BILL HEANEY’S NOTEBOOK

BILL HEANEY
Bill Heaney, editor/publisher of the Dumbarton Democrat

There is an old joke by Groucho Marx that he wouldn’t join any club that would have him as a member.

Which makes me tend towards saying here that I wouldn’t cover any council that would let me in.

It’s not enjoyable being treated as a pariah or a leper as I am at present by West Dunbartonshire Council.

And I can’t say I am delighted at being in such good company as the members of the public who were once again locked out of the council’s monthly meeting in Dumbarton on Wednesday. I feel sorry for them.

I love these members of the public, especially the ones who are prepared to stand up to the small-minded gauleiters who shut the doors on them. They deserve better. They are entitled to much better.

These officials who locked them out are rigid, stuffed shirts, big girls’ blouses and jobsworths who occupy the Chief Executive’s office at the £15 million and counting Council Offices in Church Street. They are overpaid and under-employed into the bargain.

Not the Council stewards, of course, who are only doing what they are told by these insufferable warts on the backside of progress who, as has been said recently and very often, couldn’t run a bath or organise a ménage with a modicum of efficiency.

I could not help but laugh out loud when I heard the comments of Deputy Provost Karen Conaghan in relation to the roadworks’ debacle the residents of Dumbarton have had to, and will continue to have to, put up with all through the summer.

Cllr Conaghan, who handbags around £30,000 a year – bet you wish you had a wedge of that for your summer holidays – for “advice” such as this to the electorate says this roads debacle will bring us all closer together. Come on Karen, get a grip.

Just about the only time Dumbarton makes the radio news of a morning is when Theresa Talbot and her pals on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland are flagging up roadworks and diversions throughout the town and Vale.

If you are looking for positive news about West Dunbartonshire, dear reader, then you will have to look elsewhere. It is a commodity in short supply around here.

Somewhere like STV, who have been spun much guff, will be where you will find it, maybe. The media glitterati rode into town before Wednesday’s big meeting to consult the electorate about the Flamingo Land council meeting.

Why the council needed to consult anyone about something so obvious as the residents’ attitude to a cheap hotel and a few waterslides being built at Drumkinnon Bay is difficult to understand. When it comes at a cost to us of around £200,000, it’s a sore one.

Which parts of No Thanks doesn’t the Council leader and his Johnny come lately to the No lobby mates not understand?

Protests groups, including Save Loch Lomond and the Drumkinnon Bay campaigners, have told them for months on end that it’s the last thing they want.

As has Nick Kempe of Parkswatch Scotland. Frequently.

Our council officials may have been otherwise occupied on Lochside golf courses and indulging in expensive wine, champagne, streaks and fish dishes in fine dining restaurants with their contractor pals. Double portions of monkfish all round, even.

It is possible that the controversy about Drumkinnon Bay and Flamingo Land passed them by in the steam room or the spa.

Would they like to hear how the electorate felt about being locked out on Wednesday night?

Save Loch Lomond’s Sam Payton said: “It’s disgraceful. The public being refused entry to the meeting. They are now voting on whether or public are allowed access.  They are claiming [there are] not enough seats.”

Noohrie R Evonlady told social media: “They can still let some [seats] in. From what I have heard, there are empty seats, and anyway I am sure some [people] would be willing/ able to stand.

“It’s absolutely outrageous … the [news] papers should be alerted and they should seek to speak to the provost and McColl

“After all this is news – a public meeting, yet tthe public are not allowed to be present!

“It is taxpayers’ money that is being and has been used for this, never mind the fact that the proposals have a huge impact on not only the local community but further afield.”

Chris Cotton said: “Presumably there’s somebody from the local papers in the meeting?”

Not if, like me, you work for The Dumbarton Democrat, which cannot be trusted with the usual courtesies extended to the media – a seat on the press bench and access to the communications department to ask questions and seek clarifications.

Pamela Kirkwood asked: “Why isn’t the media involved or even the local papers?”

“Is there anyone to stop you? Get a group and just walk in. They can’t forcibly remove you,” said another protester.

Janet Docherty thought the Council did not have the lawful authority to stop the public attending a public meeting.

She asked the Council to produce the lawful paperwork to prove they hold any authority for this.

“Don’t let them hide behind their decision. This wasn’t a council decision. It was one person’s decision.

“Maybe the people can lawfully hold them to account in their private capacity and full liability? They won’t like that!”

Meanwhile, the campaigners had pushed their way into the lobby at the not fit for purpose Council Offices and were singing By Yon Bonnie Banks.

All this was going on in West Dunbartonshire on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Scottish Parliament when democracy was being touted as one of devolution’s greatest benefits.

Maybe the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, or even Her Majesty the Queen herself, should take a trip to Dumbarton to see how Scotland’s good name is being trailed through the mud by the jumped up occupants of the £15 million and counting Council Offices.

Or maybe, at last, the non SNP members of West Dunbartonshire Council should ask for this ban and boycott to be formally minuted and to have a roll call vote on that?


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