Councillor Blair pulls back from the brink

At yesterday’s meeting of the SNP group ‘leading’ the administration of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Gordon Blair chose not to resign from the party.

In doing so, he pulled the group back from the certain political abyss into which his planned action would have propelled them.

The group is now in continuing limbo until we see if some semblance of political discipline and judgment obtains.

The plan had been that Councillor Breslin’s resignation was to be followed by one from Councillor Blair, hoping to see the sort of rolling revolt that would have unseated the second SNP group Leader of Argyll and Bute Council in under a year.

The plan to defenestrate a second leader – with the single aim of getting Breslin into the chair – is not essentially about saving Dunoon’s Struan Lodge care home. It is centrally about control – and then about putting a panicky self-interest before the interests of Argyll as a whole.

Dunoon is one of the five main towns in Argyll – but it is not Argyll.

The interests of one place cannot swing the spending and the policy of a council entrusted with governing in the interests of all.

The elderly on Mull, for example, are in a precarious situation, without the 47 free care home spaces available in Cowal last week – despite the politically motivated distortion that the closure of Struan Lodge would cause ‘bed blocking’.

At the heart of this is the external control freakery that has made mischief in this party group and this administration from the start. This is an obsessive determination to win dominance at the cost of seeing the local party unlikely to be trusted again to govern Argyll and Bute.

There is a fabulous Leonard Cohen song, The Captain, set in what seems to be the aftermath of a Vietnam military debacle.  Its opening lines are:

‘Now the Captain called me to his bed
He fumbled for my hand
“Take these silver bars,” he said
“I’m giving you command.”
“Command of what, there’s no one here
There’s only you and me –
All the rest are dead or in retreat
Or with the enemy.’

And that’s the issue.

The drive to take an improper and unconstitutional control of the council administration is getting to the point where ‘Command of what? There’s no one here. There’s only you and me’ will sum it up.

The first leader of the administration, the universally liked and trusted Councillor Roddy McCuish, proved to be his own man. That was not the plan. He wasn’t meant to be like that. That was a nuisance. He duly stepped down, after giving notice that he was likely do so, at the Council Meeting on 14th February

Roddy McCuish’s straightforwardness and common sense dignifies local politics – and particularly at the moment,  but his independent stance made him the focus for manoeuvres.

Councillor James Robb, who was then installed, became leader because the planned elevation of Breslin could not be put into action at that time. This was because Councilor Breslin’s status in the group was then uncertain, following the threat of resignation he  had issued and which was neatly trumped by then Leader, Councillor McCuish’s simple acceptance of it.

As we have said, this was the last thing the cabal had wanted because Robb has always manifestly been his own man. Like Councillor McCuish before him, he is not ‘manageable’, so he has been demonised – and particularly in Dunoon, the home territory of the cabal, where the erection of the gibbet is always a locally appealing ploy.

These politics simply stink.

Those who newly voted for the SNP candidates in Argyll and Bute in the May 2012 council elections did so because they dreamed of old fashioned things like openness, collegiality, integrity, strategic vision and a steady and principled hand guiding Argyll and Bute through extraordinarily difficult times.

They  – and we – could not have imagined and would certainly not have chosen the vicious internecine conflicts that have characterised the SNP group since it gained its lead group position in the council.

The former administration, now the opposition, has had to do no more than sit back and watch, open jawed, as the lemmings have rushed for the cliff-face under their own propulsion. It’s been a year-round Christmas.

There have been moments of saving grace.

Councillor John Semple, a better hearted man than he often gets credit for, unselfishly moved aside as Depute Council Leader, to make way for Councillor McCuish, when he ceased to be leader.

This was good judgment because Councillor McCuish is a steadying influence for the group in these warring times  – and it was a gesture generously made.

The planned revolt against Councillor Robb, now aborted with Councillor Blair’s decision not to resign, has failed – for the time being.

Will the group be given time and peace to coalesce as they must do, without questionable interventions?

Or, as before, will a short hiatus be followed by another round of manoeuvres?

We’re taking no bets.

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13 Responses to Councillor Blair pulls back from the brink

  1. Well done to John Semple. I didnt realise what had happened re the Depute group leader position.
    There are those in the SNP group who are principled but the Dunoon gang have let the side down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. What an unedifying spectacle: internal squabbling, mischief making, threats of resignation if Cllrs don’t get their own way, Breslin publicly blaming Robb’s leadership and calling in his resignation letter for Robb to stand down, Blair sitting on a fence whilst praising Breslin for “his advice and leadership”, the SNP locally in Dunoon supporting Breslin and pledging to back him re Struan Lodge.

    What on earth is going on?

    All the evidence suggests that this is not a Party at peace with itself or with common purpose.

    Let’s face it – if the SNP can’t trust each other – why should the electorate trust them?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Please judge the administration on it’s success in improving the lives of most people in Argyll and Bute.

    There will always be contentious issues particularly in such a varied council area, but if the administration is open about it’s policies and challenges and tries to be fair across the council area then we shall be well served

    Let’s all focus on economic development and encouraging young active families because without them all the council can do is re-arrange the deck chairs.

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    • These are absolutely the key issues – good government at any level is abut keeping your focus on the big issues to be tackled and getting on with doing the job of turning them around, honestly, openly and fairly.
      Everyone makes mistakes but when they are made in honest pursuit of doing a decent job, people understand and accept them.
      It’s the interference, the trickery, the scheming, the game playing, the rampant egos and the sheer political stupidity that has made this mess.
      Those who wanted to get on with the job have simply been unable to do so.
      They now need the freedom to do just that, if this administration is to have a chance of succeeding.
      And its scrutiny of the conduct of its officials is a parallel imperative.

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  4. Newsroom,- you say there were ’47 free care home spaces available in Cowal last week’, can you tell us where?

    It will come as no surprise that I am not a supporter of the Snp, but I would like to know where is your evidence that there is a ‘plan’ that Councillor Breslin’s resignation was to be followed by Councillor Blair’s? and then ‘with the single aim of getting Breslin into the chair’, I would find it hard to believe Mike Breslin had ambitions to become leader of the council at this stage of his political career!
    If you know different then tell us.

    You are correct to say Dunoon is not Argyll.
    Oban is not Argyll.
    Campbelltown is not Argyll.
    Lochgilphead is not Argyll.
    Rothesay is obviously not Argyll…it’s on Bute.
    Helensburgh is most certainly not Argyll.

    The council would do well to remember they should be governing in the interests of all…but are they?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • No. We asked how many there were available in Cowal; and there were 47.
      We have said that it is incumbent on the council to treat every one of the ten residents as the individual case they are, looking at the specific alternatives that will best fit their needs and those of their families and friends.
      We assume that ten residents will mean different solutions for relocation and needed only to know at this stage whether or not there were alternative places available in their area.
      We had accepted the local MSP’s claims that the Struan Lodge residents would cause a bed blocking problem if they were moved – but when we checked this out, the claims proved to be quite unfounded, given the degree of available provision in the area.
      It is unhelpful for incorrect and inflammatory claims to be made for political ends where they can cause needless distress and alarm as was the case in this instance.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Newsroom,- You asked how many there were in Cowal; and there were 47! Who gave you this answer? If you were told 147 would you believe them?
    Re the bed blocking problem,- ‘but we checked this out’, with who? to make such a statement surely you must provide details of where you checked this out!

    You then suggest ‘it is unhelpful for incorrect and inflammatory claims to be made for political ends where they can cause needless distress and alarm as was the case in this instance’.

    The political infighting amongst the Snp should be the focus of your attention, not attacks on one particular area of Argyll and Bute.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • We weren’t told. We asked. This is public service information anyone can ring up and ask about and should be given.
      So no, we have no electronic listening kit sneaked into Kilmory.
      Life is generally more straightforward than you seem to imagine.

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      • I can assure you my life is generally straightforward and none of my questions to you are in my imagination.

        I merely asked questions at 5,6 and 7 based on comments made by newsroom, but apparently without foundation!

        If you are unable to answer these questions then fine!

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  6. Your question was answered Gus: “We weren’t told. We asked. This is public service information anyone can ring up and ask about and should be given.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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