New Chuckle Brothers force the SNP Budget through with silent Tory votes

The new Chuckle Brothers – Jonathan McColl and Ian Dickson.

By Bill Heaney

The SNP in West Dunbartonshire may have friends in high places, but it seems these are only on bar stools and lounge chairs in various licensed premises across the country.

The corridors of power in the East Wing of the imposing grey granite St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh’s Regent Road appear to be beyond the reach of Cllr Jonathan McColl and his finance convener, Cllr Ian Dickson.

Cllr McColl was mandated unanimously by the Council last month to arrange “high level” meetings with the Scottish government’s finance secretary, Derek Mackay, to plead for a better budget settlement.

The dispiriting news which emerged on Wednesday at the annual budget meeting in the Burgh Hall was as cold as the atmosphere in the new £15 million building.

There, a draught like a step mother’s breath blew through what passes for a council chamber, where hearing and seeing what’s going on is “challenging”, to use a favourite word of Chief Executive Joyce White.

Things warmed up – but only metaphorically – when the Labour leader, Cllr David McBride, said: “Provost, despite high level discussions at various licensed premises throughout Scotland, this council is still under-funded by the Scottish Government.”

He said it was plain that if the 1.6 per cent cut imposed by the Tories at Westminster had been mirrored and not multiplied to become 6.9 per cent by the SNP government at Holyrood, West Dunbartonshire would have had an additional £11.1 million allocated to it.

David McBrideCllr McBride, pictured right, said there could be no other explanation for this and that, while he disagreed with the swingeing cuts being imposed by the SNP in this area, he was sympathetic to the fact that they were struggling to balance the books.

No more money was forthcoming from Edinburgh, and while their SNP government colleagues “offer tea (other something stronger) in licensed premises”, council services were being slashed across the board here.

The situation here was simply that the Council had less money from Government than the services required to sustain them.

Cllrs McColl and Dickson simply laughed off the criticism and mumbled inaudibly into their microphones.

It would appear that finance secretary Derek Mackay is not the only SNP politician to require public speaking lessons at £1,000 a time.

Paid for from the public purse, of course.

The only view of them from the seats allocated to the press was the back of their heads and shoulders heaving with laughter.

The new Chuckle Brothers have arrived in West Dunbartonshire.

The fact that scorn and cynical laughter have become part of the SNP political armoury – and that they get away with it under the chairmanship of the inept Provost William Hendrie – is cringe worthy, as is much of what passes for debate at these meetings.

The public who listened at home – they were remarkably advised by the Provost to stay there and not bother coming along to the meeting since there might be no room for them – must be appalled by the mediocrity of it all.

The SNP budget was passed by ten votes to eight with the assistance of “independent” Bailie Denis Agnew and the Silent People – the Tories Sally Page and Brian Walker, who never opened their mouths once from the start to finish of this meeting.

These two abstained. No praise for anything, not a word of criticism of any of the cuts.

I take it they knew they were assisting the SNP who last month ragged Cllr Page mercilessly over an obscure motion about housing for which she did not receive a seconder.

How Conservative supporters in Balloch and Dumbarton must now be regretting ever placing an X on the ballot paper for these two politically hopeless individuals.


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