NOTEBOOK

 

By Bill Heaney

West Dunbartonshire’s lame duck council leader Jonathan McColl has come out at last against Flamingo Land’s plans for a leisure park in Balloch.

He says it is disappointing that Balloch and Haldane Community Council are supporting the application to the National Park since he believed that the public who turned out in large numbers at a meeting earlier this year were dead against it.

It has taken him six months to make himself clear on this important and controversial issue – despite him having a communications department, which costs us £400,000 a year, to help him with the big words. Or with just one very short word – NO.

Perhaps Flamingo Land and Scottish Enterprise will, like Edward’s Army, retreat to Yorkshire and think again about their plan which looks, from where I am sitting, like a duck that’s already dead in the waters of Loch Lomond.

Scottish Enterprise should get a grip and stop wasting the public’s time and money in laying the groundwork for Flamingo Land.

Everyone should calm down and leave it to the Loch Lomond Park Authority to do what they are paid to do, which is to secure the future and protect the environment of the lands, lochs and rivers on the Bonnie Banks.

If they really want the public to appreciate them then Park Authority should take it upon themselves to investigate the viability of the suggestion from Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie, which is for a community buy out.

After all, it’s going for a song and the tune is not By Yon Bonnie Banks but a paltry £200,000, which was ten times that – a cool £2 million – when Scottish Enterprise and Flamingo Land embarked on their ill-fated project to get this through planning.

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Unholy alliance SNP leader Jonathan McColl and Conservative Sally Page.

Why is West Dunbartonshire Council wasting its time on smoothing the path for the introduction of the dreaded new benefits system, Universal Credit?

It appears not to be a big enough issue to merit the undivided attention of their esteemed leader Cllr Jonathan McColl and has been left to his deputy, Caroline McAllister, to take up the fight against it.

She has described the new benefit system as “damaging and punitive” and talks of people being “plunged into poverty”.

Caroline is to ask Amber Rudd, the new Works and Pensions Minister, to postpone its introduction until all the problems that have beset it have been solved.

Well, fat chance of that ever happening. If the SNP were going to complain then they should have done that ages ago.

Another SNP “initiative” against UC has been for Nicola Sturgeon’s little Westminster helper, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, to call a meeting with a couple of local housing associations who fear the impact of the introduction of this pernicious piece of Conservative legislation.

Martin, every poor person on benefits in West Dunbartonshire is terrified about the impact UC will have on themselves and their family. The dogs in the street know that.

Will they have enough for food; can they pay their rent and council tax and are they really going to be expected to have no money for weeks on end – up to ten weeks and beyond – even after they have waded through the complicated application forms?

One person seems content and unperturbed about its introduction which will come into effect next Wednesday, ten hours BEFORE our asleep at the wheel council meets to discuss it.

One person I had a meeting with recently in the Municipal Buildings seems quite unperturbed about the introduction of Universal Credit.

Indeed, she seemed quite pleased about it.

Conservative Cllr Sally Page, who represents the Lomond ward which has pockets of poverty and deprivation in places such as Haldane, told me she would be content to see UC going ahead.

But then Cllr Page is minted. She has a barrow load of shares in a very successful company which makes sausage skins of all things.

Her millionaire husband, Peter, was until recently making more than £500,000 a year as boss of mega rich Devro and, according to the Register of Interests. A farm at Gartocharn on Loch Lomondside is also listed.

The electorate of Jamestown and Haldane may be dismayed to hear this as they travel to the Job Centre with their UC forms.

Alexandria Job Centre has been closed so it will cost them much more to travel into Dumbarton to find out what the future has in store for them.

One would think that Jonathan McColl would be having second thoughts about relying on the support of Cllr Page and her Tory colleague, Brian Walker.

He too should not have to worry about Universal Credit since his salary from working at the Base is nicely topped up by his annual payment for doing his treasurer for the local Masonic Lodge.

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It’s Scottish Book Week and West Dunbartonshire’s Library Service is having some special events.

Writers have been giving talks to audiences at places like Dumbarton Library.

Tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm for those who won’t be watching the Scotland v Israel match on television, Daniel Gray will give a talk about his book, Scribbles in the Margin.

Daniel is well worth a listen and his previous book Homage to Caledonia – the title is a play on words of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia – is a must read for people interested in the Scottish dimension to the Spanish Civil War.

Like, there must be a few local writers who are disappointed that they were not invited to participate in Book Week.

I was going to ask why I couldn’t talk about All Our Yesterdays or Two Minutes Silence or How Are Things in Connemara.

But then I remembered that West Dunbartonshire Council’s communicators don’t talk to me.  They are great ones for taking offence but not shy about dishing it out.

Ask those councillors who were called liars when they complained about the SNP-Conservative Budget which included slashing money for books and music lessons and closing libraries.

BILL HEANEY

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