Schools campaigner, Councillor Ewan Smith quits Angus Council SNP group and administration to go independent

The following is the press statement we have just received from Councillor Ewan Smith, the successful campaigner for Muirfield and Timmergreens schools in Arbroath, who went on to become an elected SNP councillor in Angus in the May 2012 local authority elections.

Councillor Ewan Smith

‘It is with great disappointment, that following amicable discussions with the Council Leader, that I am making the decision to resign from the SNP group and relinquish my post as vice convener of Education with immediate effect.

‘I wish, instead, to see out the remaining four years of my term as an independent, free of any political persuasion or party protocol.

‘Clearly, after just ten months as a councillor, this is not a decision that has been taken lightly. Neither is it a knee-jerk reaction.

‘It is the culmination of a series of events over the core issue I campaigned on – the Arbroath Schools project.

‘I have held in-depth conversations with close family members over the potential ramifications of my resignation from the SNP and exhausted all other viable alternatives.

‘I no longer feel supported by key senior figures within the group on the Arbroath Schools project and firmly believe there has been a clear shift in policy from the one which those members stood hand-in-hand with me on in May.

‘I opposed any form of an amalgamated Muirfield and Timmergreens Primary School then and I oppose any form of merger now.

‘I also continue to support options which will benefit the greatest number of children within the constraints of a ¬£10.6 million investment.

‘Some members of our group continue to stand by the pledges they made in May but, in a clear split in our camp, some senior figures do not.

‘My concerns first surfaced just a few months after I was elected when it became clear that some options were being actively considered and developed by officers that I could not support.

‘To do so would be a clear breach of the promise I made to voters during the election campaign.

‘These options have developed to such an extent that I believe they were extensively discussed during a meeting between the Convener and Director of Education, Chief Executive and Director of Corporate Services.

‘As vice-convener of Education I could reasonably expect to be informed of this meeting but I was given no notice or briefing on its outcome.

‘As such I have been given no opportunity to make an input into proposed reports on the Arbroath Schools Project.

‘I visited all ten schools prior to the consultation period, canvassed views from head teachers and staff and have read every submission made.

‘If, as I have requested, these responses are published in full it will be absolutely clear the the vast majority of respondents wish to see improvements across all ten schools.

‘Sadly, some of the live proposals within that consultation document, would not only provide a real drain on finances for this project but leave the vast majority of Arbroath children without improved facilities.

‘I cannot and will not support any proposal which leaves up to eight schools with no significant investment for a decade and beyond.

‘I have worked extremely hard behind the scenes to try and make a real difference and to provide alternative solutions to the ones being promoted and will continue to do so as an independent councillor.

‘I have made my position on this clear and now feel that my only option is to move forward as an independent who will strive to ensure the democratic wishes of the people¬† elected me are fulfilled.

‘I apologise to any SNP supporter who elected me purely on the basis of the party I represented but wish to underline that my issue is not with the party as a whole but the attitude of some of its members to this specific project.

‘I will continue to serve the people of Arbroath West and Letham and will be fully accountable to them over the next four years and, hopefully, beyond.’

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9 Responses to Schools campaigner, Councillor Ewan Smith quits Angus Council SNP group and administration to go independent

  1. “I apologise to any SNP supporter who elected me purely on the basis of the party I represented but wish to underline that my issue is not with the party as a whole but the attitude of some of its members to this specific project”

    Seems to say quite clearly that he is happy with the SNP but that he cannot see eye to eye with colleagues on a specific local issue.

    Well done the ForArgyll for trawling far to find a story about an SNP councilor who supports the party but not some of his local team.

    Imagine that.

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    • Voice of Reason, you will note that he had the guts to resign from the SNP Group, more than can be said for some SNP councillors in Argyll & Bute who threatened to resign but did not have the guts.

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    • Indeed – and, closer to home, this is exactly the position in which new current Council Leader, James Robb, found himself over three years ago, when he could not support the SNP group in a particular matter.
      In this case, they suspended him – for two years – during which time he voted with the party group and remained a faithful member of the party itself. He was notable at school closure protests outside council meetings at Kilmory, for parking his car in an obvious place and rolling down two special blinds he had made promoting the SNP.

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  2. Integrity seems to be a quality in short supply amongst some Angus councillors and senior council staff; maybe I’m being naive, but isn’t this subverting the whole basis of democratic government?

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  3. I wish Ewan all the best in his new role as an independent councillor. Throughout the school campaign, before he was elected, he was a strong voice against an extremely dubious closure proposal led forcibly by the previous education convener. It was that endeavour and commitment to stand up against political, and operational, shenanigans that, at least, bordered on shameless manipulation, which resulted in his successful election campaign.

    He is clearly maintaining that principled stance now he has been elected and should be commended for it.
    Good luck Ewan

    p.s. Messi has still never scored against Chelsea

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  4. Thank you for all your considered comments. This was not at all an easy decision but I am absolutely secure in my mind that my actions yesterday underline that I won’t go against the promises I made to people when standing on their doorsteps in May.

    I have changed my position and the umbrella I’m standing under but the one thing I haven’t changed is my mind. Had others not apparently changed their stance then this whole situation could have been avoided.

    People still have the same guy fighting their corner that they elected and, whilst I am fully mindful of the fact some may have elected me on the basis of the party I stood for, I will work extremely hard to show them they can trust me to do right for the community.

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  5. The Director of Education, Neil Logue used the Angus Council web site to publish his personal opinions about Ewan Smith’s opposition to the proposals. This was before Ewan was elected as a councillor. Logue’s letter to the Scottish Government complained that Ewan had been uncooperative by refusing to attend meetings ‘behind closed doors’. The proposals were rejected – lack of transparency on the part of the Council was one reason cited. The people in Angus are now expected, by the SNP ‘controlled’ council, to accept that Councillor Smith,Education Vice- Convenor and the Councillor repesenting the a ward that will be directly affected by proposals, can be excluded from Council meetings! This sums up what democracy means in Angus – is any wonder the turn out at local elections is so poor? I feel very badly let down by the Angus SNP group, not simply because they have become turncoats but because they are behaving in such an underhand and undemocratic manner. I was a supporter of Scottish Independence but this whole issue is making me reconsider that position; I will never trust the SNP again.

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