A meeting of the SNP Group of Councillors in Inveraray last night is being described as ‘robust’.
The key issue is that the SNP’s NEC has flatly ordered the group not to collaborate in any way with Liberal Democrats or Conservatives – failing to understand that it is the SNP itself that has made itself the toxic brand in Argyll, with its hugely destructive in-fighting, orchestrated by its party hierarchy.
The SNP is now the single party-based group of councillors in Argyll and Bute. There no longer are Liberal Democrat or Conservative groupings.
This means that the SNP NEC’s primitive tribalist dictat effectively removes party approval for any cooperation of any kind between the SNP group and any member of either of the Argyll and Bute for Change or Argyll, Lomond and the Isles groups who privately may choose to vote Lib Dem or Conservative.
Former members of the Lib Dem  and Conservative  groups and two resignees from the SNP group may be assumed – not necessarily correctly – to be likely to vote accordingly. There are, however, 14 other non-party councillors whose private voting preferences may now have to be declared to make them acceptable as partners with the SNP group.
In a nation which prides itself on the individual’s right to keep their voting preferences private, this is a profoundly anti-democratic situation – and a fully absurd one.
We are unaware of any constitutional validation for a position where a person’s private voting preference is a formal obstruction to their playing a part in government at any level.
The desperate irrationality of the SNP NEC position is highlighted by the fact that it has, apparently without difficulty, accepted that the SNP are in sole coalition with Conservatives to lead two other local authorities – Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire; and are in three-way coalitions with Liberal Democrat groups in two more, Highland and Scottish Borders.
There is no demonstrable reason – in logic or precedent – for the SNP NEC’s instructions to its councillors here in Argyll and Bute. There is also no concern whatsoever for the greater good of the area itself – which every single councillor is primarily elected to serve.
How the cards fell last night
Inexplicably, Councillors Robert E MacIntyre [Bute] and Gordon Blair are still counted as members of the SNP group, although they left it to become members of the opposing Argyll and Bute for Change group – to which they remain committed.
Moreover, last night one of these two councillors made a desperate effort to co-opt a group of independent councillors to the Argyll and Bute for Change group – against the interests of the official SNP group. He met an unequivocal rejection.
However, the fact that conduct subversive of the official SNP group is sanctioned as in line with NEC wishes could not show more clearly just what absurd contortions the SNP party has got itself into in Argyll and Bute.
Last night’s meeting saw a proposal that the SNP group of councillors should join with the Argyll and Bute for Change group, led by Councillor Dick Walsh with Councillor Duncan MacIntyre.
That proposal was voted down by 8-2, with the two voting in favour of it being the two whose legitimate membership of the SNP group is highly questionable – Robert E MacIntyre and Gordon Blair, who are already members of the Argyll and Bute for Change group.
The eight who voted against were the current group leader, Sandy Taylor; the two former group leaders, Roddy McCuish – also the current Leader of the Council and James Robb; with John Semple, Anne Horn, Richard Trail, Louise Glen-Lee and Mary Jean Devon.
With the situation made clear, that collaboration of any kind with the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives would mean expulsion from the party, four of the eight who voted to retain their sole membership of the SNP group made it clear that they would bow under threat of expulsion.
We know who they are and are surprised and disappointed by the positions of two of these four.
The remaining four will accept expulsion, feeling that the interests of Argyll and Bute must come first and that a team of the best talents across the chamber, regardless of party or group affiliation, is the best way to serve the area.
They also feel that the SNP is out of touch with reality and has no idea how deeply damaging to the public credibility of the party has been the managed internal divisions of the past year.
Growing resistance to ‘Edinburgh’
Three Constituency Association leaders , including the Convener, chose, as is their right, to attend last night’s meeting.
It has always been publicly claimed that ‘the grassroots’ are with the NEC’s position rather than that of the leading group of SNP councillors.
But at last night’s meeting two Branch leaders said that their members are not universally supportive of the NEC position. That indicates a reality check taking place amongst grassroots activists that the party would be ill-advised to ignore.
It is also now known that Councillor Isobel Strong, who is recovering from major surgery, wishes to remain Provost of Argyll and Bute and has not joined Argyll and Bute for Change.
The last meeting of Argyll and Bute Council before the July recess – still not scheduled on the Council website’s Calendar of meetings – ought to be on Thursday 27th June.
That may see some clarity – and may not – but there is over three weeks of manoeuvres and shifting sands to be got through before then.
An indication of just how astray from normal representative politics is the management of the SNP in Argyll and Bute is the handling of invitations to the reception in the ferry terminal at Campbeltown on the first service from the new Ardrossan ferry on 23rd May.
South Kintyre Councillors Rory Colville [Liberal Democrat} and Donald Kelly [Argyll First] were invited only at 7pm that evening. Their names were excluded from the main list of invitees – although Argyll and Bute for Change councillor, Donnie McMillan, representing Mid Argyll, was officially invited. We understand that he attended and that Councillor Colville scrambled quickly and got there.
The event was apparently regarded as ‘an SNP do’ – although it is public money that is paying for a ferry service that is a purely political ploy and very unlikely to show commercial success; and although the ferry is supposed to be for the benefit of Campbeltown and Kintyre, not simply for SNP voters in the area.
It is worth noting that political representation in the three wards involved – South Kintyre, Kintyre and the Islands and Mid Argyll [the most northerly] is exactly evenly split between the Liberal Democrats , Argyll First  and the SNP . The distribution of seats is also even – with each of the three wards having one councillor from each of these three groups.