Argyll and Bute Council: now and next

SNP Councillor Roddy McCuish from Oban is Council Leader.

The following councillors continue today, 29th May, to hold Lead and Depute Lead responsibilities, under constitutional arrangements which suggest that they are an executive while they continue to hold – or continue to choose to hold – these senior responsibilities.

13  Lead Councillors: Mary Jean Devon; George Freeman; Anne Horn; Donald Kelly; Robert E MacIntyre [Bute]; Roddy McCuish; Louise Glen-Lee; Dougie Philand; James Robb; John Semple; Isobel Strong; Sandy Taylor; Richard Trail;

3 Depute Lead Councillors: Gordon Blair; Robert G MacIntyre; Elaine Robertson.

Iain Angus Macdonald has been a Depute Lead Councillor but apparently did resign from that position.

The Council Constitution

The published Council Constitution of 2009 has not been revised. It continues to show that the Executive Committee is a part of the structure of governance of the council; and other structural arrangements that have since been changed.

If there is an unpublished revised Constitution, which we understand there is, there may be a legal issue as to whether a public document or a private one takes precedence.

The published constitution makes no mention whatsoever of a distinct entity called an ‘Administration’; nor, indeed, of anything approximating to what we understand an ‘Administration’ to be.

While the current Council has scrapped the Executive Committee, introduced during the pre-May 2012 administration, the Published Constitution of 2009 continues to show that the Executive Committee is a part of the structure of governance of the council; and cites other structural arrangements that have since been changed.

The published Council Constitution lays down that: ‘The council accepts that Spokespersons and Depute Spokespersons will be appointed to such positions by the council on the nomination of the Leader. Spokespersons will hold office until otherwise determined by the council (but not beyond the life of the council), unless:

‘S/he is suspended from being a councillor in terms of the Ethical Standards in Public Life [Scotland] Act 2000 [although s/he may resume office subject to the approval of the council at the end of the period of suspension].’

From material we have been given, it would seem here that the unpublished revised Constitution retains this precise formulation but simply changes the word ‘Spokesperson’ for the words ‘Lead Councillor’, so we can be confident that the prescription remains the same.

By the constitution, the Leader leads the Spokespersons / Lead Councillors.

From our reading of the entire published Constitution – which is, in many ways, a less than competent document, there is no formal provision for the removal of a Leader or a Spokesperson or Depute Spokesperson.

This would appear to be achievable only by two means:

  • the submission to the full council by the Council Leader – and the council’s consequent approval – of proposed Spokespersons and Depute Spokespersons which differ in some or all respects to those currently holding such positions;
  • individual resignations from such positions.

So what have we got just now?

We have a constitutionally proper and workable political and administrative management of the council, even if, in StarTrekker terms, ‘it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it’.

We have a Council Leader who, by the Constitution, leads a group of Spokespersons / Lead Councillors and their deputies.

We have a Provost, Councillor Isobel Strong; and a Depute Provost, Councillor Dougie Philand. We have a Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Dick Walsh; and four Area Leaders / Chairs of the Area Committees: Robert E McIntyre [Bute and Cowal]; Dougie Philand [Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands];  Roddy McCuish [Oban, Lorn and the Isles];  Richard Trail [Helensburgh and Lomond].

We have a stable officer and staff regime, with the everyday service delivery functions of the Council carrying on as usual.

While this may, in reality, still seem an unsatisfactory situation, it is nevertheless constitutional and does highlight eventualities a revised constitution should cover, as this one does not.

What will happen next?

Council Leader, Roddy McCuish, plans personally to talent spot – to put together a proposed team of Lead Councillors and deputies from the entire body of councillors, as he is constitutionally entitled to do. He will do this regardless of group affiliations, based on those he perceives to have the best skillset for each position of responsibility – and this skillset, constitutionally, includes the ability to work as a member of a team.

It is worth noting here, that Councillor McCuish asserts unequivocally that his predecessor as Leader, Councillor James Robb never operated on anything other than group decisions which he was mandated to take forward. That perspective would appear to be supported by the fact that a core group of eight SNP councillors, which contains Councillor Robb and adds independent collaborating colleagues – Councillors Freeman and Robertson – remain together.

Councillor McCuish will also propose a cross-chamber Scrutiny Committee to oversee the operation of this proposed team.

He will, in the meantime, consult across the spectrum of elected members and will present his proposal to the next meeting of the full council – which is still, today, 29th May, not publicly scheduled on the Council’s Calendar of Meetings.

The Council will vote on this proposal, which will either amend the current set of Spokespersons / Lead Councillors and their deputies and change the way we do local government in Argyll – or leave things as they currently are.

Councillor McCuish is, by nature and philosophy, an inclusive man. He wants to see this approach to local government in Argyll and Bute supported and implemented – and he is right.

It is in the paramount interests of Argyll that we have the best and the most constructive of the abilities available to us, in a position to work for us. The general level of ability and the calibre of expertise and experience councillors can bring to the service of the area is, frankly, poor.

We cannot afford to waste the best we have for no reason other than persisting in governing on the ever-shifting manoeuvering of numbers we have been seeing; nor on self-interested external party political interventionism against the interests of Argyll, as we have also been seeing. The party politics and the numbers games are making Argyll and Bute – again – a national joke, a place of note only for the comedy of its incompetence and chicanery, not for its innovation and success.

The Argyll electorate at large will welcome this proposal and, tribalism excepted, will not be satisfied with groups or individual councillors who obstruct it or cause it to fail.

SNP cross-party collaboration – the picture across Scotland

The SNP hierarchy has formally forbidden its member councillors in Argyll and Bute to enter coalition with, specifically, the Liberal Democrats and/or the Conservatives. Its National Executive Committee [NEC] suspended the majority of its councillors here, in an unprecedented matter of hours, for proposing just such an alliance.

The NEC has given the SNP councillors no explanation whatsoever for this proscription.

Moreover, in no fewer than seven other local authorities across Scotland, the SNP are in coalition with these precise parties, amongst coalitions of every conceivable kind.

  • Dumfries and Galloway Council: Conservative / SNP
  • East Ayrshire Council: SNP / Conservative
  • Highland Council: Labour / SNP / Liberal Democrat
  • Scottish Borders Council: SNP / Independent / Liberal Democrat
  • Edinburgh City Council: Labour / SNP
  • East Renfrewshire Council: Labour / SNP/ Independent
  • Midlothian Council: SNP / Independent

Why should what is acceptable to the SNP NEC in other places, be forbidden in Argyll and Bute?

The shameful reason is that it is not permitted here simply because such an arrangement would see the SNP remain in government when the local MSP and the SNP hierarchy – in their own perceived interests – wish to see their councillors here in comfortable opposition.

Councillor McCuish, with superior political judgment, is sharply aware of the reality: that his party will be unelectable here if it is seen to run away from the responsibilities of government.

He knows – and, in sanity and reason, no one could dispute it – that the SNP cannot win anything on the votes of its activists alone. They need to convince a much wider electorate  – as their 2007 national minority administration did and as Jim Mather did here in Argyll and Bute – that they are capable, responsible, courageous and collaborative. McCuish is indisputably right on all counts.

Roddy McCuish wants to serve, to govern and to lead – as do a group of his colleagues who have remained purposive and stable throughout a chaotic period without parallel in modern politics at any level. He is not fearful and is straightforwardly prepared to take responsibility, with everything that involves.

He has held out – and is holding out – against all of the combined pressures his party, locally and nationally, has exerted to make him lead the SNP councillors out of office, or allow them to disintegrate; and not to collaborate, specifically with Liberal Democrats and Conservatives – while the party, as we have shown, does just that elsewhere.

SNP collaboration within Argyll and Bute Council

Councillor McCuish pays the warmest possible tribute to the Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors whom, at first hand, he has seen make every possible concession to enable collaboration with them by the SNP.

This has included dissolving their own party political group identities – obviously a huge and uncomfortable decision but one he has seen made in the interests of bringing the best possible governance to Argyll and Bute.

It is inaccurate and ungenerous to characterise their concessions as a grab for power – because Councillor McCuish’s proposal is not about group power but about the harnessing of individual abilities across the chamber.

While there are individuals in the former Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups who are amongst the best in the council, others are not – yet they have all agreed to dissolve their party political identities in the interests of the greater good of Argyll and Bute. They have to be commended for this.

Roddy McCuish says of these councillors – with fervour and in respect for the ground he has seen them give: ‘I will never let them down’.

In our view, that too is hope for better – respect and bonds formed for good reason and not for advantage – again because there is no group advantage to be had. It is about capacity building in the interests of better governance of this place.

Argyll First

Argyll First – theoretically, in terms of what this small group has pioneered in Argyll and Bute – which is the very essence of what Councillor McCuish is proposing, ought to be natural, inevitable and immediate supporters of this proposal.

But while the group can absolutely be trusted to be honest and honourable, they cannot necessarily be relied upon to be wise.

The recent fervid manoeuvering amongst councillors has seen this group falter in its purpose and in its clear sightedness. They cannot be blamed for that. No one has been able to see through the murk, most of it generated by external and determined political forces, with a wrecking ball.

But this is a time for Argyll First to stand up and be counted against the values they themselves were the first to define, not to twist words to try and justify a clear swerve away from them.

There is no defensible alternative to their being an enthusiastic and engaged part of this proposed direction  of travel in the council.

It will require every councillor to put aside personal and political antipathies. Those who act on these and persist in holding on to them will be judged negatively by an electorate that has run out of patience.

Argyll First’s slogan is ‘Time for Change’. This is their time and they will be congratulated if they can recognise what it means for where they place their support. If they cannot see – and that would be a substantial disappointment for many, including ourselves – they will be seen to have fallen from their chosen mount at the first really difficult fence.

And a bit of fun

Total immersion in the published Council Constitution has not been without its interesting discoveries. Did you know that – did they and do they? – every single councillor is required to have a Personal Development Plan, designed to bring them to acquire the competencies constitutionally demanded of an elected councillor?

FoI anyone?


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28 Responses to Argyll and Bute Council: now and next

  1. Good to see that Cllr McCuish at least recognises that it was the SNP that created this shambles and that the SNP must be at the forefront of any attempt to recover the situation.

    I note that Cllr Robb always stood by SNP Group decisions – that means de facto that far from being the abrasive megalomaniac some paint him on here – he was actually acting with (he thought) the active support of his colleagues. Let’s face it – he was sadly mistaken.

    The SNP have not been a force for good so far, they have not acted in the interests of Argyll and Bute preferring to put their personal ambition and their egos first.

    Will McCuish succeed? Well, if he doesn’t the track record suggests it will be his erstwhile SNP party colleagues who will stab him in the back.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 9

  2. Can I say I have never read a “Mills and Boon” but this must be as near to it as I have got.

    Newsie give up the day job like reporting news and move onto fantasy.

    The quote ” I will never let them down” is comical.

    Should you feel nauseous after reading the above gushing prose?

    ps As a matter of interest any resignations recently that weren’t really resignations–just curious?



    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 19

    • H20 Your sneering attacks on Newsie are most tedious and childish Why not try to grow up and take to reporting yourself? Go on show us how to do it!!!!!!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 12

      • Dear Jim Bean
        I can confirm that no one has resigned.–fact not fiction. Your turn Jimbo!

        ps after the last fiasco or two–I asked NEWSIE if there is a formal complaint processfor FORARGYLL similar to the Press Complaints Process. I await a reply……………………………………………………..

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  3. Well done to Roddy and the real SNP. The council constitution was revised in September 2012. Whilst Philand and McAlpine have supported previous administration decisions such as Struan Lodge, Donald Kelly won’t accept collective responsibility as his voting record shows – not called “teflon” for nothing. Argyll First should dump him and support Roddy. Robb has handled all the cowardly cybernats like H2O with a quiet dignity.
    The SNP NEC should stand up to Mike Russell and allow cross party collaboration.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 9

    • Anne– Real SNP ?
      What about all the branch members who disagree with Robb and McCuish are they not real members in your books?

      Are you still a member because I thought you resigned with NEWSIE?

      Thanks for the recognition in your blog it just shows that I am getting under your skins ie those that undermined their colleagues –

      Re Robb and quiet dignity. I agree with the quiet–he was very quiet when in the shadows he and his pals were making deals with the tories and liberal dem’s -even agreeing promoted posts.
      Both him and his 2 colleagues were so quiet they forgot to tell their own party, constituency branch members and thought that they could impose their will on HQ as a done deal. It must have been a shock when they were told no. Conscientious members as they are they signed on the dotted line that they must abide by the rules and continued as nothing has happened.
      As they say the rest is history.

      What of the Future.

      If McCuish, Robb and Semple can get enough councillors on board with promoted posts etc they will resign as SNP members and form a new administration. Such loyalty.

      The problem of course that in the past few months they have made more enemies and no friends. No one wants to be associated with them apart from Anne and Newsie.

      Either way I would predict they will be removed from the SNP.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 15

  4. It was the novice councillors childish resignations and the absence of collective responsibility that led to this. The external SNP interference that blocked any solution making it worse. Great to see a positive way forward.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 13

  5. @H2O looks to me as if this piece has come directly from McCuish and therefore that the fantastical part of the page is your comment. This being so, I really think Newsie has been entirely vindicated as far as her reading of the previous weeks shenanigans are concerned! Well done FA!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  6. New group to run Argyll and Bute Council
    A new group has been formed to run the administration of Argyll and Bute Council.

    A previous attempt by the SNP to form a coalition with the Conservatives and Lib Dems failed.

    The SNP group on the council had not sought approval of the party’s National Executive Committee for the deal.

    The new administration, Argyll and Bute for Change, has been formed by Argyll First, the SNP and Independent councillors.

    Newsie – This was on the BBC website this morning what is your take on this? Is this part of Roddy’s master plan or is this the opposite side of the fence from what you describe above?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

    • There is no ‘new administration’ at Argyll and Bute.
      What happens next will be decided by the full council at its next meeting, whenever that turns out to be but presumably in June.

      Last night, BBC Scotland’s 18.30 news – running through the summaries of the stories coming up, included an item that ‘a new group – Argyll and Bute for Change ‘”wanted to take over the council” ‘ – and promised more on the story. That never materialised in the following news programme. This would suggest that the story was pulled, possibly, by being premature – but it was a strange little incident.

      It is the responsibility of the Council Leader to nominate Lead and Depute Councillors for the approval of the council – and that is clearly what Councillor McCuish intends to do – on the basis that we have published. If his proposals are rejected, then counter proposals could be put.

      Decent members of the SNP have consistently tried to do the job in local government they were elected to do. Given how destructively they have been treated by their own party hierarchy, desperate to get the party out of power in Argyll and Bute; and given what Argyll and Bute has been put through by that party in the pursuit of its own ends, there is every reason for all councillors to consider the non-adversarial, consensus approach to local government that Councillor McCuish is advocating and will propose.

      The contents of our inboxes and phones are making it very clear that the Argyll electorate at large will not be forgiving of any group or councillor who cannot rise to an occasion where the Council Leader’s proposal offers fairness and opportunity on merit across the entire chamber. That would be the best possible outcome for Argyll – and any who choose to put other interests above those of the abused Argyll will be accountable to the electorate for their actions in 2017.

      We have been sickened by the vicious selfish damage of what has gone on and we will ensure that, come that election campaign, no detail of the irresponsible pantomime Argyll has suffered will be forgotten – and we have the archives. This is a time like no other for responsibility and collaboration.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

  7. Pardon my naivety, but aren’t we basically just back at Square One?
    I don’t see a coalesced “Administration” here, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Roddy’s shoes tonight. How is he going to “choose” or “nominate” Lead and Depute Councillors? Out of his own head?? Or on what other basis???
    Councillors’ knowledge based on years of experience???? Or flying kites?????
    Who does he have backing him?
    Who will support his “choices”?
    Who’s watching and monitoring his every move …?

    To be honest, I don’t really CARE any more. I’m just attempting to maintain the pretence of a MILD INTEREST.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. Would every contributor please reveal their full names as evidence of their good faith?

    It’s rather pathetic criticising others from the comfort of anonymity

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 16

        • Pathetic.
          Bored with this one, explained loads of times why I choose not to.
          I have yet to hear any rational or productive reasons to reveal our identity on these platforms and will certainly not do so to satisfy those who are more interested in the individuals who post rather than the content of their posts, their views and opinions.

          “A desire for privacy does not imply shameful secrets; Moglen argues, again and again, that without anonymity in discourse, free speech is impossible, and hence also democracy. The right to speak the truth to power does not shield the speaker from the consequences of doing so; only comparable power or anonymity can do that.”

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  9. Lovely thought Graeme it would be nice to start with your SNP pals but I can certainly understand why they want to remain anonymous after the way there councillors have behaved in Argyll.
    Cheers Neil.
    I hear on the grapevine that there is more fun to come.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

    • Your pal McCuish letting you in to his secrets?

      As a commy councillor maybe you could be his PA? Sorry Semple his bag man with Robb in charge.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    • Please Neil … seriously … I do not, DO NOT want any more of what you are pleased to call FUN.
      I just want to know that I – and everyone else in Argyll & Bute – are being fairly, sensibly and reasonably represented.
      Not seeing it.
      If anyone thinks that this is so, please explain.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  10. ClootieDumpling you need to relax and wait a while yet as the best has still to come as for being sensibly and reasonably represented well that’s down to you and the councillors in your area to debate unless you want to give everybody on here your name and throw it open to debate.
    As for the fun well if you don,t have a sense of humour watching this shambles you are in trouble.
    But keep the faith help is at hand.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  11. Roddy McCuish is leader of the council and is acting unilaterally. He is clearly exploring options and has been reported in the P&J, the Herald and on BBC as pursuing different ones from those described here.

    Sandy Taylor is leader of the SNP group which is also exploring options and will come to a democratic and collective decision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  12. Anne, “Sandy Taylor is leader of the SNP group which is also exploring options and will come to a democratic and collective decision”.

    Well that’s just great – but pardon me if I don’t hold my my breath

    See, did the SNP Group not already come to a “democratic and collective decision” in a) agreeing the budget? b) Including agreeing that Lodge should close? and c) in re-affirming Struan Lodge should close?
    Thereafter of course the SNP Group broke into at least two factions who have been very publicly at each others throat since then.

    This is now known as “democratic and collective decision” SNP style.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

    • .This surely is where you throw your bunnet in the air.The one about the SNP and thier democratic decisions made elsewhere.Why not invite Wee Eck to the next meeting and have intant resolution to the no direction shambles we are living under.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

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