EDITORIAL: THE DEMOCRAT

SNP group 3

The SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council with leader Jonathan McColl, third from right. Cllr Caroline McAllister, deputy leader, who is being tipped to take over from him before the Budget is second from left at the back.

By the Editor

On Hogmanay, we wrote an editorial stating what a bad year it had been, particularly for West Dunbartonshire Council and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Health Board.

This has been their annus horribilis.  For them, Murphy’s Law – everything that can go wrong will go wrong – had been the order of the day.

Let’s not go into it all again in detail. The money down the drain amounted to £millions, while the Council spent like a senior official on redundancy money.

As for the Health Board, special measures had to be brought in by the SNP government to replace their placemen and women who though answering letters in their constituency office was more important than going to meeting.

Until some patients died.

The usual cries of “it wisnae me” and “it’s no’ ma fault” went up all round the Health Board offices.

No one was up to earning their substantial emoluments by taking responsibility for what had been passed in committee.

So, rightly, special measures were drafted in to take over by Jeane Freeman, the Health Secretary, the latest politician to succeed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in that role.

The principals were ignominiously “hooked” like footballers who find themselves substituted.

The Democrat suggested that something similar should happen at West Dunbartonshire Council, which has been forced to deal unsuccessfully with crisis after crisis.

On December 31, we wrote that 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 had 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 had become a political battleground.

And yet Arthur Miller’s standard – a nation talking to itself – still holds.

The problem with West Dunbartonshire Council is that few people are listening – and the others cannot hear what is being done in their name.

And when people like out editor speak out, they are surrounded and harassed by highly paid council officers acting in the manner of like dance hall bouncers and told asking questions is “inappropriate”.

It may well be “inappropriate” in places like Iran, where an ambassador can’t go for a haircut without being “lifted”, but it shouldn’t be in Scotland in 2020.

We are supposed to be living in a democracy.

When you, the reader, visit 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 regimes lie about who did and who didn’t fire a missile that brought down an aircraft and killed 176 people, so many are intent on twisting the facts or even denying them outright, we believe our role has never been more important.

The press and media have a duty to report and comment on all they consider newsworthy. All politics, for example, is local. Democracy is a fragrant flower which is being trampled on here.

This is especially since other local newspapers which once flourished here are being forced to close their offices, make journalists redundant and transfer staff out of the town.

They are being starved of investment and robbed of their local identity by greedy multi-nationals and by our national and local government who are depriving them of advertising revenue, which was once their lifeblood.

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 untruths 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.

We had hoped that West Dunbartonshire Council and the SNP would finally change their attitude to The Democrat and restore our democratic right to being treated as is custom and practice to react with the press across Scotland.

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.

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.

Locally, we have witnessed for some time. That our Council is devoid of ideas to take us out of the £millions it is in debt.

The Council have done some good things, however, to address the deprivation in Dunbartonshire and we have reported them fully and fairly – despite the fact that the SNP says we have never and will never write anything good about them.

We have had to report them however without the assistance of the Council’s £500,000 a year Communications Department.

It is ironic that we cannot check the facts of this because the Communications Department refuses to communicate. Great money if you can get it.

The Chief Executive, Joyce White, who is conducting a witch hunt against Jim Bollan, arguably the ablest member of the council by reporting him to the Standards Commission for being disrespectful of her and her fellow officers.

It can’t be true that at a meeting with trade union officials recently Cllr Bollan’s name, trade union support for him and the word lawyers were mentioned in the same sentence? Or can it?

It is time Joyce White took a long, hard look at herself and re-introduced democracy into West Dunbartonshire.

She cannot go on dictating policy as she has done in regard to The Democrat’s relationship with the Council as she has done for far too long now.


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