NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY

SNP candidate sponsored by the councillors who cost us £ millions

SNP politicians Martin Docherty Hughes and Jonathan McColl.

If a week is a long time in politics generally speaking, then here in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute it is an eternity, writes Bill Heaney.

Yesterday, I forecast that Martin Docherty Hughes was a shoo in to take the West Dunbartonshire seat for the SNP, just as he had done in 2017.

That was predicated on the commonly held assumption that Mr Docherty, who scraped through last time against Labour’s Jean Anne Mitchell with a majority of just 2,288, would distance himself from the basket case SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council.

No politician in his right mind would wish to be associated with those allegations about incalculable £ millions of taxpayers’ money flowing down the Church Street drain while contract procurement rules were being ignored.

Or that council officials sloshed back champagne and bottles of Rioja grand cru costing £78 a whip, ate T-bone steaks and devoured double helpings of fancy fish dishes with well-heeled contractors.

Not to mention the fact that one of them who was “under the weather” took a taxi home from a Glasgow hostelry at a cost verging on £80.

Receipts for these luxury items are being posted daily on social media by Cllr Jim Bollan, of the Community Party, making the officials in question squirm in the seats of their comfortable new offices.

This was happening while an unprecedented number of residents of West Dunbartonshire were so broke and poorly nourished that they were forced to use food banks in local churches, such as St Augustine’s.

And left without Out of Hours NHS health services at Vale of Leven Hospital. Cllr McColl is our representative on the Health Board, where sometimes he gives precedence to answering his mail to attending their meetings.

The construction contracts received from the then Labour-controlled Council by one businessman, who played golf on Loch Lomondside and sat down to dine with these officials in posh hotels and fine dining restaurants, are said to have been worth around £9 million.

The officials involved in this were receiving salaries of around £80,000 a year.

Burgh Hall 7

Then there was the “squandermania” involved with the feckless Council paying out £2 million more than the £15 million estimate for the refurbishment and extension of the old Burgh Hall in Church Street. That’s now £17 million and counting.

The official chamber in the Burgh Hall has turned out to be unfit for purpose as an auditorium or viewing gallery for council meetings.

The public have been refused entry to the Burgh Hall – and Clydebank Town Hall – in large numbers because none of the councillors – all of them had a hand in the design of 16 Church Street – considered not many of the plebs would have much interest in what was being done in their name.

In Dunbartonshire, people who take an interest in public affairs are considered to be either eccentric, daft or vexatious.

The councillors and officials strutted around proudly with their chests puffed out when the Burgh Hall received an architectural award.

And then ignored in their hyped media release about the opening the fact that the building was not fit for use as an office for social workers, who are still waiting one year on to be re-settled in satisfactory accommodation.

Add to all this, the £5 million and counting overspend on a community heating system in new housing in Clydebank, despite the fact that a previous system installed at Bonhill was proven to be useless.

That ill-advised, unwelcome installation at Queens Quay is now costing £20 million and counting without yet having warmed one single Bankie backside.

It turned out that the public were so dismayed by what little they did hear of what was happening in council meetings – the no grass-cutting “bio-diversity” fiasco was just one of them – that they thought they had better go along and make their feelings known.

Only West Dunbartonshire Council could make things worse. They have never learned that when you are in a hole it’s time to stop digging.

The SNP leader, Jonathan McColl, lied that members of the public, most of them senior citizens, had assaulted the council officers, who were instructed along the lines of “they shall not pass”.

The council officers, usually polite to a fault, were dismayed to be accused of this. They didn’t do it.

Some other staff did act inappropriately however and the public were treated aggressively by others such as McColl, who threw his considerable weight around and lied that our editor had assaulted two women.

The truth is that the editor, exasperated by the fact that he was told by four officials, including the Chief Executive and top lawyer, it was “inappropriate” for him to ask the Provost to have the sound turned up and a press bench to sit at and take notes, he quietly told one of them to bugger off.

The shock, horror of never having heard such language before on the faces of the officials was a sight to behold.

The editor never laid a hand on anyone, either there or after an education committee meeting called earlier to decide the future of St Martin’s Primary School in Renton.

Two media officers smuggled a leading member of that committee out the back door at Garshake so that the press would be denied the opportunity to take her photograph.

Ellen McBride, the Catholic Church representative on that committee, could not have been ashamed of voting for the closure, or could she?

Cllr McColl put out the word that this digital news platform, The Dumbarton Democrat, was to be banned and boycotted both by the Council and the SNP, councillors, MPs et al.

We were dreadful people – misogynists even, he wrote in an e mail.

The rest of the so-called democrats who make up the council, apart from Community Party’s Jim Bollan, have never intervened to put a stop to this discrimination against The Democrat.

Labour, Conservative and the so-called Independent Bailie Agnew, whose vote keeps the SNP in power, have all remained silent on this.

We can only assume that they approve of their officials acting like tin pot dictators.

All protests from The Democrat have been ignored by the Chief Executive and her staff.

This is the same council, who have no problem breaking the rules themselves in regard to procurement, and have regularly ignored Standing Orders or regulations in relation to socialising with clients.

They let themselves off with a slap on the wrist, but impose sanctions on us and treat us like lepers.

The Chief Executive even objected to our editor having a glass of water during a long meeting in Clydebank.

Yesterday, however, instead of distancing himself from the SNP members of the Council for his General Election campaign, Mr Docherty Hughes unbelievably enlisted them as the sponsors for his candidature.

This suggests that we should have no expectation that in the new Scotland envisaged by the SNP, we would be living in a democracy where everyone was treated the same.

Mr Docherty Hughes does not have the political nous, intellectual gravitas or common sense to be the MP for West Dunbartonshire.

The local electorate, who are not stupid but are being treated as such, deserve better.

They will already have worked this out for themselves and decided not to vote for the SNP.

Not in this General Election, not in any election – and most definitely not with this shower in place.

  • So, if Mr Docherty-Hughes does not retain his seat in parliament, who will?

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