NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY

This is for those SNP members who agree with the withdrawal of media accreditation from The Dumbarton Democrat.

They must be very worried that they are right up there this weekend with the dictatorships of Beirut and Belarus in regard to denying Freedom of the Press of the press to bona fide journalists.

Indeed, the people of Bonhill and Bellsmyre must be every bit as concerned – or they should be – as the people of Belarus and Beirut.

Here is part of a column this weekend by Kevin McKenna, an award-winning Scottish journalist:

A normal political party would be held to account on these issues by its own dissenting voices and perhaps be threatened with eviction at a nearby election. The SNP, though, is not a normal party. While it bears the eternal flame of independence its supporters are cowed to silence lest they be accused of jeopardising the Holy War, the unforgivable sin. Independence, for the SNP hierarchy, has become a safety harness rather than a cause.

In the two decades since devolution we have seen the rise of think-tanks and lobbying firms. These make a virtue of moderation and centrism and are cherished by the SNP because they instruct us all to sit up straight, behave ourselves and keep our mouths shut. All of them are inter-connected but not in a way that’s visible to the naked eye.

They harbour a few dozen of the elect who wield influence on policy and strategy. Together they form an intellectual and philosophical black hole where radical ideas disappear and die. In exchange for this they get invitations to sup at the Bute House Presidential Palace or get thrown a seat on a quango or a health board. Thus, the triumph of middle-class mediocrity is assured.

Many of you will agree that I have been raising similar concerns here in The Dumbarton Democrat for some time – and have paid the price for that by having my media accreditation at the Council and at the SNP withdrawn.

Middle-class mediocrity? West Dunbartonshire Council the local SNP stinks of it. Jobs for the boys, snouts in the till, dodgy contract procurement procedures.

Meanwhile, from her daily briefing on TV today, the First Minister made it plain that she is not prepared to take the blame for what happened.

Nor, she said, would the SQA be getting it in the neck from the Scottish Government. No chance. It was us … but it wisnae me.

In attempting to duck a question from a reporter, Ms Sturgeon answered the most important one of the day.

Who is going to take the blame?

That will be John Swinney of course because by saying the responsibility was “ministerial”, she was letting everyone know it wasn’t hers.

The only other Minister in the frame is John Swinney, the Education Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Minister but definitely not First Minister.

However, that will create a huge dilemma for Ms Sturgeon if she throws Mr Swinney under a bus since there appears to be no one on the SNP benches with the experience required for the deputy’s job.

Jeane Freeman would have been in the running for that but for the fact that criticism of the Scottish Government’s handling of Covid 19 and the PPE procurement and hospitals to care homes scandal has been a shambles, which is now being widely recognised by the public and the media.

The BBC’s Disclosure programme put the tin lid on that one, and the judge-led inquiry into what happened to cause the pigeon droppings, dirty water and deaths scandal is currently ongoing.

Add to that the fact that Ms Freeman is a former Labour Party special adviser who served in the First Minister’s Office with FM Jack McConnell.

Then, only Mystic Meg knows what is going to come spilling out at the Holyrood inquiry taking place after the acquittal of Alex Salmond on criminal charges in the High Court and the award to the former First Minister of £500,000 in the Court of Session.

They say we live in interesting times. We most certainly do. No wonder omerta has been declared in the SNP’s Secret Scotland.

And in West Dunbartonshire too, the cover-up capital of Secret Scotland. Brass necks abound. All politics is local.

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