Meeting erupts into shouting match and protester is shown the door
Clashed at meeting – Sid Perrie (right) and Murdoch Cameron.
By Bill Heaney
Flamingoland has become the Brexit of Balloch on the Bonnie Banks with its lengthy, drawn-out, bitter wrangling which appears to have split the Lochside community apart.
And even now, months and years after this hotel and leisure park complex was first proposed, it continues to await a decision on planning consent from the Loch Lomond Park Authority for controversial development at Drumkinnon Bay.
A policewoman and three rangers with the look of bouncers about them were on hand at a meeting of Balloch and Haldane Community Council in the Park Authority offices at Carrochan Roundabout on Wednesday morning.
The atmosphere was febrile and it wasn’t long before Flamingoland opponent Sid Perrie claimed he was being intimidated by a Community Council member who tried to stare him out.
While the authorities appeal frequently for people to volunteer for community councils, it does not take long for their antipathy against people being forthright and willing to stand up for their rights to come to the surface.
In this case, according to Mr Perrie, it took the form of being ignored and banned from taking part in the pre-meeting coffee session. He claims to have shouted at and told: “Leave that alone. The coffee is for Council members only.”
That is not generally the kind of thing to do when you want to promote an interest among the public in community affairs.
And it’s not good public relations when the agenda for a meeting is being passed round a room not to offer a copy to those intending to protest.
Mr Perrie said: “We were not offered a copy [of the agenda]. The hostility in the room was palpable.”
Remarkably, the request for a special general meeting to discuss a motion of no confidence in B&HCC came up minutes into the meeting when it was anticipated it might be the last item.
The tree-filled area around Lomond Shores which is being sought for development by Flamingoland for a hotel and leisure complex.
Mr Perrie said: “Disposal has more than one meaning. He [Chairman Murdoch Cameron.] used the cleansing department version.”
A prepared statement was read out by Murdoch Cameron which Mr Perrie claims contained “fake legal advice concocted by West Dunbartonshire Council”.
Mr Perrie said the advice centred on a constitution which five weeks previously the Council said did not exist but which “only mysteriously appeared” out of the blue.
“This was the constitution which the previous week they said they had never had sight of. It is absolutely astounding.”
Mr Perrie and others who had signed a petition called for the resignation of the Community Council en bloc because they felt that they had not reflected properly the view from a public meeting that there was a large majority against Flamingoland.
Indeed, they had done the opposite and told the Loch Lomond Park Authority that the people of Balloch and Haldane were for it.
Chairman Murdoch Cameron told the leading protester they were not entitled to force the Community Council to resign with a motion of no confidence – and quickly added that his decision was final.
There would be no voting on this and no discussion.
There were then shouts from the Community Council members including “You have your answer, now get out”.
The CC secretary Jim Biddulph is alleged to have told Mr Perrie to go away and “call your own meeting”.
No copies of the chairman’s statement were made available to Mr Perrie when he asked and when he tried to ask questions about the date and who had signed “the mysterious constitution, which made the Community Council answerable to no one” a Community councillor protested that the public were “not allowed to speak at these meetings”.
It was at this point, the Mr Perrie alleges, that the chairman “thumped twice on the table with unusual vigour and three Park Rangers, who had apparently been stationed outside the room burst in.”
Mr Perrie said: “The scene was confusing. The community councillors were making so much noise the rangers could not work out who was supposed to be causing the trouble. It was a total farce.”
He added: “After a minute, realising we and the residents of Balloch had been stitched up, there was no point in staying. At 10 past 10 – just ten minutes after the meeting started – we were on the pavement outside the National Park headquarters.”
Despite all the controversy, it appeared there were no officials from West Dunbartonshire Council in attendance at the meeting.
Bonnie Banks and the proposed development area at Drumkinnon Bay. Picture by Bruce Biddulph
Mr Perrie said: “West Dunbartonshire Council is responsible for allowing Balloch & Haldane Community Council to write their own constitution and make themselves answerable to no one.
“They are out of control and I cannot get anyone at West Dunbartonshire Council to see that this is a problem.
“They are in deep denial about their, role, responsibilities and control of Community Councils but still supply this cabal with public money.
“Every Scottish Government department I contact, including the ministry for employment, communities and Local Government, tell me that Community Councils are under supervision, control and are regulated by the local government under the scheme for establishment of Community Councils (Scotland) Act , March 2009.
“The control and governance of Community Councils by West Dunbartonshire Council is an utter shambles and not fit for purpose. They maintain that they have no control of Community Councils.”
When The Democrat asked West Dunbartonshire Council about community councils and how a council’s constitution could be changed in the middle of an important planning process during which the Balloch and Haldane Community Council had been asked to participate, they failed to respond with a comment.
This is concerning since the press and public have a right to know how ludicrous, Trump-like decisions such as this are taken and then implemented in their name.
This is an extract from the Scottish Government guidance on a community council constitution:
- Meetings of the community council
(g) The COMMUNITY COUNCIL has a duty to be responsive to the community it represents. Should the COMMUNITY COUNCIL receive a written request (petition), signed by at least 20 persons resident within the COMMUNITY COUNCIL area to convene a special meeting for a particular matter or matters to be debated, it shall call such a meeting within 14 days of receipt of such a request and advertise it in the manner prescribed locally for special meetings called by the COMMUNITY COUNCIL.
Mr Perrie said: “All these requirement were fulfilled but we are getting nowhere with this. It appears not just the Community Council but the full Council want to block us at every turn. They don’t want public participation and they certainly don’t want anyone coming in to upset their cosy little arrangements. Evidence of this is the fact that they meet at 10am when no one who works or has other duties can make their meetings.”