The two SNP Argyll and Bute Councillors resigning from the party within the last few days are both said to have been facing internal disciplinary proceedings from the SNP on their attendance records.
For Argyll decided to do one of its occasional checks on the attendance records of all councillors to see how the performances of the allegedly deficient pair compared with that of their peers.
The results were interesting in many ways.
Argyll and Bute Council, like all councils, is required to maintain publicly accessible records of meetings.
In the last half year this council has signally failed to do so.
On a website that has always been notable for its appalling information architecture – hence accessible only to those who already know where to find what they want – there are no discoverable records of any full council meetings in 2016 – including the crucial budget meeting on 11th February 2016.
There is also no attendance record for the council meeting on 28th November 2015 – with all councillors and official attendees simply listed as ‘Expected’.
The full council now meets on only six occasions a year – one of which is the February budget meeting.
This means that of the six meetings scheduled for the 2015-16 session, there are competent records only for three of them, with the two 2016 meetings not publicly accounted for at all.
Moreover, the document which lists the full council meetings for the 2015-16 year does not even list anything beyond November 2015; nor does it even offer 2016 as a checkable year.
The information accessible via the Calendar of Meetings neither schedules nor accounts for either of the two 2016 council meetings. This is the document in which the meeting of 28th November 2015 remains, as of 15th March 2016, almost four months later – with attendance records for all elected members reading ‘Expected’.
The Programme of Meetings table [and yes, the degree of duplication is indicative of what we mean by ‘appalling information architecture’] is the only source we could find of the dates of the 2016 council meetings to date – whose existence is not otherwise publicly recorded.
From the publicly accessible records – of 50% of the 2015-16 meetings, the two SNP resignees missed only one – both on 24th September; with Iain Angus Macdonald apologising for his absence and Iain Stewart MacLean noted only as ‘Absent’.
Of the remaining councillors at those first three fully recorded meetings, Councillors Donald Kelly [Argyll First], John McAlpine [ex Argyll First] and Mary Jean Devon [ex everything you can think of but now again what she essentially is – independent] each missed two out of the three. If, at best, each attended all remaining three sessions, they would have only a 60% attendance record.
When, up to March 2013, the council met ten times a year, councillors were not allowed by the code to be absent from more than three meetings.
If Mr Macdonald’s and Mr MacLean’s attendance mysteriously fell away in the last half of the session of which there are no competent current public records, it may indicate their growing disaffection with the SNP group and, in Mr Macdonald’s case, [since he has stood down altogether] also with the operations of the council itself.