SNP Constituency Association Convener’s email tells a tale

Yesterday, 11th May, SNP Constituency Association Convener, Robert Allan, sent out the following email.

Sent: 11 May 2013 20:01
Subject: Message from the Constituency Convener

Dear Fellow Nationalists,

It has not proved possible to organise a CA meeting for tomorrow but, along with the CA Organiser and the CA Secretary, I will continue to monitor developments and we will call a CA as soon as is practicable.

I think it is important that all members know what is taking place and therefore I am happy to provide this update.

On Wednesday 8 May 2013 the Argyll & Bute SNP Council Group were informed, through their Leader Cllr MacCuish that the NEC, acting through its nominated sub committee, had refused permission for a new coalition involving the Liberal Democrats and Tories.

Concern was expressed that the negotiation for such a coalition had taken place without informing HQ and indeed without informing many Group members, until Tuesday, at the Group meeting during a discussion from which the CA liaison officer was excluded.

HQ only discovered what was taking place because one group member was very worried about the breach of the party rules that was taking place and acted accordingly.

None the less HQ was prepared to offer help and advice to the Group and suggested that a minority administration continue in office.

Despite the information about the NEC position which was given to Cllr MacCuish and communicated to all councillors the Group decided on Thursday morning, by a majority, to enter into such a coalition. Cllr Robb told the Group that approval could still be sought from HQ and brushed aside objections which drew attention to the NEC communication. It is clear however that some members agreed to the coalition only on the basis of Cllr Robb’s assertion and on his assurance that approval would be given.

HQ told Cllr MacCuish later that day that the formation of the coalition should not be announced as permission had been refused and informed him, that if an announcement was made, the group would be suspended. Cllr Robb went ahead with the announcement which included a press release and a list of those appointed to posts which included the Leader of the Lib Dems, Cllr Ellen Morton, as Deputy Leader of the Council. Other Lib Dems and Tories were given positions, some of which had previously been held by SNP Councillors. In addition an internal email was also issued to all Argyll & Bute Council staff announcing the coalition. Cllr MacCuish and the other members of the group were then informed by HQ that the Group had been suspended by the National Secretary.

The matter was put to the NEC of the SNP on Friday. A paper from Cllr MacCuish was also given to the members of the NEC later in the day which delayed the process. None the less the NEC confirmed on Friday evening the decision of their sub group and refused permission for the coalition to be formed. There is no appeal against that decision.

Cllr MacCuish and all members of the SNP Group have now been told that the Group must abandon the planned coalition with the Lib Dems and Tories. HQ has asked for confirmation that this action has been taken by end of play on Monday. If it is not forthcoming, then each individual Councillor will be asked if they abide by the decision of the NEC and wish to continue as an SNP Councillor. If they refuse to do so then they will cease to be an SNP Councillor and will no longer be a member of the SNP.

Cllrs Blair and MacIntyre have already indicated that they do not support the new arrangement and will not be part of it. Cllr Strong, though still in hospital, holds the same view. Cllr Trail, though outwith our constituency, voted against the proposal and is assumed to be unwilling to back it. Cllr Glen Lee has informed Cllr Robb that she cannot support the decision either. The Argyll First Group and Independent Cllr Iain Angus MacDonald have also withdrawn from the coalition which means that Cllr Robb no longer commands a majority of councillors.

It is to be hoped that no SNP Councillor will choose to separate themselves from the party by backing such a politically inept and constitutionally illegitimate failing enterprise, which has been rejected by the Party in due process. All SNP Councillors will be welcomed back from suspension with a sigh of relief by every member and I would appeal personally to each of them to confirm as quickly as possible that they will not back a Tory/ Lib Dem /SNP / Independent coalition in Argyll & Bute.

However it is clear that there will be major questions to be asked of Cllrs MacCuish and Robb about how this situation arose , and in particular why Cllr Robb undertook secret negotiations with the Lib Dems and Tories, why he excluded many of his own councillors, most of his coalition and the whole of the local party and why he made the announcement whilst fully aware of the HQ instruction not to do so.

In addition he and the Council will have to answer why a press communication in his name was issued yesterday just before noon to a very large press list in which he described the process of seeking NEC approval as a “formality” when he knew that it had already been refused. Information was also given to the BBC which implied that NEC approval was “expected” to be given when that was clearly not the case. Such actions are not commensurate with the standards of honesty, openness and transparency that must be expected from a local authority and its leader.

No one ever wanted to be in this position but it is clear that the actions of Cllr Robb since he became leader three months ago – and before – have been deeply damaging to the party and its interests. What has happened could have been avoided if he had worked with the membership and the party at local and national level.

I hope these events will now draw to a speedy conclusion, our recent very difficult and unpleasant experiences, and that we can return to the very productive and purposeful joint working which was the norm up until January. I need hardly add that every councillor who confirms, that they want this, to happen and are prepared to accept the NEC decision will be welcomed with open arms and that all of us, will then work very hard together to put these matters behind us.

I remain

Yours for Scotland

Bob Allan


At the same time as we were passed this communication, we received an email from a local party worker telling us that Richard Trail [Helensburgh and Lomond South] was likely to ‘stay with the SNP’ and that, before her major health problem, Isobel Strong [Bute] has also indicated that she would ‘stay with the SNP’?

The central question that arises here and in the Constituency Association’s email is ‘What, now, locally, is the SNP’?

The reality is that there are two factions.

One is based around the local MSP whose interventions in the management of the SNP-led administration have been a major driver of this mess.

One is based around a group of ‘independent’ minded SNP councillors, who have found the interventions worrying and troublesome to the good governance of Argyll they were attempting to deliver.

In thinking about this, we all have to set aside decisions that each of us personally has disagreed with.

The externally manipulated situation inside the SNP group has seen the unhorsing of two leaders – and it is the difference between those two leaders that makes the real issue clear.

People may like both, one or the other – but the simple fact is that BOTH, different as they are – have suffered the same fate in being shaken from office by external and party political intervention.

The unarguable consequence of the constant upheavals around those manoeuverings have left councillors unable to concentrate on their jobs and made Argyll look like exactly what it has been throughout this episode – a political hicksville.

Councillors and electors must now decide on their view of the role of party politics in local government.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • The end of the line for Robb, McCuish and Semple

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    H20 May 12, 2013 11:41 am Reply
    • I note with interest that the SNP Constituancy Convener Bob Allan finds it necessary to write an essay in his attempt to unravel the unhealthy machinations of his own party. What a load of convoluted drivel it would be perhaps more fitting were he to hand that task on to Mike Russell.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      jimbean May 12, 2013 10:24 pm Reply
  • This situation is getting ever messier – local government in Argyll and Bute seems to be in the process of being abused by people whose thirst for national power is so all-consuming that they couldn’t give a f***k for the health of our local authority.
    If the current Holyrood government really believe that – to keep their political noses clean in the run-up to the forthcoming referendum on this country’s future – they can put effective local government in this part of Scotland through the mangle, they’ll find that not only their dirty noses will be impossible to wipe clean, they’ll be so grubby that the majority of the electorate wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.
    Even allowing for the level of resentment at Westminster’s perceived mismanagement of the interests of Scotland over many years
    It’ll be a stain on the face of Scottish politics that risks doing untold damage to the standing – and credibility – of our nationalist politicians, and of this country.
    Not so much a banana republic – banana’s far too polite a word.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Robert Wakeham May 12, 2013 12:06 pm Reply
  • Does anyone else feel embarrassed to admit they’re from Argyll & Bute?


    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat May 12, 2013 12:34 pm Reply
    • Not embarrassed to admit I’m from Argyll & Bute at all!

      The only people who will feel embarrassed(or stupid) are those who voted in this hopeless, out of their depth, administration.

      Shambolic – Without a doubt!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Gus Mackay May 12, 2013 7:02 pm Reply
      • Can anyone who has given a thumbs down please explain why they are embarrassed to admit they’re from Argyll & Bute?

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        Gus Mackay May 13, 2013 1:38 am Reply
  • Well truth to be told I used to live in Glasgow who’s current leadership is under investigation by various bodies including the police and for as long as I can remember has the taint of corruption. Edinburgh issues re the tram, building repair issues etc is another one. Likewise in England Liverpool council comes to mind, City of Westminster etc, Westminster itself re the mortgage and expenses scandal

    Maybe it is in the nature of local government. When comparing ABC to the above we have amateurs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    H20 May 12, 2013 1:10 pm Reply
  • Most people don’t care about politics in their own area or nationally so why would they be interested or care about politics in Argyll and Bute? Would we really be interested about local politics in Aberdeenshire? It’s a local shambles that is a minor irritation for the SNP government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    keith stanger May 12, 2013 4:41 pm Reply
    • It’s much bigger than that, Keith.
      It’s emblematic and is being read that way.
      The thing is that party central was guilty of repeated failures here.
      Any decent political judgement would have indicated the imperative to rein in the enthusiastic efforts of the local SNP MSP – but he was given the room to roam on and on.
      This has to be read either as a worrying lack of judgment at the heart of the party machine or actual support for what was being engineered.
      Neither is cause for dismissal of the impact of this mess.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom May 12, 2013 4:47 pm Reply
      • Agree. the Party in edinburgh has a lot to answer for as has Mike Russell. If this is the vision for a new independent scotland, you can keep it. Give me westminster, even with a tory government any day rather than the bunch we have in power in edinburgh

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

        Harty May 12, 2013 8:13 pm Reply
        • Harty

          You are taking the rip aren’t you?

          “Give me westminster, even with a tory government any day rather than the bunch we have in power in Edinburgh”

          The problem lies within Argyll and Bute for the past x years. It is for Argyll and Bute to sort out and for the public to shout louder.

          Personally you can stick Westminster with its mortgage flipping, expenses corruption Lords and Lady’s and its Londoncentric high opinion of itself. Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Milliband and of course Farage –
          Give me Westminster ! Don’t make me laugh.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          h20 May 12, 2013 11:02 pm Reply
      • It’s emblematic and is being read that way.

        Only by you.

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        Webcraft May 12, 2013 8:34 pm Reply
    • Keith I cannot possibly agree with your assertions that most people don’t care about politics in their area or nationally But you are right that it is a local shambles. It is NOT however a minor irritation to the SNP the high handed bullying tactics empoloyed by Mike Russell and his pathetic attempts to hand on to other councillors the unenviable task of making difficult decisions is indicative that the snp have got niether the courage or skill necessary to govern.
      Mike Russell has demonstrated most eloquently that he is not fit for purpose and he has probably come close to destoying the SNP in argyll!!!!!!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      jimbean May 12, 2013 10:03 pm Reply
  • I would agree with your thoughts about the lack of political judgement/support or perhaps it’s a case of supreme political arrogance by those at the top of the SNP. Arrogance does seem to be one of this Government’s strongest characteristics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    keith stanger May 12, 2013 6:22 pm Reply
    • Can I add complacency to arrogance too?

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      keith stanger May 12, 2013 9:44 pm Reply
  • Any SNP councillor worth their salt will tell Bob Allan and the party where to go. If 4 or 5 SNP councillors decide to toe the line of Mike Russell and decide to stay with the party and not work with the liberals and the tories, they will have no other councillors to work with. They will now be a small insignificant group who will be ignored by all other councillors.

    The biggest group in the council by the end of the week will be the lib dems, the tories, the A&B independent councillors, a small number of other independent councillors and those SNP councillors who have told the party where to go. So you have not seen the last of Roddy McCuish, James Robb, John Semple and others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Harty May 12, 2013 7:20 pm Reply
    • Harty

      Do you believe James Robb esq has handled this situation well?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      h20 May 12, 2013 11:04 pm Reply
  • Why do people put up with listening to these councillors and allowing them to stay in jobs that they said they can do on behalf of the voter? Get rid of all these people that will jump in with anyone to get some extra cash. It actually looks like most of them couldn’t stand on their own 2 feet for more than twenty minutes.

    Get rid of them

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    MB May 12, 2013 10:37 pm Reply
  • God help us if the Scottish electorate are daft enough to vote YES in favour of independence in September 2014 with the SNP in charge of the Parliament in Edinburgh.
    I think the main problem in Argyll & Bute is that the SNP Councillors have never been in power are do not know what they are doing.
    The SNP councillors are not the only councillors who are clueless.
    There is in Independent councillor from Helensburgh who could not even read a letter published in the Oban Times correctly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Treble T May 13, 2013 12:21 pm Reply
  • What will happen about the budget they passed with 450,000 in savings in year 1. Or the 11million in redundancy payouts for council managers,workers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Alan May 13, 2013 12:25 pm Reply
    • We imagine that Councillor Walsh will take a different line on the management of the necessary cuts.
      He will have learned a sharp lesson from his last administration’s full-blooded charge to knock out 26 of Argyll’s rural primary schools in one go.
      While this may have been promoted by Executive Director Cleland Sneddon’s wish to get on to his 8th local authority as fast as possible, with his cutting track record enhanced, Dick Walsh’s active complicity in this scheme cost him and his group their administration.
      He is therefore more likely to take a gradualist line in spending cuts and, with a view to the 2017 elections, will play canny politics.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom May 13, 2013 12:40 pm Reply
  • This is just the latest demonstration of the stupidity of allowing local councillors to wear the labels of National political parties. Local councillors should be independent and stand for election on their own merits. If some share enough principles to form an administrative group then that makes sense, but that has nothing to do with Independence or Westminster politics, although perhaps the only way to achieve this would be to include such a provision in their new written constitution for an independent Scotland….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    voxpop May 13, 2013 1:08 pm Reply
    • Voxpop:

      Problem with “local” not “party” councillors is that they appeal for votes on the basis of the “good guy” label. They do not believe it is necessary to have a manifesto, or even the basis of a programme for government, certainly not for change. So they end up as the lobby fodder for someone like Cllr Walsh who knows he wants power, doesnt have to say what he will do with it, and can have the fodder wait to see which way he will jump before they make up what they would think was their opinion, even their minds.”Party” representatives are elected on the basis of a manifesto, a promise, to their electorste and are accountable to the voters when they wish to be re-elected. If you havent promised anything (except perhaps to do your best) it is a bit difficult to be held accountable for nothing specific.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Gerry Fisher May 17, 2013 3:14 am Reply

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