NOTEBOOK by Bill Heaney
Since it is generally agreed that we have the worst performing council ever to convene a meeting in Dumbarton, it’s not surprising that the electorate are already thinking about how they will vote in the next local government elections.
Even though it will be two years from now before voters are given the opportunity to place their vital X on a ballot paper and pop it into that big, black box, the electorate are discussing politics more than ever before.
Renton community activist Drew MacEoghainn, who is frequently in the wars about this subject on social media, thinks he has a solution.
“Party loyalty is killing councils throughout Scotland,” he says. “We have had some decent Labour councillors in West Dunbartonshire, who have voted for party policy rather than what they believe to be best for our community and, as a result [of this], the last Labour administration was a disgrace.”
He claims: “We currently have a couple of decent SNP councillors voting along party lines even though they know the policies are damaging our community.
“Sadly, however, the majority of the current crop of councillors would not be councillors unless they hid behind a party rosette.”
Drew adds: “Take the SNP banner from Dickson, McLaren, Finn, Brown, Hendry, Conaghan and they wouldn’t secure any votes in their own house. Nobody knows what they stand for.
“They rely on the right wing Tories in [Cllr Sally] Page and the almost mute, goose stepping, politically inept morally corrupt [Cllr Brian] Walker to keep them in power.
“I would rather not be in power than rely on the likes of them to keep me there.”
Drew says that what West Dunbartonshire needs is a mix of Jeremy Corbyn’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s policies to be adopted by a majority of councillors and for them to vote along those lines no matter what their own party line happens to be.
He adds: “We need politically astute moral councillors who are willing to strip the incompetent hierarchy masquerading as senior management and take the power back to our elected officials.
“Otherwise the Tories austerity agenda willingly pushed through by senior management on £80k+ wages will continue to disproportionately affect the people of West Dunbartonshire
“I’m part of a party [the Community Party] but would love candidates to stand on their own record of work and volunteering in their community, not hide behind a political party banner.”
Pat Tedford who joined in the debate from far off Lothian – such are the advantages of social media – who said she had already mentioned this to several Labour and Tory, councillors in West Lothian “in the hope they might remember why they were voted in”.
When Mark Brown suggested that the SNP should be wiped out altogether, John McInally asked: “Are you happy then to start paying for bedroom tax, prescriptions, eye tests and bridge tolls?
“And to do away with free school meals P1-3, childcare 2-4 year olds, and the £30 per week educational allowance to name but a few?”
Mark Brown was adamant however – “All they are interested in is independence and their own personal agendas; creating hatred and division in the country while doing so. They are dangerous, vile liars who are not fit for purpose. Know them by their deeds.”
Do I hear cries of “haud the bus” from the public gallery or even Order, Order, from Wee Willie Winkie in the chair?
Drew MacEoghainn said Labour’s record in power here was “abysmal” – “Labour haven’t the answers as a party. Neither has the SNP, but if independent councillors could choose which policies to follow and which to drop this area would massively improve.”
Alan Arthur said: “There needs to be independent councillors who challenge the party lines and see the welfare of West Dunbarton as their priority and have a strong moral compass and backbone.”
Long-time political activist Jim Whyte said: “Everywhere you look, be it Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland, austerity is carnivorously eating into people’s standard of living.
“Why and how then do you think this can be solved at local level without reference to national Tory driven austerity? Just doesn’t add up. I have asked this question before but it falls on deaf ears.”
Trade unionist Craig Edward believes that having independent councillors doesn’t solve the problem – “it’s not a magic bullet”.
He claimed: “Highland Council has Independents that are actually Tory/SNP/Lib/Lab supporters. You can end up with Tory-supporting Independents which is actually worse.
“[Bailie] Denis Agnew is prime example of being chameleon to suit his personal ambitions, but he is quite sympathetic to the Tory and SNP austerity measures.”
Vale of Leven Labour Party activist Alan Sorrell introduced some humour into the debate: “I did offer to be West Dunbartonshire’s answer to Jeremy Corbyn but the people of Clydebank Central turned the offer down. Perhaps next time?”
But it’s not something we can laugh about. Times they are a changing. If you always do what you always did, then you will always get what you always got. Change is inevitable, change is essential if we are to develop and grow.
Old Spanish customs, such as those being alleged at present, must be jettisoned while they can be. Local government must be honest, open and transparent in the 21st century – and be seen to be. Officials must be made to understand they are working for their local council, in public service not the Secret Service.
There could be many changes made to election rules and formats and boundary changes before the public are asked to vote for their local councillor here.
2021 is the year in which Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP want an Independence referendum, which could be on the same day as the Scottish local government elections.
Like Brexit, that Independence referendum might never happen, most definitely not while the Conservatives are in power at Westminster.
And, worryingly, when you look at the state the Labour Party is in, both in Scotland and down South, that could be for many years to come.