Jim Mather, MSP for Argyll and Bute and Minister for Enterprise Energy ant Tourism since 2007, has confirmed his intention to stand down at the 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
For Argyll will have a lot to say about the contribution to Argyll and Scotland of this signally effective Minister but it would be foolishly premature to do it now. Jim Mather has a busy year ahead of him and we look forward to recording the challenges and achievements of that period before we do any summing up.
It can certainly be said now – and could have been said from the start of Mr Mather’s tenure as MSP for Argyll and Bute, that he has raised the bar by a very significant height for the engagement of constituency MSPs with their electorate.
We find the second – in our view ‘the real’ – reason Jim Mather gives for his decision to stand down, a remarkably interesting one. (See his full statement below.)
Other media may choose to go for a focus on parochial politics and delve into decoding the subtext of this. For us, the key factor is that it is forward looking.
This is a proactive and attractive stance and one which we too believe is very necessary.
The most valuable political strategies and initiatives are non-partisan but how many of these do we see?. The UK and Scotland have suffered from a long history of partisan and vested-interest politics. Something very different is long overdue.
From our close observation of Mr Mather’s work, in Argyll and as an endlessly busy but always accessible Minister with three of the most challenging briefs rolled into one, he is the best placed politician to bring a powerfully non-partisan intelligence to the scrutiny of Scotland’s and Argyll’s development.
This single part of the Minister’s statement makes a new sense of his decision. A man with so obvious a zest for change, for the new, for the future, for learning, for making it happen, was never going to stop. We look forward with a frisson of excitement to what is coming next.
Mr Mather’s statement in full
‘I can confirm that I will not be standing for the Scottish Parliament in the 2011 Election.
‘There are several reasons; one is that I will be 68 at the end of the next parliament and I am concerned about being able to maintain the energy and work rate levels that the folk of Argyll & Bute expect and deserve.
‘There are other reasons and these include:
- My belief that I need to take a non-partisan position in order to fully develop and consolidate the work I have done in Argyll & Bute and help that approach transfer to & develop in other constituencies.
- My belief that Argyll & Bute needs to have a genuinely local representative who can build a wider base of active citizens.
- My promise to my wife that I would retire from politics but not ‘retire’ at 64.
- The fact that the case that I have made for many years on the need for Scotland to have full economic powers has been won and has recently seen recent wholehearted endorsement from the likes of Jim McColl and Sir Tom Hunter in support of that argument.
‘I spoke to the Argyll & Bute Constituency Association this weekend, confirmed my decision and thanked them for their support and hard work over the past 7 years.
‘I am sure that they will now be pressing ahead to invite approved candidates to take part in a new selection process.
‘Meantime, I believe that there are a great many tangible things that have been achieved in the constituency – like the positioning of Argyll & Bute to play a full role in the Renewables Revolution especially as regards offshore wind and the saving of the Vestas/Welcon Plant.
‘I am more excited about the intangible things that I have helped to promote.
‘In my time as Argyll & Bute MSP we have started the process of bringing people together and helping people, communities, businesses and sectors of the local economy find their voices and start to work more effectively in common cause – albeit this has been stronger in some areas than in others and in some sectors than in others. But that is the way that change happens.
‘The basic proposition has been very simple – and it is that if we come together in common cause and move away from the idea that “someone should do something” to the idea that we ourselves need to do something and make a start, then we can get very much better results, restore trust and create a better on-going way of working together.
‘And the examples are there to see whether it is:
- The buyout of the Rhubodach Forest on Bute
- The Burgh Hall refurbishment & Regeneration in Dunoon
- The joint venture with Crerar Hotels regarding the new pool on Mull
- The new Islay Energy Trust – with similar projects on Tiree and in Kintyre
- The Community aspirations for Machrihanish
- The wider collaboration on the Mid-Argyll pool issue
- The revitalisation of Tarbert
- The ambitions of Oban Bay Marine Group
‘And of course there are aspects that are unfinished business – and that will always be the case. Something as complex as Scotland and as Argyll & Bute will always have unfinished business.
‘But that is healthy for we need always to be seeking to challenge the way things have ‘aye been’ and making improvements
‘But we need to do that together to be genuinely effective and to make sure that gains are incremental and we do not waste energy and resource.
‘Not that we don’t need contention and conflict – but we do need a better way to resolve that and move things forward.
‘In the short term I now want to consolidate the progress we have made in Argyll & Bute, working with communities and sectors to help them to be more resilient, self sufficient and collaborative.
‘Indeed, I believe that this should be easier now as people will see that I really am doing this for altruistic reasons and not to build a case for being re-elected.
‘And once that is done, I want to take the Argyll & Bute model to other Local Authority areas that can learn from Argyll & Bute.
‘Not that it would be one-way traffic: for I now feel that we have a really pragmatic group of Councillors and Officials at Argyll and Bute Council, who would also be keen to learn from elsewhere and draw on the experience, strengths and successes that others have gained that could help local people, businesses and communities here.
‘But for me, the real job for the future is to make sure that we make the case for full economic powers and independence for without that we will be limited in what we can do and in our ability to grow our economies and communities.
‘We have tried no powers and limited powers – we can see the improvement – even in difficult times
‘We now need to press on.
‘Mature communities, like mature people, are independent and resilient.
‘Scotland and Argyll & Bute can be all that and more’.
The photograph above shows Jim Mather MSP at the launch last year of the Book of Scottish Connections at Kilmartin Museum in Argyll. This was – and is – a genealogical initiative recognising the Scottish Diaspora, past and present; and was launched as part of Homecoming Scotland 2009.