The SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council with leader Jonathan McColl, second from right, and next to him Caroline McAllister, deputy leader, who is being tipped to take over from him.
By the Editor
That was the year that was. It’s over and most of us can’t wait for the Bells to see the back of it.
West Dunbartonshire Council in particular will be delighted to witness the departure of 2019. As will the local NHS Health Board.
This has been their annus horribilis. For them, if something wasn’t going wrong, it was something else going wrong.
Money down the drain amounted to £millions, while the Council spent like a Friday night drunk on some very daft and unpopular ideas indeed.
And the Health Board discovered they had been sold a pup instead of the £850 million showpiece hospital they had ordered from the contractor.
First, it was pigeons spreading infections in the wards and then it was patient deaths and more infections from poorly constructed ventilation – until the SNP government decided it was finally time to impose special measures. High time.
A good newspaper, the playwright Arthur Miller observed, is a nation talking to itself.
In the half-century since he coined that famous aphorism, the world – and the media industry itself – have changed in profound ways.
Technology has altered our politics, our culture and even how we relate to one another.
Globalisation has made the world smaller. Information crosses borders instantaneously, and the very notion of truth has become a political battleground.
And yet Arthur Miller’s standard – a nation talking to itself – still holds.
When you, the reader, visit the The Dumbarton Democrat website or app each day, you should feel that your world, your community, is reflected back at you in all its richness and complexity. And disagreement and disorder.
In this “post-truth” age, when so many are intent on twisting the facts or even denying them outright, we believe our role has never been more important.
Especially since other local newspapers which once flourished here are being forced to close their offices, transfer staff out of the town, starved of investment and robbed of their local identity by greedy multi-nationals.
But it is not enough for us simply to describe what goes on in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.
Our task is also to explain – to filter out the noise of politicians shouting at each other, to expose lies and cover-ups, and to attempt to make sense of the world around us.
That world is changing rapidly. As we look towards 2020, we brace ourselves for a defining year.
The December general election gave voters an opportunity to have their say on the direction of the country after a tumultuous few years.
Large numbers of people wish to see Scotland become an independent country.
New housing taking shape along the banks of the River Leven.
Picture by Jim Crosthwaite
Crises in housing and health will feature large in that campaign while, across many communities, their effects will continue to be keenly felt.
Regardless of whether the United Kingdom leaves the European Union by its (latest) scheduled departure date of January 31st, Brexit will dominate discussion.
The fissures it has opened in British society will grow deeper. Fears about its destabilising effects in Northern Ireland will persist.
And with talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU likely to begin in earnest, the hardest part of this process may still lie ahead.
Locally, we have been told something we have known for some time. That our Council is devoid of ideas to take us out of the £millions it is in debt.
They have been given what looks like a final warning from the Accounts Commission to introduce big changes or face special measures (officials from outside being drafted in to run local government here).
No one should say that cannot happen because it is exactly what has taken place at the Health Board. Our council should be better than that. As should our new-fangled Health and Social Care Partnership.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, voters will decide whether to give Donald Trump a second term in the White House. For the US and for the world, there is a great deal riding on that decision. Will it mark a moment of consolidation for the far-right, or can it herald a global reaction against the populist surge?
Through our award-winning reporting and fair-minded analysis and opinion-writing, we will chronicle every turn in these stories.
Any fair minded person will tell you that we do not deserve to be banned and boycotted by the SNP, and that we were simply doing our job as journalists, which is speaking truth to power.
We will continue to seek out and highlight sources of hope and optimism – whether it’s the inspiring role of young people in leading the global effort to avert climate change or simply some of life’s everyday pleasures: a sporting triumph, a compelling new novel, a poem, good music or our take on a new film or a new restaurant.
Our relationship with our community of readers is hugely important to us. You, our readers, are the heart of that community. Thank you for your support.
To you and your family: Best wishes for 2020.