Dunoon Councillor Michael Breslin this morning pulled the pin on the potential implosion of the SNP Group leading the coalition administration of Argyll and Bute Council.
In advance of the SNP’s disciplinary hearing tomorrow on his earlier conduct under the former Council Leader, his party colleague Councillor Roddy McCuish, Councillor Breslin has resigned the party whip, taking the coalition majority to 19-17.
Mr Breslin has cited two causes for his action: the closure of Dunoon’s Struan Lodge care home; and the leadership of the second Council Leader in the hot seat since last May Councillor James Robb of Helensburgh.
Given that Mr Breslin had done his best to make trouble for the first leader, Councillor Roddy McCuish – who had simply accepted the resignation he had intended to be a threat to make McCuish comply with his wishes, it is rather repetitive for Breslin now to be claiming dissatisfaction with Robb as well.
This looks like someone who is simply not the team player his job as a party member requires him to be. In doing what he has just done, he is seen to have put ego before party loyalty and discipline – and to have made the position of independent councillors look far more attractive than party membership.
Nome of this can possibly be what his party wants to see – and on its own watch as the leading group in the local authority administration.
Councillor Breslin is foregrounding his fidelity to Struan Lodge as his principal reason for departure from the group – and appears to be suggesting that the responsibility for the Struan Lodge closure is carried singly by Councillor Robb.
This is demonstrably irrational on all counts.
Councillor Breslin threatened to resign before, to try to get former leader, Councillor McCuish to reverse the decision to propose the closure of Struan Lodge. Councillor McCuish chose to accept his resignation but the group reinstated Mr Breslin. When the vote came at full council and Mr Breslin had the chance to put his money where his mouth was, he abstained and did not vote against it.
The party group as a whole had agreed to propose this closure to full council, not just Councillor Robb who by then had become Leader when Councillor McCuish stepped down on 14th February.
The full council voted by a narrow majority to close the care home, thus converting the proposal to a decision to do so.
That was not voted by Councillor Robb but by the coalition with the exception of two abstentions – Councillor Breslin’s and Councillor Kelly’s.
Following the council vote, Councillor Breslin then issued the new Council Leader with an ultimatum that he answer two questions from Mr Breslin [which he had in essence already answered] ‘by 17.00 tomorrow’, indicating that ‘failure to be clear’ by 17.00 would be ‘very problematic’. Councillor Robb held his ground and the sky did not fall in. Another bluff called.
Councillor Breslin’s action today appears to be a self-perceived Samson taking down the pillars with him. The group would have had no choice but to discipline him tomorrow, had the hearing taken place. Ironically, they would have had no choice because they previously disciplined Councillor Robb for a lesser offence, leaving him suspended from the group for two years.
This frightfully chaotic and self-centred mess speaks for the politics of the hothouse, of people who forget that they were elected to do a job and that, elected as party representatives, they have a wider responsibility to that party, to make it be and appear to be worthy of government.
For Argyll supported the prospect of an SNP led administration at Argyll and Bute council and we, for one, could not have been more let down that we have been.
We have seen a regime where council officers call the tune and where councillors spend their time in internecine warfare driven by personality conflicts and by external intervention of questionable propriety and unquestionable poor judgment.
Would we support them again? who would?. This has been playschool with faction fighting and hand grenades aimed serially at internal targets.
We were told over five weeks ago, that there was a plan being cooked up by a small but influential faction within the SNP group with external influence, to take it into opposition in the council.
We discounted this absolutely, believing that it would signal a failure of nerve so substantial that it would make the SNP unelectable in Argyll and Bute. If there were to be any more resignations and if they were to be from a predictable coterie, they would prove the accuracy of the information we disbelieved.
Should it prove to have been correct, it really with be time to write ‘The End’ to any serious SNP influence in Argyll and Bute.
Since the party which owns this group appears to have left them to the guidance of the local MSP, who can have had no positive impact on the self-destruct mechanism that so afflicts them, the wider party too must suffer damage to its credibility at the worst possible time.
The only chance the SNP group in Argyll and Bute have is to find some political courage – because Councillor Breslin and some others , in and beyond the group, have shown none. Councilor Robb has shown himself to be possessed of that courage – which may indeed be the cause of the latest internal problem.
It’s their game and it’s their wake. They’re making it one hell of a spectator sport – and for the current opposition. That is not what we supported in 2011-12.
It also cannot be what the SNP’s coalition partners thought they were walking into when they offered their own support only ten months ago – since when they have behaved with exemplary loyalty, like grown ups.