NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Money, money, money. West Dunbartonshire Council’s got loadsa money. So much in fact that it’s about to splash out even more money on begging people to shop local this Christmas. Not just at Christmas but every week of the year 2022.
You and I know that won’t happen. People will buy local, but only smaller things from small businesses. All the rest of the presents – for those who have some money left in the bank – will be bought in shops in super centres such as Braehead which have in stock the goods people want.
And on-line, of course, where you can buy anything from a real elephant to a castle of your own.
Even the food for festive dinners will be bought in supermarkets, none of which is locally owned and our hard earned cash will filter back into the boots of billionaire hedge fund owners.
By all means, shop local though. We used to get a turkey from Willie Harkins on the Bridge and the fruit and vegetables from Frank McManus and Willie Bell at Caulfields across the road. Cammy Wallace’s in the High Street was the place for a steak or a steak pie. They’re all closed now.
Our weekly shop – bread, milk, butter and the like – was purchased in and around the High Street, although we did use the corner shop here, which is also now closed.
One of the saddest advertisements I read in this run-up to Christmas was from Made Guild, a wee shop in Park Street in the Newtown, off Glasgow Road, which sources nearly all of its goods and groceries locally.
One of the women who run it posted on social media that things were desperate. That the footfall which is something much talked about but not much done about by councillors, had in one day just five customers who crossed the threshold of this modern day “jenny a’ things”.
The Council promised us that when they spent £16 million on refurbishing the old Burgh Hall for their headquartes that it would attract more people into the town centre. It too is closed.
For how long though we’ll have to wait for the all-year-round pantomime starring Snow White and Santa McColl to let us into the secret.
And let’s not forget little Nicola, she of the Christmassy name and the permanently soor face.
That red costume she wears at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on a Thursday is the closest she is ever likely to come to wearing a Santa suit — or waving a fairy wand from the top of the Christmas tree.
As for Logjam Jonathan McColl and the possibility of a Christmas tree goes – there is none again this year in the Vale of Leven – there is more chance of him chopping one down than putting one up. We have evidence of this from his relationship with coveted trees and hedge rows at Garshake.
However, it seldom fails to amaze me how the SNP tug the forelock to people who slavishly support them.
We, the people of West Dunbartonshire – yes, our Council is a public body and we still live in a democracy, although only just – are being taken for mugs.
Our recent criticism of public land being sold off for private housing is just one example of our temerity in their eyes for asking them salient questions, and even critising them. How dare we!
It was enough to make the SNP administration ban and boycott us as they have done for nearly four years now for telling the truth. Democracy no more. Not in Dumbarton.
That’s straight out of the same dirty box of tricks the SNP are using to cover up the facts of what went disastrouly wrong at the £850 million Queen Elizabeth abd Royal Children’s Hospital.
More children than we know have died in that hospital complex, which was built to include and serve patients from West Dunbartonshire as well as Glasgow. We contributed to the price thropugh “savings” when they closed beds at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
Our Council health board representative, Cllr McColl, hasn’t uttered a word about this – apart from stating that he agreed with the Vale rundown – and is on record as saying that answering his constituency office correspondence was more important than going up to the city for health board meetings.
However, there’s a book to be written about the Health Board and its failings. They have always been duff. Who remebers the Argyll and Clyde Health Board or the Lomond Health Trust?
I’m with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and fully support his call to Nicola Sturgeon to sack the board and the chiefs who run it. They are a disgrace.
However, I return to West Dunbartonshire Council and the way it spends our money on advertising and public relations. Half a million quid of our money – and counting.
The Lennox Herald, which is another business to have quit the High Street for elsewhere even when it was making money, tells us that this is “a drive to boost businesses impacted by the pandemic will be extended in Dumbarton and the Vale after securing new funding.”
It reports that this campaign is spearheaded locally by Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce – I haven’t seen their office in the High Street either – will continue after a Scottish Government cash boost.
Can you believe it? Of course you can. The SNP government, which is awash with money despite the fact that it forever puts the poor mouth it, is sending a big cheque to their SNP cronies in West Dunbartonshire to help fund the Loves Local initiative.
This “encourages people in Dumbarton and the Vale to ‘think local first’ and get behind the campaign, shopping local and engaging via social media channels set up for each town”.
Damon Scott, project co-ordinator and Chamber chief executive, said: “The Loves Local campaign has been helping hundreds of Dunbartonshire businesses by encouraging local people to choose local to support our local enterprises.”
Really? That is news to me. We have never been asked to publicise it or take advertising for the Chamber of Commerce, but we ar asked to contribute to it through our taxes..
That’s another thing that’s just daft. We allow community organisations, clubs and charities to advertise free here in The Democrat and get their message to our readers who sometimes exceed 1,000 a day.
To advertise in one local newspaper, the circulation of which has dropped dramatically, it costs the council a lot of money and the only way for readers to access those adverts is by buying a newspaper which costs them £1.50 a time.
Obviously carried away with his success in raising this crazy cash windfall for his organisation, Mr Scott told the Lennox Herald: “This new funding will help us continue the promotion of our wonderful town and village centres, spread the word about the fantastic goods and services on offer locally and promote the use of the new Loves Local gift card.
“On the back of feedback from our Loves Local surveys a multi-level marketing campaign will take in social media, PR and local advertising as well as the ongoing creation of more online digital content.
“We also plan to make improvements to all of the town and village websites, add jobs boards and build the business and events listings.”
What is not reported is that Damon Scott then woke up to the actuality of what is going on here and left me wondering what “wonderful” stuff he was on at the time that interview took place.
Whatever he manages to wring out of the Council and the Scottish Government, it is far too much for a few old and colourful cliches. His plans equate to putting lipstick on a corpse.
The national campaign is funded by the Scottish Government through Scotland’s Town Partnership and has been delivered locally by the Chamber of Commerce working in partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council and the local Business Gateways, which also attract government funding support. The latest ranche of cash will see the local project receive a share of £1.5million.
SNP Minister for Shopping, Tom Arthur, said: “The Fund provides 50 percent match funding for local projects between £5,000 and £25,000 and targets funding towards local economies that have been impacted most due to the pandemic, including those in areas with pre‑existing inequality”.
They could start by giving at least some of that money to Made Guid, the wee shop in the Newtown that’s struggling desperately to survive.