Will Councillor Caroline McAllister be SNP’s choice for leader in 2020?
Cllr Caroline McAllister. Is she being lined up for leadership of West Dunbartonshire Council?
By Bill Heaney
Mental health was the principal platform used by Cllr Caroline McAllister when she stood for election to West Dunbartonshire Council on an SNP ticket in the Leven Ward in 2017.
Her election leaflet said: “Training and working within the care sector, Caroline spent the majority of her time working in the field of mental health.
“At present she works as an independent advocate for adults with mental health issues in West Dunbartonshire and the Helensburgh areas.”
Cllr McAllister is now the deputy leader of the SNP administration at West Dunbartonshire Council.
It is surprising therefore that she has said nothing – and continues to say nothing – about the fact that her colleague, Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the Council, has come out publicly to declare that he is mentally ill with a bipolar disorder.
Many people feel that Cllr McColl has shown great courage in doing that.
As we wrote here at the time, he is more to be pitied than pilloried, especially since his bipolar illness is one for which there is no known cure.
But there have been no public statements or words of concern or support from his colleagues on the SNP group or party branch locally or nationally – apart perhaps an anonymous letter from “Willie” to The Dumbarton Democrat.
Cllr McAllister failed to respond to a written request from us this week to make a comment about the matter.
The question we asked was if there were any protocols in regard to an applicant’s health, mental or physical, when they were seeking appointments to important positions on, say, the Council or the local Health Board, of which Cllr McColl is also a member.
And, if there are, are they being applied?
Both these bodies have been in the spotlight this year for the many failings that have beset them, the Health Board over the dirty water deaths scandal at the £850 million showpiece QE2 University Hospital, and the Council over its failure to meet budget targets and is now skint to the extent that it has been forced to fall back on cash reserves.
And become involved in controversial projects which have led to losses of £ millions of taxpayers’ money in West Dunbartonshire.
There have also been rows over the press and public’s right to access public meetings in Clydebank and Dumbarton.
Cllr McAllister’s failure to reply to our questions about mental health may be simply that she is following the SNP’s unacceptable and anti-democratic ban and boycott on speaking to The Democrat.
However, since she is Cllr McColl’s deputy who, in normal circumstances, would be expected to stand in for him while his office answering machine tells us he will be off until January 6, why is she unavailable for comment?
It’s not as if the Council itself has no ambition to feature in the press.
They have a Communications Department, costing a cool £500,000 a year, which doesn’t communicate, at least not to us it doesn’t.
Perhaps there is a hidden message from the Chief Executive as to how much she values it in that she has appointed the person leading it to take charge of the bins?
If the Council has nothing to hide, then why has there been no reply from Cllr McAllister to our questions?
They cannot use the excuse that they do not discuss an employee’s (or a councillor’s) confidential business in public since it was the councillor himself who went to the Lennox Herald with his story, which initially appeared over three pages.
That newspaper has just this week chosen it as one of their stories of the year, and a shorter piece has appeared with a posed photograph of Cllr McColl on the centre spread.
The only evidence that we have that Cllr McAllister avoids appearing in the press is that her website tells us that she has been in the papers only once since 2017, which is not true.
There is speculation now that Cllr McAllister could step up to take Cllr McColl’s place as leader should he decide to resign for any reason, although that seems unlikely.
But who is she? She could hardly be described as a household name around here and has very little experience as an elected representative at any level in politics.
This is how she was described in that election leaflet: “Born in Ayrshire, in a small mining village in the 60s during Thatcher’s reign, Caroline reluctantly had to leave Scotland to pursue further educational and employment opportunities.
“In 2002 she and her family moved to the Dumbarton area, where they decided to lay down roots, make a home and raise their children. It’s a decision she haven’t (sic) regretted.
“She first became politically active locally during the Independence referendum campaign [in 2014]. Following the result she knew she had to do more, and joined the SNP.
“She believes that they are the first political party, in power, who have actually fought for what is best for Scotland and most closely reflect her values.
“As Women’s Officer and Vice-Convener of her local SNP branch she ensures politics are kept relevant to women and encourages their participation with unlimited enthusiasm.”
Caroline herself said: “”I felt for many years’ politics was something that was ‘done’ to people.
“However during the independence campaign, I realised that didn’t have to be the case. People make a difference!
“It’s my belief in local democracy that motivates me to stand in the Leven ward alongside Ian Dickson.
“It has always perplexed me that West Dunbartonshire has failed to realise it’s great potential.
“If elected, I will work tirelessly with the community to deliver meaningful and lasting change for West Dunbartonshire.”
If there has been that “meaningful and lasting” change, Caroline McAllister, unlike most politicians offered a platform to do so, doesn’t want to tell the electorate who are readers of The Dumbarton Democrat about it.