We are hearing that yesterday’s crisis meeting of SNP Councillors was, shall we say, robust – a political bare knuckle occasion.
The current suspension from the party of Dunoon’s Councillor Michael Breslin, whom local MSP, Michael Russell, wished to see installed as leader in place of current Council Leader and colleague, Roddy McCuish, made that option a non-starter.
We understand from several reliable sources that a bruising day ended with the decisions:
- to appoint Councillor James Robb from Helensburgh as Leader;
- to see the current Leader, Councillor Roddy McCuish, move to Deputy Leader;
- and to accept Councillor John Semple agreeing to stand down from the Deputy Leadership to enable this move.
Councillor Breslin’s position is being handled by the SNP HQ in Edinburgh and offers some difficult decision taking.
When the SNP were earlier, for a time, in coalition as the junior partner with the Alliance of Independent Councillors, SNP Councillor James Robb [ironically] refused to back an action supported by the rest of his party group. He was summarily thrown out of the party and remained in that position for around two years until the 2012 council elections, when his secure seat was numerically essential and he was readmitted.
Having disciplined Robb so swingeingly, the SNP group had no alternative but to do the same to Breslin.
There are all sorts of unsubstantiated rumours circulating about what party HQ is doing on this one. The most recurring version is that Councillor Breslin will face a short period of exclusion from the party as a purge for indiscipline and will then be allowed to apply for readmission.
But how would Councillor Robb take such a discriminatory outcome, when he was out for around two years for a similar and arguably lesser offence?
And this Thursday, 14th February 2013, the new team will have its first budget to defend.
Former Council Leader and now Opposition Leader, Dick Walsh and Councillor Gary Mulvaney are the two big guns for the Opposition, both knowledgeable in managing and understanding financial and budgetary matters. Supported by Deputy Opposition Leader, Councillor Ellen Morton, no mean shot herself, they will be loading the bullets in good time and will be well in charge of their armoury.
It has been noticeable that Councillor Walsh has not uttered a peep on the budget papers since they were published three weeks ago. He is clearly keeping his powder dry for some theatrics on Thursday.
He is being given the luxury of a respect for democracy he never offered to others in his day – where his unvarying practice was to whip the covers of the budget papers as councillors entered the council chamber and then play the conjurer in what he chose to reveal to the unknowing.
Thursday will be a set piece battle with the guns of attack and defence in place well before the start of hostilities, The rest depends on whose ammunition is best, whose fire is most accurate and who has the best sharpshooters on the rooftops.
After that, the challenge for Councillor Robb is essentially to put council officers in their place. They have been running the show, often questionably – as we will shortly show in relation to the adult care domain. Councillor Robb has always been his own man and has what it takes to assert his authority. The question is, will he do it? He needs to.