will be attacked in just the way it was attacked in this article (can’t manage a local council how will they manage a country? – that sort of tedious arguement). What I was asking for is some discipline in the way that the ruling group handles disagreements and difficult decisions. I certainly do not believe that leaking internal e-mails to a hostile blog represents a mature way of governance. SNP politicians need to be better than this. My comment related to the style and manner of governance and not the decision itself. On that, if you think my concern for the residents of Struan Lodge relates solely to how it affects the referendum then all I can say is that you are very much mistaken. My primary concern is that in allowing a stooshie to develop on this issue it causes unnecessary concern for the residents and their carers. Whoever is behind this should reflect on that as should perhaps Lynda Henderson and indeed your self and always Insincere Simon. We all have the responsibility to think about the consequences of our actions and should perhaps temper our desire to score points over political opponents if that is at the expense of people who are sick, vulnerable or poor.

      Lynda Henderson has assured us that Mr Robb was not responsible for leaking these e-mails (in which case, my apologies to him for believing they must be coming from himself). This raises the question of who is leaking them and why? This brings back memories of a very similar incident where e-mails relating to the school closure plan between Michael Russell and the late Donald MacDonald were leaked. There was more than a suspicion at the time that council officials were behind this though it is also possible that a rogue SNP member was responsible. Mr Robb seems to suggest in the leaked e-mail that he is aware that the e-mails are not secure. Obviously they are open to scrutiny through FoI in any case but there is a world of difference between e-mail conversations being revealed through FoI and someone in the Council deliberately leaking them to cause damage and in doing so harm the residents of Struan Lodge.

      As I said previously , there is more going on here than is in the public domain and I hope that the ruling group get their act together quickly to ensure both that the real story emerges and that a sensible and caring solution to Struan Lodge is reached.

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      • Just a technical point as I have absolutely no expertise in care homes or internal party politics. FOI legislation does not cover communications between councillors or between councillors and their constituents. The same applies to MSPs. Unless the emails in both this case and in the case of Michael Russell’s communications with the late Cllr MacDonald also included officers in the contact list they could never have been accessed under FOI.

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        • Sandy. FOI is a bit of a moving feast, with governments resisting, and the Information Commissioners regularly insisting that release is required.

          The two recent celebrated cases that might challenge your view are Gove, where the judgement extended to a private email account:
          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/michael-gove-loses-foi-battle-over-emails-7485313.html
          And Salmond refusing to acknowledge whether he had even sought legal advice on EU membership. Scotland’s Information Commissioner was highly critical of the SNP government – and indeed the source to reveal the truth could have been an exchange between MSPs, without necessarily involving an official.
          http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sophie-rodger/snp-alex-salmond-eu-legal-advice_b_1832581.html

          Anyway, that is my understanding, but happy to be corrected by the FOI hawks!

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          • FOISA is very clear that it does not apply to MSPS or elected members of Authorities…
            http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/SICResources/ElectedRepresentatives.asp
            “FOI law applies to Scottish public authorities (local authorities, the Scottish Parliament, etc), but not to their elected members as individuals. So elected members are not, therefore, required to respond to the information requests they receive in accordance with FOI law, and appeals cannot be made to the Commissioner in relation to such requests.”
            The confusion comes when elected members use authority communication formats (usually council or Parliament email accounts.) As far as I am aware the Information Commissioner has never ordered release of any communication between a constituent and an elected member only. Ministers (which covers both Gove and Salmond) are covered in a different manner where certain communications are covered by special exemption “prejudicial to the conduct of public affairs” which they regularly use to try and avoid release – not always successfully.

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          • Forgot to add the following quote from the guidance…

            “Information which is only held by authorities on behalf of elected members and is not used by the authority for its own purposes will not, normally, be accessible.”

            This covers the email accounts I refer to but does not apply if the emails are copied to officers of the Council

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      • I understand you perfectly, Fletcher. Especially when you say:
        “vital that SNP leaders in positions of power operate in a collegiate and professional fashion because any slip ups mean that independence will be attacked”.
        You’re very helpfully providing further evidence that this is a very dangerous modus operandi. Whether or not independence will be attacked is utterly irrelevant. Whether the current residents of Struan Lodge are cared for properly, and that others in Argyll & Bute get the right services, is the main – indeed only – concern of all councillors.
        If councillors worry about avoiding attacks on independence, then they’ll never take the right decisions on local services. They’ll be compromised, distracted and have their critical faculties distorted.
        Their legal duties are set out clearly in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. Nowhere in that Act does it say: ‘take decisions in such a manner as you preserve the reputation of national constitutional change and separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK’.

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        • You are still misconstruing my meaning and I have to conclude you are doing it deliberately.

          My criticism of the SNP ruling group relates to the way the they have handled attempts by others to make political capital out of the situation. Like most of the rank and file I am concerned about the effects this mess is having on the residents and their carers of Struan Lodge: that would be true anytime. In the SNP we demand nothing less than good governance by our elected representatives as a given at all times. However, what is even more galling is that it just gives cheap shots to the local No squad at a time that the rank and file of the Yes campaign just want us to focus on the most important decision in Scotland’s history for 300 years. Having achieved an SNP led administration in Argyll we want them to govern well so the rest of us can get on with winning the referendum.

          There are two scenarios here. The first is the one Simon seems to be peddling and Lynda Henderson seems happy to swallow, hook line and sinker. This is that the SNP ruling group is made up of a bunch of egoists, who are poor team players, pursuing personal agendas with no regard to the interests of the people of Argyll, their own party or the wider constitutional question. If true then it is a dreadful indictment of the individuals concerned and they are letting everyone down.

          The other scenario, however, asks the question that Lynda Henderson doesn’t seem interested in: just who benefits from portraying the SNP group as being in disarray and poor at running Argyll? Who most benefits from leaking councillor’s correspondence to her? Could it be that there are people outside of the ruling group manipulating the situation for their own political ends? The main loser so far seems to have been Mike Breslin, a councillor who was fast getting a reputation for asking awkward questions from senior officials and sticking his nose in where it shouldn’t. Might there be political gain from tarnishing him a bit? And if they can cause embarrassment to Michael Russell at the same time then so much the better.

          It’s funny how Lynda Henderson is prepared to take the estimated saving on closing Struan Lodge at its face value when it comes from the same senior officials that she was previously slagging off as being arithmetically challenged. The same officials that she has previously, repeatedly and stridently called to be sacked. Funny how that agenda doesn’t seem so pressing anymore and suddenly we are being asked to contemplate the return of Dick Walsh and his cronies.

          Regardless of which scenario you believe, the fact is that the SNP group should have dealt with it and that is why they are being criticised.

          Back to the central issue of Struan Lodge. You go on believing what you like, Mhairi, about us evil people in the Yes campaign but it is exactly because of concern for the poor, the needy, the sick and the frail that so many of us want to see our country achieve its independence. Only then that we will be able to properly use the resources of our country to achieve the better, fairer and wealthier Scotland that we believe we all deserve.

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          • Bit naive to suggest Breslin being tarnished by ‘oficials’. He’s managed to do that himself by not follwing truly his previous commitment to Struan Lodge. Simple.

            I dont think you are seriously suggesting that FA are looking for a return of the old guard. Like many individuals on her ewho are not nesesarilly SNP/Yes followers, there WAS a realisation post Council elections that the (mainly SNP) ruling group was the best answer at that particular time the best option. I believed they had the best individual councillors. Since than they appeared to have sickened the only natural leader, and followed quickly by the Struan Lodge shenannigans the SNP only have themselves to blame and only they can scramble back to the organised and stable state that they recently enjoyed.

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          • I get the sense I’ve hit a nerve, Fletcher. So much ’innocence to protest’

            And you’re doing a Clegg – contradicting yourself in the space of one day. At 12:13 you say your concern is “the effects this mess is having on the residents and their carers”; yet earlier today at 09:10 your main concern was that “any slip ups mean that independence will be attacked”.

            Anyway, you’re being carried away with conspiracy theories now.

            Everyone would applaud loudly if SNP, or any, councillors took decisions in the interests of local people, instead of always looking over their shoulders to see how the monsters under the bed other parties might make political capital, and so destroy the case for independence.

            Seriously, just do the job right. Surely not too much to ask?

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          • Mhairi: we in the SNP are quite capable of being concerned about two things simultaneously. We also haven’t parked our social consciences for the duration of the referendum, something that other parties may have more difficulty in sustaining as an argument.

            Phil: in encouraging thoughts of a self destructing SNP led administration, Lynda Henderson may not want to see a return of the Old Guard but she is in danger of helping it happen.

            That said, I expect nothing of the sort to occur. The SNP led ruling group will get on top of this ad hopefully soon. As for the truth, well, it will out at some point and it will be interesting to see which scenario is closer to the actuality.

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          • Since you refer to me by name in raising what the current chaos in the SNP group is making into a key issue…
            I am coming to the view that, if all council administrations turn out to be less than straightforward, there is an argument that Argyll and Bute would be better off with an administration led by a group that suffered no external political interference, did not depose its leaders, was internally coherent, kept its mind on the job and was rather more capable than the current one has taken the opportunity to become.
            These shenanigans have been educative for me in demonstrating the positive value of independent councillors.
            The SNPs coalition partners emerge from all of this with honour, for keeping their heads down and getting on with the job – as do the last and present leaders of this administration.
            Councillors Roddy McCuish and James Robb have behaved impeccably in putting the interests of their party and their administrations first and in trying to keep the show together and on the road, with no thought for themselves.
            They have had to do this against political and professional naivety, lack of political courage and a surfeit of ego and indiscipline from a specific cohort in their party group – with the rest of that group blinking in incomprehension on the sidelines.
            This is not government.
            This is a ruck by an out of control faction and, whether or not it is being managed as the evidence indicates with certainty that it has, it is totally unacceptable.
            The SNP group are on notice. If they carry on as they have been doing they will not be electable next time, not will they deserve to be – and this has been an entirely home made mess, with no opposition intervention. The opposition has been internal.
            Lynda

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          • You may *say now* you can concentrate on two things at once, Fletcher. But elsewhere your words betray you, showing that you ’re prioritising the independence referendum over EVERYTHING else, including care of the elderly. Simon has the measure of this, at comment #13 below.

            And by the way, it’s Mairi – my name is aspirated with the ‘h’ only in the vocative case, and then also with a preceding ‘a’ and an accent on the ‘a’: a Mhàiri. :)

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          • Lynda H: You still haven’t answered my question about who is leaking the e-mails, why and who gains from all of this?

            For someone who claims to be a journalist, you seem remarkably lacking in curiosity as to what might really be going on here.

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          • FoS – Newsroom has, very clearly, replied to your demand to know ‘who’s leaked emails’, so why won’t you take no for an answer? Don’t you know that journalists customarily protect their sources?
            What about you, why is concealing your name OK when concealing the name of a valuable source of information isn’t?

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  9. Fletcher – you said in your originl post “I think that the elected representatives of the SNP (and by virtue the public political face of the Yes campaign in the absence of Green or Socialist councillors in the area)should very carefully consider their actions in light of the national question. This outweighs any petty attempts at one upmanship that seems to be afflicting ABC’s ruling group at present”.

    Now you might wish in retrospect that you had said something else – but you didn’t. Mairi clearly elucidated this when she attacked your comment because your comment clearly meant that every “vital decision must be viewed through the prism of the ‘national question’”.

    There is no other possible interpretation of this part of your post. So, stop squirming…

    ps do you still maintain that the Struan Lodge debacle was “engineered” by council officlas??? Or is that another instance of everyone else ‘misconstruing your meaning’??

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    • I stand by my original comment that anyone in the SNP trying to make trouble for the SNP group in the Council because of some personal agenda or disagreement should think very carefully about how their actions might impact on the wider effort to build the momentum for a resounding Yes vote next year. But I don’t think for a second that the Group would deliberately make a decision detrimental to Argyll because of the referendum – what we want from the councillors is good governance and that includes making hard decisions when necessary. What we don’t want is the appearance of a muddle – regardless of who is actually behind this.

      However, it is not clear that there has in fact been anyone within the SNP trying to cause trouble. Disagreements yes, but surely we elect councillors to argue the toss on the best way forward. What we have seen though is someone deliberately causing trouble by leaking e-mails. Beyond that all we have is tittle tattle emanating from Lynda Henderson’s personal need to interpret everything from her own view that Michael Russell is a manipulative bully. Thus Michael Breslin is lauded until she decides that he is in fact a lackey of Michael Russell so now he is the bad guy. Mr Russell seems in favour of retaining Struan Lodge so this must be a bad thing and it has to go (irrefutably). To Robert – LH hasn’t indicated that she knows who leaked the e-mails nor would I expect her to name them even if she does but what I would like her to do is critically evaluate who has leaked the e-mails and why? It might lead her to make some interesting enquiries into what is really going on (but I don’t hold my breath).

      As to the involvement of senior officers, I am always intrigued as to why you always come to their defence Simon. Personal reasons perhaps? I do know that Michael Breslin has been making himself unpopular with certain senior officers because of his habit of asking awkward questions and not being fobbed off with obfuscation. Certain officials have “form” when it comes to manipulating information and some are very close to certain opposition councillors who are handily based in Dunoon and the likely beneficiaries of any unpopularity of the SNP elected members in that town. . When the electorate put in the SNP led administration there was an expectation that we would see a clear out of the senior officials that had done so much damage to Argyll and yet they are still there.

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      • FofS – If as you say certain Council Officers are trying to discredit and divide the SNP group why are you letting them. Posting on here and trying to deflect your irritation onto Lynda Henderson simply demonstrates that they are succeeding.

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    • Simon – Who provides the background and financial information for Councillors to allow them to make ‘objective’ decisions on budget proposals?

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  10. Fletcher, yet more evasion, deflection, invention and avoidance from you.
    So – let me ask you again “do you still maintain that the Struan Lodge debacle was “engineered” by council officials??? Or is that another instance of everyone else ‘misconstruing your meaning’??”
    In your own time…

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    • Simon – Whilst your twiddling your thumbs waiting on ‘Fletcher’ answering your own question, might as well answer my question posted above.

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  11. Whilst I normally confine myself to ferry matters I must admit to find this interesting.

    Does it not look like always trying to come up smelling of roses?

    The SNP Council shut down Struan Lodge but the SNP Minister objects so therfore the SNP is okay?

    Likewise on the Dunoon Ferry issue the SNP Minister wants to remove a vehicle service but the SNP Councilors object so the SNP is okay?

    Ah of course the Councillors dont really object they merely abstain (to the same effect) likewise the MSP, supposedly representative of the population, does not really do anything regarding ferries.

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  12. John M – since you are in the mood for questions – who proposed that Struan Lodge should close?

    And who proposed that milk be should be snatched from the primary school weans?

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    • I’m sure someone recently posted ‘evasion, deflection,
      invention and avoidance from you.’or maybe I read it wrong, not to worry but I’ll ask you again who provides the background and financial information for Councillors to allow them to make ‘objective’ decisions on budget proposals?

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  13. John M, as I know you are aware, all Cllrs receive info and advice from Council officials on budgets etc.

    However, and importantly, the ruling administration are NOT obliged to take that advice: they make their own minds up on budgetary issues – and they take the responsibility for it. Just as the SNP did when they decide to close Struan Lodge old folks home. I know you will also be aware that there was NO recommendation from officials to close Struan Lodge.

    That particular nasty piece of SNP policy – which will result in vulnerable old people being removed from their home – was all their own work.

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    • Simon – So Officers didn’t actually recommend that Struan Lodge should close they merely advised that it should close.

      I’m sure you remember the events a while back involving Southern Cross, do you think when the officers were carrying out the risk assessment for this proposal they were mindful of what went wrong with Southern Cross and advised the councillors appropriately?

      Do you think they carried out appropriate background checks on all the owners and companies involved in running the homes in Dunoon with a view to ensuring that any risk of repetition of a similar event was minimised?

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  14. Fletcher, I meant to comment of your pompous assertion that “if they can’t manage a local council how will they manage a country? – that sort of tedious argument”.

    What’s tedious about that argument?

    The SNP are the SNP whether they are involved in a national or a local level. And of course it is reasonable to expect that a party with aspirations of leading a country into separation should be able to exercise good governance at all levels. In fact their ability to do so at a local and simpler level will undoubtedly impact on peoples’ perception of their ability to operate effectively at the more complex higher national level.

    So rather than being tedious the “if they can’t manage a local council how will they manage a country?” argument is actually perfectly valid.

    So, given (locally) the internecine fighting, the not-followed-through-but-very-much-still-on-the-table threats to resign, the leaking of emails, the allegations of a power struggle, the shadowy influencing of council policies by the SNP MSP, the inability to operate in a professional collegiate fashion and the sheer dislike some of the SNP locally have for each other – it appears that their ability to manage at a council level remains very much in doubt.

    “if they can’t manage a local council how will they manage a country?” – actually on this evidence this lot couldnae manage a ménage.

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  15. Should be interesting to see how Breslin’s disciplinary meeting pans out.The majority so far are in favour of suspension but we will have to wait and see how it is handled.As for the stories knocking about well I certainly would back Roddy’s version compared to some of his fellow SNP councillors and I am sure he will be delighted to give us the crack after the meeting.Will hold fire with a couple of interesting stories till then and you can be sure that Senior council officials or an MSP.don’t pull my strings.

    The performance of management and a complete breakdown of who does what or more importantly what they do to justify there salaries would be a great story for FA. to dig at.In one department locally in Oban after the one manager was let go he was part of two levels of management.Srange since he left there is now three levels.As I said once you start to dig it is amazing what you find.But if our councillors of any persuasion are serious about change this is where they should be looking but be prepared for a battle.
    One quick point in case would be the council’s road design team.What roads?
    Cheers Neil,

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      • I recollect being told many, many years ago that there were piles of drawings gathering dust in the county engineer’s office for schemes that have yet to see the light of day – for example, for rebuilding the many remaining primitive sections of he Oban – Lochgilphead main road.

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  16. So Neil – are you seriously saying that this Breslin chap has been called to an SNP disciplinary hearing?

    Whatever for?

    After all, he didnae even vote to save Struan Lodge

    So if it’s not that – what’s the charge??

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  17. Fletcher, in response to your rhetorical question “just who benefits from portraying the SNP group as being in disarray and poor at running Argyll? Who most benefits from leaking councillor’s correspondence…”

    You then suggest “Could it be that there are people outside of the ruling group manipulating the situation for their own political ends?”.

    Well so far you blamed the officials (for “engineering” the Struan Lodge debacle) and now you suggest the opposition is to blame “for manipulating the situation”.

    Not only have you failed to produce a shred of evidence to support either assertion – but you’ve manifestly (and perhaps deliberately) failed to grasp the reality of the situation – as (and you won’t read these words very often from me) as Newsie so aptly put it:-
    “this has been an entirely home made mess, with no opposition intervention.

    The opposition has been internal”

    Ouch!

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  18. John M – a piece of advice – stop digging. You’ll notice that not one other usual-suspects cyber-nats is on here trying to defend this appalling decision or trying to deflect the blame onto officials.

    But no, not you – you persist in asking stupid questions,”Simon – So Officers didn’t actually recommend that Struan Lodge should close they merely advised that it should close”

    No. The officials neither recommended nor advised that Struan Lodge Old Folks home should close – that debacle is down entirely to the incompetent SNP group.

    My impeccable source for this is the response to the question put by Cllr Robin Currie during the debate – what’s your’s?

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  19. Simon – Thanks for the advice but you didn’t actually answer my question.

    As you said officers provide info and advice for councillors, do you believe the info and advice provided by officers for councillors in relation to the closure of Struan Lodge included appropriate background checks on all the owners and companies involved in running the homes in Dunoon with a view to ensuring the risk of a repition of similar events to that of Southern Cross were minimised? I would of thought that was a simple enough question for someone like you.

    I wasn’t actually in the chamber when Cllr Robin Currie asked a question, sounds like you were though as I can’t find that particular question minuted anywhere? My only source is ‘google’.

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    • Actually John M, you are right it is a simple question – and I have no idea if the officials provided background checks on the potential owners or not. However, since there is legislation in place enforced by the Care Commission I imagine all required checks have been carried out.

      But, and it’s a big but, given that this decision to close Struan Lodge Old Folks Home and remove vulnerable old people (one over a 100 years old) from their home was a purely SNP political decision – do you think the SNP politicos insisted that officials carried out these checks? Or did they even care? So long as their budget balanced….

      Now, do you have any other really daft questions??? (daft questions that for some obscure reason you seem to think are really V-E-R-Y C-L-E-V-E-R)

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      • Simon or should I call you Nagini. Would you not expect officers to make at least basic checks on owners and companies, especially when it will impact on vulnerable people who are 100 year olds?

        Instead of relying on checks that may or may not of been carried out by other external agencies should officers who are responsible for appropriately advising councillors not at least be expected to carry out these basic checks? If not, what is the point in having officers?

        Are the ‘Care Commission’ responsible for checking and monitoring the ongoing financial viability of the companies they inspect or is this the responsibilty of the Local Authority?

        Should any administration be expected to insist their officers carry out appropriate checks or should that not be a given?

        Why do you think these are daft questions when you say the potential impact on vulnerable 100 year olds could be devastating? Does the potential impact and repercussions of other vulnerable old folk not concern you if the appropriate background checks haven’t been made?

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      • C’mon Simone

        What budget will you cut in your area instead to save struan—-sorry didn’t hear you……

        After all Struan isn’t closed yet so I’m sure you will come up with a solution with your tory indies/liebour friends.

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  20. Simon I would expect a full and detailed disclosure after the meeting from the SNP. as they did promise everybody in Argyll that there leadership of the Administration would be characterised by honesty and the main aim would be that everthing would be open and above board.
    Whether Breslin thinks he is above that internal discipline will speak volumes for the state of the SNP group.If the vote goes the wrong way after everything that has gone on behind the scenes and in the public domain the SNP.could easily have there main councillor in my mind go Independent.
    Interesting times ahead Simon.
    Cheers Neil.

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  21. Neil, interesting times indeed. Apparently Berslin is telling everyone who will listen that he is not prepared to serve under Robb as Leader. And, he is also apparently getting more pally with Dick Walsh… Interesting times indeed.

    The SNP: One Party – many egos; some intact; some fractured.

    Have a nice evening.

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  22. Phill – I’m surprised at you, I thought you were more astute than that.

    The biggest Care Home in Dunoon is owned by a company called ‘McKenzie Carehomes Ltd’. Go to google and type in ‘McKenzie Carehomes ltd company check’. Scroll down to the fifth listing. Once you’ve done that explore the other companies associated with this company and tell me what you find

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    • You’re off on a tangent which i dont nescessarilly dispute. (care home companies)
      The point is that officials did not close Struan Lodge. The ruling (mainly) SNP Group did.

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      • Phill – Not sure if you are trying to be intentionally obtuse or simply trying to deflect from the facts.

        As Mr ‘sharp as a tack’ pointed out officers are there to ensure that councillors recieve relevant, objective information & advice on any given topic so they are in a position to make informed decisions for budget proposals. Do you believe that officers provided the information to councillors that you ‘don’t necessarily dispute’?

        And if officers had supplied councillors with this information do you think they would of come to the same conclusion in relation to closing Struan Lodge?

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  23. The problem with Struan is it is in the wrong area ie neither Oban or Helensburgh. Our Council Leader is on record as saying that he want’s “…better services, better facilities…” (in Helensburgh) and that he wishes “..open and accountability..” oh! and of course jobs and investment in the council. For a smile see:
    http://helensburgh.tv/stories/2074-political-message-from-james-robb
    Struan hasn’t closed yet there is still time to keep it open for the current residents and possible futureresidents as the elderly population increase. Pity ForArgyll want’s it to close but then it is hardly pro-Dunoon or pro residents

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  24. Well, I’m hearing that Neil MacIntyre’s assertion that Breslin is to be disciplined is accurate (apologies for even doubting you Neil ;) )

    I’m hearing this is to be Thursday/Friday this week Neil? Can you confirm that?

    The SNP at each others throats in Argyll, the-threat-to-resign remains on the table and, as Newsie says, ‘Argyll is a bit of a microcosm of Scotland as whole’.

    That being so, this inept shower of ego-parading-self-interested-self-promoting-bampots couldnae run a ménage never mind a Council or a country.

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  25. Dear Simone,
    “That being so, this inept shower of ego-parading-self-interested-self-promoting-bampots couldnae run a ménage never mind a Council or a country.
    As a matter of interest what is it you do apart from looking in a mirror?

    Still waiting for a response–

    What budget will you cut in your area instead to save struan—-sorry didn’t hear you……

    After all Struan isn’t closed yet so I’m sure you will come up with a solution with your tory indies/liebour friends.

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  26. Dougie, not my job to come up with cuts that’s your mob’s job. And when they did it, from all of the options available, the SNP administration amongst other things picked on vulnerable old people and decided to close their home.
    Having said that, and as I’ve said for years on here then there areas of the budget that could be looked – under-occupied and expensive on the public purse rural primary schools when there are suitable alternatives – often in better condition – situated close by.
    So the kids would lose their school – but that’s just not in the same league as old people being turfed out of their home. Now is it?
    By the way your name calling is both childish and, trust me, nowhere near as funny as it must have sounded in your own head… :)
    Have a nice day.
    ps you going to Breslin’ disciplinary hearing then ;)

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    • I hope that the disciplinary hearing doesnt shirk in its duties.
      Irespective of where one stands politically it can be argue that the SNP have lost a shed load of goodwill in recent weeks and as such lessons must be learned.
      Roddy McCuish on the ‘backbenches’ is a sad waste of talent.

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    • Oh come on Simone lighten up
      I was just hoping that for once that your words of wisdom would actually have some substance. In fairness though you do not disapoint as you attack primary school kids and education–surely you were young once. Should the monies wasted on the airport continue?
      Not sure why I would be attending any hearing I would need to have the right to attend.
      On the other hand I am never keen on withchunt’s from whatever side. You would think the current council leader (so far) would have learned from his own experiences. Some say he really is a closet tory–but I think that would be one insult too far–what do you think?
      Bon nuit!

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  27. Well Phil, of course it was the intrigue that drove Roddy out – he couldn’t stand the back-stabbing and the jostling for position. And it’s not changed since Robb took over – he’s described by at least a couple of SNP cllrs as ‘crazy’.

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  28. Simon you are forgiven.
    I just watched the dancing pony so I am in great form.In fact it would be great to have the pony as a councillor it certainly has great movement and we would be better with a dancer than a chancer.Which takes me nicely to Breslin’s hearing,pretty sure it is Thursday but there was seemingly a problem with the firing squad and which day they would be available.That has been sorted with the opposition putting forward some trained sharpshooters.
    SNP.councillors have been given permission to wear disquises
    so that everyone can claim after the meeting “It wasn’t me”.
    Roddy was telling me he is going as Ceasar as he had a problem with knives as well.Louise Glen-Lee is going as Miss Money- Penny as her and James(Russell)Bond will be exchanging messages throughout the meeting.Her laptop will be disguised as a cake which is great till she gets hungry.
    They are running a competition for worst disguise and the winner will spend a week with Mike (What does he look like) MacKenzie on Easdale clearing up his builders rubbish.
    Well all of us poor mortals will have to wait for the official press release and in a nice touch there will be smoke released over Kilmory to confirm if a decision has been made.We can only hope that Sally Loudon doesn’t use it as an excuse to get new carpets.
    Never a dull day with the SNP in Argyll.
    Cheers Neil.

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