SNP considering coalition in Argyll and Bute

Politics really are stranger than fiction.

The SNP group of councillors are meeting on Monday 27th October to consider going into coalition with the current administration at Argyll and Bute Council – under Council Leader Dick Walsh.

Informed sources have it that the group is minded to do this, possibly less than unanimously but by a majority.

This would be the last of the four 90 degree turns required to bring the SNP council group back to where it was on the morning of 25th November 2010, hours before its members, not necessarily willingly, resigned as junior partners in the then coalition led by Council Leader Walsh and the Alliance of Independent Councillors.

This was the administration leadership intent on inflicting a scorched earth policy on rural primary schools in Argyll, a policy which the SNP group had obediently supported until the mood of the people changed the minds of their political masters – alarmed at the potential impact of this scouring on the party’s prospects in Argyll and Bute in the May 2011 Scottish Elections. So the SNP councillors walked.

That was the first turn. The second was being voted into power in May 2012 by the Argyll and Bute electorate, as the largest council group, entrusted to see the end of the serially discredited Walsh regime. The third turn was the implosion of the SNP group in power, forced into self-destruction and out of power by its own party, to protect the independence vote [since lost on 18th September 2014] – and replaced by Walsh. The coalition under consideration would be the last turn in a complete revolution – back to Walsh – that will write its own place in the black book of Scottish local politics.

What sort of coalition?

There are three core questions involved in this.

The first two relate to what sort of invitation to coalition is the one said to have been issued now to the SNP Group by Council Leader Dick Walsh.

If accepted, would it herald yet another Lobster Quadrille at Kilmory, with Dick Walsh dancing away with the SNP in his arms and leaving some of his current coalition partners as the wallflowers on the side?

Of might he have invited them to join his existing coalition, seeing Argyll and Bute become a unitary council and making him look good in the eyes of Audit Scotland – a body which is a self-excusatory version of the three wise monkeys, with all hands clapped to the eyes of all commissioners.

An allied question is whether this move has been initiated by invitation at all or by an insider prompt for the group to commence political rehabilitation in Argyll and Bute by offering to join the current administration and creating a unitary council. of supposed harmony.

Such a prompt could credibly have come from the local SNP MSP, concerned about the prospects for the SNP vote in Argyll and Bute in the Scottish Elections in May 2016.

We do know that some key members of Mr Walsh’s current coalition administration had not been aware that the SNP are considering being part of a coalition led by him.

This phenomenon, however, cannot strongly support either possible prompt for the SNP’s deliberations this coming Monday – because it could equally support either the conspiracy theory with the nimble Mr Walsh choosing an ‘excuse me’ waltz; or a rehabilitation move for the SNP council group.

How would the unitary council scenario work out?

The first obstacle to this one is that during the SNP’s year of self-cannibalisation to get out of power, one of the SNP’s decapitated Council Leaders, Councillor McCuish, had tried to institute a unitary council and had been forbidden to do so by the SNP’s National Executive Committee [NEC] under pain of political excommunication.

Evidently the greatest possible SNP taboo was to work with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – even though other SNP councils across Scotland were in such relationships with no complaint or intervention from party HQ. There was a different rule for Argyll – because the aim was to get the SNP group out of power by hook or by crook – and there were plenty of both.

This means that a licensed all-in-together stunt today, when SNP political imperatives are different, would pick the scabs off recent sores.

The concept of a unitary council is also one of willed harmony, with all participants heading in the same direction. though they may disagree from time to time on the best means of getting there.

If the SNP are considering offering to make it a unitary council by accepting the overlordship of Council Leader Walsh, they will have an electorate to persuade of their integrity, since they had been elected in 2014 to provide a viable alternative to the Walsh regime – and had crawled away crippled by ‘friendly fire’.

Moreover, if they are to offer this gesture, they will be doing so for reasons of their own local political rehabilitation – and that itself is no more than a positioning to try for power again. They would therefor not be trustworthy bedfellows. In fact, such a unitary council could only be a sackful of ferrets biting for advantage.

Then there are three side issues to the SNP enabling a unitary council by joining the current coalition.

What about the quids pro quo in return for their joining? Who, in the current administration hierarchy, would be asked to take a fall in favour of an SNP group inheritor? How would that play?

Then there is the question of where such a unitary council would leave Councillors Michael Breslin and Bruce Marshall?

Mr Breslin is a former SNP councillor now without party membership, following a botched  strategic resignation as part of the hilarious non-power struggle. He is also outside the present coalition, having recently been sacked from it by Mr Walsh for – rightly – refusing to sign an improper gagging clause .

Mr Marshall, a long time members of Councillor Walsh;s Alliance of Independent Councillors, walked out of the current Walsh administration in support of Councillor Breslin’s position.

The circumstances of Councillor Breslin’s expulsion, along with other factors, are such that it is hard to imagine him choosing to work again with – never mind under – Council Leader Walsh. And Councillor Marshall is likely to keep him company.

Would this proposed SNP move see a council with an administration of all comers except two – or possibly three [what wold Labour;s one councilor, the newly elected Neil MacIntyre, do?] – and would two or three become a formal opposition – or what?

The third question is whether the party would seek to reunite the SNP council group under what could be the convenient shelter of a unitary council?

  • This would resolve the rule-breaking anomaly of Councillor Gordon Blair’s position. He is currently a member of Argyll and Bute for Change but remains an attendee at SNP group meetings and retains his party membership. This is despite the fact that the SNP’s National Compliance Manager confirmed to Group Leader, Councillor Sandy Taylor, that SNP rules automatically demand that anyone who joins another grouping loses their party membership.
  • Would Councillor Robert MacIntyre keep the paid post of Area Chair of Bute and Cowal under the current administration, for which he fought hard and for which he sacrificed his SNP membership?
  • Would Councillor Breslin be considered purged of his offence and invited back in? Since this would involve working with Council Leader Walsh, would he consider that the acquisition of a long spoon would be worth the restitution of party membership?
  • What would former SNP Council Leader James Robb do? After all, while he had not proposed the unitary council that his fellow SNP Council Leader McCuish tried to bring about in the SNP’s 2012-2013 year of fratricides, he had secured agreement from the Conservative and Liberal Democrats to join his coalition, keeping it alive while he, as Councillor McCuish, fought to make his party accept its primary responsibility to the electorate. The NEC’s response to this was to put Councillor Robb’s political windows in.
  • Would former SNP Councillors Roddy McCuish and Mary Jean Devon be invited to rejoin – and would they even consider it? After the brutal destruction of Councillor McCuish’s second attempt at leading an administration as he had been elected to do, he and Councillor Devon, who had supported his position, joined the Argyll, Lomond and the Isles grouping – and lost their SNP membership for so doing. And yes, this does point to the SNP’s asymmetric application of its rules, with Councillor Blair permitted to do exactly the same as a member of the Argyll and Bute for Change group, with impunity.

The tapestry woven by the SNP’s eighteen months of unhinged irresponsibility in deliberate self-destruction will not be easily unravelled.

How would the displacement of current coalition partners by the SNP group work out?

It is hard to see that this would be the outcome, because its impact on a council trying to heal destructive divisions would damage its stability.

The resentment by other councilors of the SNP group, should they replace part of the current all-but-the-SNP administration, would be sore.  As a party , the SNP  swung a year long wrecking ball through the chamber – taking out its own councillors – in its fevered efforts to get its party group out of power over 2012-13 to protect the independence vote from the consequences of any unpopular decisions.

The SNP made Argyll itself the butt of sniggers and jokes across Scotland, of the ‘there they go again’ variety. This reputational damage makes it hard for the council to attract the best candidates to fill vacant posts. Why, for instance, was it not possible to get an economic development expert into the then vacant Executive Director post which carries that responsibility – the one more important to the limping Argyll than any other? Argyll and Bute is a bottom-feeding council where Argyll needs it to be a star.

And where is there proven ability and experience  in depth in the group who are formal  members of the SNP group of councilors, adequate to displace experienced and able post holders in the current administration? The rookie and untried element is very high.

So on balance, with some of the most able councillors in the chamber members of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups, logic must suggest that what the SNP group are deliberating on tomorrow is whether or not to throw their hat in with the current mixumgatherum administration, make Argyll a more or less unitary council and simply establish a presence hidden in the thickets.

Whether or not Council Leader Walsh has invited them to consider this or whether it is a rehabilitation wheeze of their own, takes second place to the SNP’s need now to shore up the position of its local MSP in advance of the 2016 Scottish elections. The recovery of the SNP in public respect in Argyll and Bute is central to that – and it will be an uphill task.

Know them by what they do not by what they say. Those who put party interest before Argyll’s and before their constituents have been seen to do that in large measure. Why would they not again slavishly obey party instructions. They’ve got proven form.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Another non story about the SNP in Argyll & Bute while Scottish Labour goes up in the most spectacular firework display since the big bang.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 17

    John Semple October 26, 2014 10:10 pm Reply
  • ‘Four 90 degree turns’ amounts to going around in squares, if not circles, and maybe this is progress but it’s been far from good for the health of this local authority.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 8

    Robert Wakeham October 26, 2014 10:23 pm Reply
    • Hmm, some disapproval, I see – sorry, I forgot the 11th Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not criticise the SNP’

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 9

      Robert Wakeham October 27, 2014 12:28 am Reply
  • “Informed sources have it that the group is minded to do this, possibly less than unanimously but by a majority.”
    WHO IS FEEDING THE LIES TO YOU–Ex-leaders of the council land/ or ex snp councillors? or maybe this is a desparate last play for the election in Argyll by labour. Either way your story is the usual anti snp rant.

    Please print a copy of the Agenda if there is one.

    If there is a meeting taking place and nothing happens will you apologise or is your venom against the SNP such that you wish to divert from labour issues and Walsh Toward issues.

    So will you apologise IF YOU ARE PROVEN WRONG AGAIN?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 15

    No Cheese Here October 26, 2014 11:33 pm Reply
    • Well of course she won’t. Do you think newsie is in the business of admitting she is wrong. After that cruise ship in Loch Fyne debacle, there is no way she can risk another apology. She could be predicting the Second Coming every day for the next year and still not admit to error. If you have a fragile little ego, you have to protect it, come what may.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

      Kassandra October 27, 2014 5:24 pm Reply
      • Kassandra,
        I know she won’t based on past experience.
        She puts another story out too divert the reader.
        But as you know what is printed is a load of lies so I am happy to wait another week and resurrect this post to remind roberto, Lowry, Malky and that ilk that once again they have sided with lies.
        For Argyll must read this post ain’t it interesting that they cannot back up their story with any FACT’s. As I said who is For argyll trying to help politically here.
        C’mon NEWSIE what are you going to do when your found out. Does Dixon Spain tell you to write such garbage or is it your own work?
        “..Politics really are stranger than fiction.
        The SNP group of councillors are meeting on Monday 27th October to consider going into coalition with the current administration at Argyll and Bute Council – under Council Leader Dick Walsh.”
        Now fiction is stranger than politics.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

        No Cheese Here October 27, 2014 9:16 pm Reply
        • Maybe For Argyll will give us a “pledge” that when she writes up made up stories she will apologise for them.
          Prior to the Oban election For Argyll suggested that the snp will be going into coalition with Walsh and Morton. A lie as all can see. Has she sacked her source?
          On behalf of For Argyll I apologise and give a vow nay I pledge that I will not print made up stories for a By election signed……………

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

          No Cheese Here November 2, 2014 10:33 pm Reply
  • In my opinion I would get rid of all the councillors on Argyll & Bute Council as they are worse than useless.

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

    Treble T October 27, 2014 12:33 am Reply
    • Something of a generalisation, TTT – you’d be throwing out the baby with the bath water.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

      Robert Wakeham October 27, 2014 1:04 am Reply
      • Robert.
        I stand by my comments.
        With modern technology it is a lot easier getting things done yourself rather than contacting your local councillor and waiting ages for a reply if at all.
        I asked a question at the Public Question Time at a MAKI Area Committee meeting in June 2014 and I am still waiting for a reply from Argyll & Bute Council as the councillors and employees present were unable to answer my question.
        I was told that they would investigate by question and reply to me by post.
        As my question was a bit controversial no doubt it has been “swept under the carpet”, but unlike A & B Council I have not forgotten about it!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

        Treble T October 28, 2014 12:11 am Reply
        • So what was this “bit controversial” question, TTT? Why not share it with us?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          Alex McKay October 28, 2014 12:39 pm Reply
          • No response TTT? Surely you cannot object to sharing it with us, when you originally asked it in a public forum?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

            James Smith November 7, 2014 3:51 pm
    • A bit hard on the newly elected Iain Maclean.

      Let’s give him a week or so eh?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

      Longshanks October 27, 2014 1:04 pm Reply
  • Here we go, they’re getting into bed with the Tories. A right wing local authority looking after themselves and the wealthy to the detriment of the rest of us.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 10

    Lowry October 27, 2014 7:59 am Reply
    • You sound as if you have changed from one of the few normal level headed constructive contributors worth listening to, into someone joining in on the irrational posts by NCH and his ‘believers’

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

      Malcolm Kirk October 27, 2014 8:24 am Reply
    • Just lies and you roberto, Malky, For Argyll all know it.
      Lowry and the rest will you apologise when you are proved wrong or will you hide for a few days?
      Of course anything to divert from the labour woes in Scotland and the Tories woes with Ukip in England
      So so called for Argyll will you apologise if you get it wrong – again . YES or NO.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

      No Cheese Here October 27, 2014 9:07 am Reply
    • Maybe For Argyll will give us a “pledge” that when she writes up made up stories she will apologise for them.
      Prior to the Oban election For Argyll suggested that the snp will be going into coalition with Walsh and Morton. A lie as all can see. Has she sacked her source?
      On behalf of For Argyll I apologise and give a vow nay I pledge that I will not print made up stories for a By election signed……………

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      No Cheese Here November 2, 2014 10:32 pm Reply
  • Further to my post of a few days ago suggesting that the SNP should stop the nonsense of talking about further referendums because of the potential harm to Investment in Scottish Industry and Commerce as was well demonstrated during the period leading up to the 18th September. From the Scotsman this morning ” Political uncertainties relating to the independence referendum meant financial services firms chose the North of England over Scotland when it came to expanding their operations in recent years, new research has claimed. ” You can read the rest on the Scotsman’s financial page.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

    Malcolm Kirk October 27, 2014 10:32 am Reply
    • Malcolm, in a nationalist socialist paradise it’ll be prosperity of the mind that counts, not getting enough to eat.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

      Robert Wakeham October 27, 2014 12:00 pm Reply
      • What !

        with you guys believing food banks are a price worth paying of the Union!
        Providing of course it is not your family.

        Notice For Argyll you haven’t said you will apologise when you are proved wrong.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

        No Cheese Here October 27, 2014 2:27 pm Reply
        • The SNP government has had the power and the money to tackle poverty in Scotland, It hasn’t.
          Stop blaming Westminster for the failure of Scottish society and it’s government, get on with changing the culture and create employment opportunities, children grow up here, go to school here, many go to University and then it’s off, down to London or abroad.
          Why? Because the are no opportunities, no work, the government and the council need to take a good look in the mirror!
          Perhaps Mr Semple would like to tell us what his contribution to creating opportunities has been while taking his salary as a councillor.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

          richard October 27, 2014 2:52 pm Reply
  • treble T

    Isn’t the most useless politician in Argyll and Bute Alan Reid our MP?

    He has managed to successfully avoid his name being mentioned in this weekend of wild political storm.

    Now is that clever or is he just held in such low regard no one cares about him?

    John Semple is correct, another non story.

    Just as the next lot of budgetary cutbacks are about to be announced an attempt will be made to shift blame. The SNP group would be wise to steer clear of false friendships. Let the people who were so keen to take office and the extra money take the responsibility.

    Next council elections could clear out the deadwood and allow for talent to be given the challenge to run a better council for the benefit of all.

    Some of the largest challenges will be to rid Argyll and Bute of Sally Loudon and her placed men and women in jobs they are neither qualified or able for.

    The voting public must realise the responsibilities of the councillors they elect.

    Of course by that time the GREEN PARTY in Argyll and Bute should be well established with clever and able people to help the process.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

    agnes moffat October 27, 2014 3:01 pm Reply
    • Hi Angus, at the last elections the dead wood as you describe them were out of office to be replaced by the new broom SNP. What happened?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

      phill October 27, 2014 5:23 pm Reply
  • Agnes hen – I thought they only allowed you out for weekends, but presumably they think the pills are working – they could be wrong. Can you kindly enthral the rest of us by relating your life experiences which you feel allows you to impart so much knowledge and wisdom to the followers of ForArgyll. Thanks !!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

    Malcolm Kirk October 27, 2014 4:06 pm Reply
    • Possibly Agnes has at least an equivalent amount of life experience to yours. In your case it hasn’t enabled you to have any great insight that I can see, or given you any insight into how your comments are both condescending and sexist, although they do fit into your mix of tory/authoritarian right-wingery. And please don’t relate any of YOUR life experiences – I can only laugh (or be disgusted) for so long at a time.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

      Kassandra October 27, 2014 5:31 pm Reply
  • At least Malcolm writes under his own name, doesn’t use a nom de plume.

    I wish I had the courage to do the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

    dp October 27, 2014 5:58 pm Reply
    • It’s easy – just do it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

      Robert Wakeham October 27, 2014 8:43 pm Reply
  • phill….agnes please not angus


    politically aware, well read, older, some say wiser, have grandchildren, experienced in business for over 40 years, islander, some say academic, i say university of life, highland dancer, quite good at dominos but terrible at chess. red haired
    lover of fairness, always give a hand up, practising christian. my biggest attribute is my modesty.

    favourite food, spicy meatballs. favourite film, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest

    i have watched this blog disintegrate into a nasty, spiteful, hurtful and unfair facility for misrepresentation of daily reporting when it should be an asset to the community.

    I decided to have a little indulgence having watched the complete misrepresentation of the facts during the referendum

    voted yes for the sake of the, students the less able, disenfranchised, the hungry, the homeless and the talented who need a door to open allowing the opportunities for all to be explored. so many more reasons

    happiness comes in many forms. not having a clue who you, richard and especially lowry are is a delight to me. poor lowry full of spite, what a burden to journey through life with.

    i would love to know who no cheese here is, think we have more than a little in common. perhaps even a similar appreciation of nice sherries

    interested to know why you are interested in me, have i stuck a raw nerve.

    agnes will of course be retired soon

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

    agnes moffat October 27, 2014 6:11 pm Reply
    • Sorry Agnes.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

      phill October 27, 2014 6:29 pm Reply
    • You didn’t explain that nasty chip on your shoulder ! I suspect a public school education although the ” Jack of all Trades – a Master of none” might negate that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

      Malcolm Kirk October 27, 2014 6:41 pm Reply
  • jill of all trades…….please

    not nasty, never nasty, no chips

    i expected a better reply than that, someone stolen your tongue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

    agnes moffat October 27, 2014 8:17 pm Reply
    • Agnes Moffat, you “voted Yes for the sake of the students, the less able”. What cr*p. How about the thousands of youngsters that wanted to go to college but have been stopped by the SNP who have cut millions of pounds form the college budget?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

      Sceptic1 October 27, 2014 9:47 pm Reply
  • hI sceptic

    forgot about your love of food banks and tuition fees.

    If we are going to stop BSc’s in emptying the dishwasher or cutting your nails and use the funds to get rid of food banks as well as creating real opportunities for apprenticeships i am all for that.

    if you are under 57 year old and voted NO it is predicted you can look forward to getting your old age pension when you are seventy

    look over your shoulder and see the cuts coming to dwarf the cuts already made

    The price for voting no will be paid for by poorer end of society.

    Westminster rules and don’t you forget it

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

    agnes moffat October 27, 2014 10:33 pm Reply

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