Education convener Conaghan chosen to replace snubbed SNP defector McAllister on local council
By Bill Heaney
Cllr Karen Conaghan has been elevated to deputy leader of the SNP administration at West Dunbartonshire Council.
She will replace Caroline McAllister, who has defected from the SNP to Alex Salmond’s new ALBA Party.
McAllister has told a newspaper that she felt snubbed by the SNP when she was rejected as their candidate to stand against Labour’s Jackie Baillie in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections on May 6.
She will represent ALBA though for the West of Scotland regional list using her claim that she has been West Dunbartonshire Council’s Violence Against Women champion.
She said: “I will continue to support the SNP administration [on the council] and remain committed to their aims and objectives.”
Why wouldn’t I, she is said to have asked arrogantly, after all I was part of the group that developed them.
We would have asked her how she could square this with the “out of the frying pan into the fire” situation in which she now finds herself.
Alex Salmond has stated clearly that Nicola Sturgeon is not a person to be trusted as First Minister and Nicola Sturgeon has made similar claims against him in relation to his behaviour around women.
Are we to take it then McAllister is riding two political horses at the same time?
Her former colleague, Cllr Conaghan, is the education convener at West Dunbartonshire Council, where she will be number two in the pecking order to controversial Cllr Jonathan McColl, the SNP council leader.
Predictably the enigma that is Cllr McColl has been predictably unpredictable in that he says: “I remain Caroline’s friend and wish her well.”
West Dunbartonshire has over the past three or four years been involved in one controversy after another, including the fact that it had no procurement policy in place and officials were dealing direct with council contractors who were later awarded work valued at around £9 million.
These meetings caused a stir when it was discovered they took place in fine dining restaurants, five star hotels and on the fairways of the posh Loch Lomondside golf courses attached to them.
Cllr Jim Bollan was sanctioned by the Council for persistently raising the matter and The Dumbarton Democrat was banned from asking questions of council officials and SNP members about anything at all and boycotted by the SNP at every level of politics in Dunbartonshire.
Cllr Conaghan was herself, along with Cllr McAllister, done in by the SNP national executive when she was banned by them from standing as a parliamentary candidate in the West of Scotland region.
SNP big beast Mike Russell was parachuted into the Dumbarton constituency to chair the selection process, which dismayed McAllister and local members who have been told from time to time that they cannot attend meetings because the venues are too small to accommodate them.
Cllr Karen Conaghan, deputy provost of West Dunbartonshire Council, and the man she beat for the deputy leadership of the SNP administration, Cllr Ian Dickson.
Cllrs McAllister and Conaghan were close colleagues in the SNP and were often photographed together for publicity purposes.
Not everyone in the SNP was pleased though when Karen Conaghan was elected to the deputy leadership of the council administration on Tuesday, particularly Cllr Ian Dickson whose nose was said to be seriously out of joint.
Caroline McAllister, the former National Women’s Convener of the SNP, will now get her wish and contest the West of Scotland Region at the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections for Salmond’s Alba Party.
This is remarkable since the SNP’s election slogan states: All Ladies Be Aware
How the official SNP candidate for number one to take on Labour’s Jackie Baillie, Toni (Giggles) Giugliano, and Jonathan McColl, who came second bottom of the SNP’s Regional List, feel about this we cannot say, but they must be gutted.
Meanwhile, McAllister is expected to continue to represent the Leven Ward in Renton and Alexandria South on West Dunbartonshire Council but has relinquished her National Office Bearer position on the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee.
Nationally, the move comes on the back of the SNP’s National Equalities Convener, Lynne Anderson, also resigning from the SNP’s ruling executive body to contest the Scottish Parliament election for the Alba Party.
Cllr Caroline McAllister, did not respond to a request from The Democrat for a comment. Like her former colleagues in the West Dunbartonshire MSP plus the two Westminster MPs, Brendan O’Hara in Helensburgh, and Martin Hughes Docherty in Clydebank, she is part of the anti-democratic boycott of The Democrat.
However, she is quoted on the Alba Party website as follows: ““I am delighted to join the Alba Party. As a councillor, and the former SNP National Women’s Convener, I’m really looking forward to working with my colleagues in the Alba Party to ensure women’s rights are front and centre of the new Scottish Parliament I hope to be a member of.“
A potted biography of her states: “Cllr Caroline McAllister has worked for many years in social care supporting vulnerable adults.
“In her present role as an independent advocate, her duties include ensuring those often most marginalised in society have a voice.
“Caroline is passionate about equalities and social justice for all and recognises until we address the root cause of poverty we cannot truly achieve equality.”
Parliamentary candidates all Jonathan McColl (SNP); Toni Giugliano (SNP) Jackie Baillie (Scottish Labour) and Caroline McAllister (ALBA and formerly SNP).