The SNP group is supposed to be being led by novice councillor Sandy Taylor – who seems to have mislaid his GPS.
Taylor, a rookie helmsman, with the experienced sail trimmer, councillor John Semple and the man who doesn’t know where he is, novice councillor, Gordon Blair as navigator, were found yesterday rafted up in strange company.
In what was clearly a compass failure, staff sources have let us know that these three met in Kilmory yesterday, 5th July, with Councillor Duncan Macintyre, who leads the opposing Argyll and Bute for Change group to which Councillor Blair formally belongs.
At the secret get together were two of Councillor Macintyre’s Argyll and Bute for Change colleagues, also novice members, Councillors Iain Angus Macdonald and Michael Breslin, an SNP resignee, now an independent, of sorts.
The full council, at its meeting only a week ago, instructed SNP Council Leader, Roddy McCuish, to take forward the agreed proposal to establish a Short Life Working Group to prepare and report on recommendations for the political management of the council.
This was a successful amendment proposed by Councillor Semple, seconded by Councillor Taylor – and not supported by Councillor Blair, even though it was his party’s proposition.
Since Semple and Taylor were the prime movers in this successful proposal and since their party colleague and Council Leader, Councillor McCuish had been charged, as Leader, with taking the agreed action forward, we enquired of SNP sources as to what yesterday’s strange meeting was about.
We met a tight lipped response, with the eventual and clipped information that Councillor Taylor had afterwards emailed his other colleagues in the SNP group of councillors to say that he had been involved in such a meeting and that his intention was ‘to try and take things forward’.
Forgive us for being punctilious about procedural propriety – but Councillor Taylor has not been charged with taking anything forward.
It is Council Leader McCuish who has that responsibility.
We have been unable to establish whether or not Councillor McCuish had been consulted on this particular meeting and had mandated these three councillors ‘to try to take things forward’.
It is certain that ‘the way forward’ for Councillors Macintyre, Macdonald and Breslin will be very different from ‘the way forward’ Councillor McCuish was mandated to pursue by the majority vote of the council in favour of the SNP amendment.
The very fact that this, again, was an exclusive group and not a representative one, underlines that difference.
So why would the leader of the SNP group who seconded the successful proposal that empowered Councillor McCuish to act – and Councillor Semple who proposed it – be in secret session with those who opposed it with an incompetent motion; and with political cross-dresser, Councillor Blair, who could not support his Argyll and Bute for Change colleagues motion and did not support his SNP colleagues amendment?
It seems that in spite of everything – including the wilful destruction of their party’s credibility in local politics, the concerns of the national audit commission for relations between elected members and public recoil from the endless scheming and neglect of elected responsibilities for governance of Argyll, the SNP cabal cannot conduct themselves with probity.
These guys are bottom feeders with no political integrity.
How can Argyll hope to arrive at a point of trustworthy political management when procedures formally agreed in public by the full council are manoeuvred against in covert conclave after the event by those who simply refuse to accept anything except what their instructors want to see. [We say 'covert conclave' because, although their SNP colleagues will not confirm this, we have every reason to believe that several of them were neither informed of this meeting nor invited to it.]
There are two major questions here:
- Just who or what is Councilor Taylor ‘leading’ – since he is clearly making no attempt to lead the SNP group as a whole?
- For what purpose did Councillors Semple and Taylor take part in what was patently a charade for the benefit of Audit Scotland and a public audience at last Thursday council meeting – in proposing and seconding a successful amendment whose spirit they themselves seem now to be working to subvert?
Composition of the Short Life Working Group
The twelve seats agreed for the Short Life Working Group – which will be a properly constituted committee of Council – have been allocated proportionately as best possible amongst the various interests in the council.
This will see the leaders of each group invited to nominate the following numbers of members to the Working Group:
- 4: SNP Group
- 3: Argyll and Bute for Change
- 3: Argyll, Lomond and the Isles
- 1: Argyll First
- 1: Other independents
An issue to watch here is that membership of the Short Life Working Group could be heavily skewed in an unrepresentative imbalance of interests in the council.
The actual opposing forces in the body of councillors at the moment are:
- Argyll and Bute for Change – which, on 23rd May registered its existence with council officers – the rump of the former Alliance of Independent Councillors, listing its membership as including three SNP councillors who are also members of the SNP Group; two SNP resignees, now independents; the three Argyll First councillors; and Councillor Iain Angus Madonald who may also count within ‘Other Independents’.
- The SNP Group, which still contains the three councillors [Gordon Blair, Robert E Macintyre and Isobel Strong] who were registered on 23rd May as members of the opposing Argyll and Bute for Change group; supported by the Argyll Lomond and the Isles group which registered with council officers earlier than Argyll and Bute for Change, listing its members as including 3 personally Conservative Councillors, four personally Liberal Democrat Councllors, two Argyll and Bute Independent Councillors; and Independent Councillor, Elaine Robertson – who may also count amongst ‘Other Independents’.
- ‘Other independents’ – which would be Councillor Elaine Robertson and possibly Councillor Iain Angus Macdonald.
Here’s a scenario to consider.
Councillor Duncan Macintyre, as Leader for Argyll and Bute for Change, nominates himself and Councillors Dick Walsh and Michael Breslin [an SNP resignee] as his group’s three members of the Working Group.
Councillor Sandy Taylor, as Leader of the SNP Group, construes that group as including the SNP councillors who now support Argyll and Bute for Change and, as his four seats: nominates himself, Councillor Roddy McCuish, who, as Council Leader will chair the group – and Councillors John Semple and Gordon Blair – who were part of his covert meeting with the Argyll and Bute for Change three yesterday, and are elements of whatever stew was cooked up between them.
Councillor Ellen Morton, Leader of Argyll, Lomond and the Isles group, nominates as her three, herself, Councillor Gary Mulvaney and Councillor George Freeman of the Argyll and Bute Independent Councillors Group.
Councillor Dougie Philand, as Leader of the Argyll First Group, nominates himself.
Councillor Iain Angus Macdonald takes the place allocated to ‘Other Independents’, with Councillor Elaine Robertson famously unpushy in the face of the interests of others.
This outcome of this pattern of nominations would see, as follows, the membership of the Short Life Working Group skewed to the advantage of a group formally and covertly opposed to the very amendment that created the Working Group:
8: Argyll and Bute for Change group or alliance: Councillors D Macintyre, Walsh, Breslin / Councillors Taylor, Semple, Blair / Councilor Philand / Councillor Macdonald.
4: made up of 1 sole SNP faithfull and supporters: Councillor Roddy McCuish [Council Leader] / Councillors E Morton, Mulvaney, Freeman.
This is not the balance of interests the council had in mind when it voted to support Councillor McCuish’s establishment of the Short Life Working Group.
Rumours persist that Councillors Taylor and Semple will, as externally instructed, join their SNP colleagues, Gordon Blair and Robert E Macintyre in Argyll and Bute for Change, when the time is right.
That time is likely to be after some cook-up is finally agreed by council, seeing Argyl and Bute for Change as ringmasters and before the resulting paid senior posts are about to be divvied up.
Note: To establish just what scenarios are possible in attempts to manipulate the membership of the Short Life Working Party – and in a situation marked only by the certainty that the sands keep shifting, we have asked the appropriate Executive Director of the Council for a note on the current groups of councillors registered as operating in the council; and the membership of each.