Provost of Argyll and Bute offers trust of chamber as hostage to her party’s interests

It is now both known and documented that Councillor Isobel Strong, Provost of Argyll and Bute Council, attended, as a representative of her party,  a meeting between two party groups exclusively negotiating political management arrangements at the council.

This negotiation directly undermined the role of the cross-chamber Short Life Working Group on Political Management Arrangements. This group, a committee of council, was established by the full council at its meeting at the end of June – in the presence of Audit Scotland’s commissioners. It was tasked with bringing to council regular reports on its progress and, in due time, its recommendations on the manner of political management arrangements acceptable to all in the current dysfunctional circumstances.

A substantial group of councillors, the ten strong Argyll Lomond and the Isles Group , was excluded from these covert discussions.  At the meeting, the Provost was a representative of the SNP Group which  – as is documented in minutes of an SNP Group meeting which we published earlier today – was negotiating political management arrangements with the Argyll and Bute for Change Group of the majority of independents.

This conduct is a breach by the Provost – and a serious one in the current fragile circumstances of the council – of the detachment from the political required by her role.

When an elected members become Provost, they are translated to a different level of operation, certainly as representative of the entire chamber and of the area the council represents and, on occasion, an adjudicatory role in internal disputes.

The role of Provost in local government equates to that of Speaker in the House of Commons  where, traditionally, personal political affiliations and interests must be set aside.

It is inconceivable that it is proper for a Provost to be directly complicit in the exclusion of one body of elected members and to engage in such exclusion in the interests of a partisan and competitive element.

Moreover, the Provost has been seen to act in this way in defiance of the assurances given to the national audit commission,

The commisisoners witnessed the minuted commitment of the council,in a roll call vote at the June meeting, to move to chamber-wide collaborative political management.

Here we have the Provost herself conniving to undermine that commitment, disabling the council’s Short Life Working Group on Political Management Arrangements from being able to deliver on its understood responsibilities.

It is hard to see that the Provost can now have the universal trust of the entire chamber, as is a baseline requirement of her job. She has manifestly shown no interest in seeing that the interests of all councillors have been fairly represented.

It is equally difficult to see how, with any credibility the Provost, in this overtly partisan engagement, can be seen to represent the council as a whole – and to present an apparently objective council-wide view to bodies like the Audit Commission or to the electorate at large.

Audit Scotland have been investigating member-to-member and member-to-officer relations within Argyll and Bute Council.

Provost Strong has seen fit to act as a partisan negotiator in discussions that excluded ten of her fellow councillors altogether – and where she represented a subset of her own party group in an action which her own party’s Leader of the Council and three other of her party colleagues  do not support. All of this indicates that she cannot be said – as Provost – to be working to improve member-to-member relations in any way.

It is simply imperative that elected members in Scotland’s local authorities – and Argyll and Bute in particular – come to understand the imperative of probity and start working to attain it.

For Provost Strong, there is no foundation for trust here – in any sphere – where trust is the sine qua non of the role of a Provost.

This would indicate powerfully that it is time for the Provost to consider her position.

The role of the Provost

West Lothian Council, which we take to be indicative, describes the role of the Provost [Ed: the emphases are ours] as:

‘The Provost is required to ensure that the interests of all councillors are represented fairly and that they are given a fair hearing in Council meetings.

‘The responsibilities of all members of West Lothian Council to maintain the highest standards of conduct apply particularly to the Provost who is in a position, through personal conduct, to promote the values of the Council, to provide an example to others and to enhance the reputation of the Council and West Lothian.’

‘The Provost is required to act at all times in a manner to enhance the reputation of the Council in terms of fair representation, open government and accountability and as a representative of both the Council and the community, to maintain the highest standards of integrity and behaviour in accordance with the Council’s Standing Orders and the Councillors’ Code of Conduct approved by the Scottish Parliament and enforced through the Standards Commission and any local arrangements applicable within West Lothian.’

For Argyll interprets ‘fair representation’ and ‘open government’ to be the antithesis of what the Provost has been doing in this matter; and we interpret the responsibility to act as ‘a representative of both the council and the community’ to mean that the interests of the substantial spectrum of the ‘community’ of Argyll and Bute who voted for the excluded councillors are far from being represented at this critical time.

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22 Responses to Provost of Argyll and Bute offers trust of chamber as hostage to her party’s interests

  1. The SNP just don’t get it, do they? They break rules, policies and protocols as if they believe they apply to everyone except themselves.

    I’m glad you’re keeping us up to date Newsie, and exposing their behaviour, otherwise who knows what else they’d be getting up to. In my opinion, they’re the biggest time and money wasters we’ve ever had in Argyll and Bute. Don’t forget, we’re paying their salaries and expenses. On that note, do they claim mileage from the council to attend SNP meetings?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 14

  2. Lowry to be fair Duncan and his troops have obviously promised councillor Strong that she will get to the meetings this time instead of the ball.
    As she was so easily dismissed by Walsh and Sneedon during the Schools shambles she is not even a player anymore.
    It doesn,t matter what way they try and dress this up you are still left with the same faces so the fun and games will just continue.
    Oban,s Chord meeting will be very interesting to see what this new lady has managed to put together she certainly sounds the real deal so fingers crossed.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  3. Agree Lowry, just think of all those extra meetings that have taken place throughtout the year of the worst attempt at running an administration ever seen in Argyll and Bute. This turmoil has pocketed a lot of extra cash in expenses for many extra meetings, maybe it’s a plan just to milk it drier. It will only sort itself out when there is nothing left? Makes you think doesn’t it?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 10

  4. No doubt she should resign. Perhaps Farmer McIntyre could put her out to grass. Neil has Fred Hall had another melt-down. Agree Louise is doing a great job on chord.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

    • NoCheeseHere, Give us the progress on Chord. It is five years of inconclusive meetings and since May 2012, Louise “Maggie Thatcher” Glen Lee has hardly brought it to a proper conclusion for the Oban economy and local jobs. Are you the dodgy four’s press agent.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  5. It seems some so called snp members and supporters think it is helpful to Scottish independence to anonymously ridicule elected snp councillors or anybody supporting them. Anonymous mean and nasty dross it is. After independence you can vote for your Tory government or communist.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 13

  6. Anonymous maybe but not mean nasty or small minded. Scotland s future is finally in the hands of the Scottish people. What is your contribution?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  7. J – are you saying that you actually support the SNP councillors who have caused mayhem within the council since the election? Is this really what you want to see rolled out across Scotland?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

    • You need to be specific here to make it clear exactly what you are saying.
      The ‘opposition’ has not been a unified ‘opposition’ since the SNP corroded into two camps.
      There is the Argyll and Bute for Change ‘opposition’ – amongst whose members are both former and present members of the SNP group.
      There is the Argyll, Lomond and the Isles group which has amongst its members former partners of the SNP group in political management arrangements since May 2012; along with the Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors.
      All of these councillors were willing to partner the rSNP who wished to remain in the government they had been elected to deliver. To the best of our knowledge none of these councillors, individually or in groups, made any demands whatsoever but were focused solely on doing what they could to hep bring stability to the governance of Argyll and Bute.
      So which of these ‘opposition’ groups do you see as being guilty of ‘greed’?
      Then you speak of SNP ‘traitors’.
      Here too you will need to be specific as to which camp you are referring.
      Outsiders like ourselves see the heart of the SNP as being represented by the minority willing to take responsibility and not run away from elected power. Therefore there is a reasoned position that sees the runaways as the ‘traitors’. But this depends on whether you see the primary loyalty of elected members as being due to party or electorate. The The runaways unequivocally betrayed and are betraying the electorate.
      But the SNP Bravehearts see the bolters as the party faithful, willingly doing as they are told by the party hierarchy and getting out of power by whatever means they can and as fast as possible to put clear water between now and September 2014.
      The Bravehearts see as ‘traitors’ [to the party, which is all they care about and not the electorate] the minority that has insisted on putting elected responbility first.
      So – in your view – who are you referring to as the ‘greedy opposition’ and who do you see as the ‘traitors’?
      This mess of multiple perspectives is such that no one but you can be sure what you are saying here unless you clarify your own perspective.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

      • I wonder if this Argyll & Bute ‘mess of multiple perspectives’ risks being repeated on a much larger scale if the ‘yes’ vote wins the referendum – might the SNP lose their raison d’etre in the eyes of enough of the electorate to cause chaos within the ranks, with some Holyrood politicians playing musical chairs and diving for cover?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  8. You supported the Robb McCuish camp who were in secret negotiations with the Tory lib dems in Helensburgh. You know that they did not involve their fellow colleagues apart from the gang who are now abandoning McCuish as they look around for the next gold coin as time runs out. Accept that Breslin Russell poisoned relations with Breslin refusing to fight from within the snp but bark from the sidelines. A few snp stalwarts fought the battle of Struan Lodge from within despite the threats then the sweetners then the threats again once the gang new they could not persuade them re the closure. Remember Robb McCuish were doing this in breach of their snp membership rules.
    Looks like Breslin will get back in with Russell support which is sad. Better a smaller snp group that are loyal to their principles than the ones mentioned above who are there for there own promotion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

    • The SNP party hierarchy’s inconsistent and internally partisan actions throughout this entire mess have made it clear that ‘party membership rules’ bear no weight whatsoever.
      In order to get its Argyll and Bute councillors out of power, the party has licensend actions flatly counter to it own membership rules.
      Credibility was just chucked out of the window. The rules are the rules of the wild west.

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

      • You have been proven correct. The SNP have no plan B, No fall back position. Only more of the same knee jerk reactions that does not resolve the failure of SNP councillors to represent the council taxpayers properly. They are all in it together, no matter what administration is in power.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

  9. Surely, if we have a new administration we will get some idea of their way forward. We can hope
    The practice of just appearing for expenses and patronage should be left in the past
    The established practice of councillors rubber stamping anything and everything without question or consultation.
    Sally Loudon’s department should be investigated for not consulting with council taxpayers, especially community councils and community groups.
    I read that there could be as much as 15m underspend in the environment budget. Are there other under-spends? Will Loudon be held accountable for her over the top cutss and inhumane mean testing
    Council workers are balloting for strike action, what negotiations have taken place between Douglas Hendry and the unions.
    The Chord Project talking shop has turned into a nice wee earner for consultants. How much fees has been paid to these leeches and lead councillors?

    I hope the Provost can solicit answer from the new administration

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  10. I am surprised that the national papers haven’t said more about the mess of A&B Council. Does anyone care? Have Audit Scotland’s commissioners got any more to say?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

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