Fountain refurbishment will cost us three coins and then some …

NOTEBOOK by Bill Heaney

You get what you pay for in this world. At least I used to think that until I saw the salaries of the management team at West Dunbartonshire Council.

And what they and the SNP administration are delivering in return to the council and community here.

Two projects which have come on stream here – the demolition of Willox Park old folk’s home at Barloan in Dumbarton and visualising what the new Artizan Centre should look like – have gone to the lowest bidders.  In other words, we are getting them done on the cheap.

The companies who have won these contracts have smoothed their way to winning by coming up with donations for food banks and community projects.

One way of looking at this is that even though they have submitted the lowest price to the council there is still enough in the kitty for them to finance a bit of philanthropy. Add that money to the profit they will still make from the job and it makes the original estimate outrageously over-priced.

The latest contract to come on stream for West Dunbartonshire Council is £603,000 for Luddon Construction Ltd. to brighten up the area around the Fountain in Alexandria.

And brighten it up they will literally as part of a project to resurrect the Vale, with a 10-year masterplan agreed by councillors in September last year.

The Council’s first attempt at this predictably failed miserably when opprobrium was heaped on them for placing brightly coloured flower and plant boxes on the pavements there. People were falling over them and bumping into them.

Now the B-listed historic fountain is to be refurbished and incorporated into a new ‘civic space’ with the area around it improved. We’ll see.

The masterplan for this states: “To celebrate the importance of this listed structure, which sits on the junction of Bank Street and Main Street and is an important historical landmark, the council has committed funding for the restoration of the fountain and upgrading of its surroundings”.

It adds the aims are to “improve pedestrian and cyclist safety whilst also allowing traffic to move through the junction in a courteous and slower manner by altering traffic management priorities”.

The money for the project will come from the Local Economic Development and Scottish Government Town Centre Fund. We pay for that whether it’s through council tax or income tax.

Luddon Construction Ltd has pledged to use West Dunbartonshire-based organisations for sub-contracting opportunities. Good on them.

The report states: “The purpose of the tender was to identify and appoint a suitably qualified and experienced contractor to provide permanent public realm and pedestrian improvement works around the historic Smollett Fountain on the junction of Main Street and Bank Street.”

This is part of the next phase of works around the fountain and comes six months after the council introduced these colourful,  controversial planters there last year. That was another abject failure. Local people labelled them ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

The Council said they were placed there as a temporary measure, with information and feedback gathered as part of the trial, to be analysed and used to inform the permanent changes made.

The works around the fountain are in three phases, with that trial being the first and the permanent changes to the road forming the second phase.

The third and final phase will be refurbishment works to the fountain itself, which was last restored in 1996, although it will not be possible to reattach a water supply.

No reason is given for this, although when a water feature was introduced at the Napier Engine which was placed in Dumbarton Town Centre it was attacked by vandals who created seas of foam by throwing packets of soap powder stolen from a nearby supermarket into it.

That historic structure has been peripatetic ever since it was taken under cover of darkness down to the park at the foot of Dumbarton Castle and from there to the Denny Tank Museum. Or maybe it was the other way about.

We are told the Vale fountain, which was built in 1870, could be illuminated by a creative lighting project which will use a great deal of power which will cost a lot of money given the hike in electricity prices and in spite of the appeal to save energy to combat climate change.

I take it – given all the publicity this received during the recent COP26 conference in Glasgow for one thing – that all this was taken into account before the contract was awarded.

Maybe Wee Greta and her pals will turn out for a demo when the lights are switched on?


The Green Man hiding in the trees on amongst the graves at Dumbarton Cemetery.

Recently we told you here about the Green Man, that statue that is scaring night time visitors to Dumbarton Cemetery almost to death.

Today let us introduce you to the Green Lady, the politician who moves around almost at the same pace as the statue in the cemetery.

The Sun, of all papers, has £100,000 a year Lorna Slater, Green Party sidekick of Dumbarton’s own Paddy Harvie in the Scottish Government, bang to rights.

The MSP also warned officials should arrange no more than “two things in a day” during the Glasgow summit.

Green Party Co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie

Green Party Co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie Photo: News Group Newspapers 
The duo were pictured in a city centre boozer during the landmark conference
The duo were pictured in a city centre boozer during the landmark COP26 conference. Labour’s Colin Smyth said: “I hadn’t realised the job was part-time.”

Rivals  blasted Greens co-leader Lorna Slater for shirking a packed schedule during COP26 — and compared her to a “Hollywood diva”.

The eco minister was accused of making lazy demands  as it emerged she was in the pub just after 5pm on her first day at the climate change summit.

An email from her private secretary revealed  Edinburgh-based Ms Slater — who earns £98,045 for her ministerial role — issued a string of orders including adequate days off, no early starts following a late finish and plenty of time to eat during the UN conference in Glasgow.

It came after she was handed a timetable of her duties at the gathering which took place from October 31 to November 13 last year.

The message — sent to a wide list of civil servants and advisers a fortnight before the event — read: “The Minister doesn’t want to do any more than two things in a day given there will be other work to do in and around that.“It may be feasible to do three things in a day if they are all nearby one another and don’t require much preparation.

“Consideration should also be given to any evening events in Glasgow where the Minister may be very late (post 10pm) getting home in which case there should be a later start the following day.

“The Minister commented that she can’t be working 14 days straight — she needs two full days completely off, they don’t need to be consecutive.”

The email — obtained under freedom of information laws, the ones used by the SNP to keep things quiet  — added  that the ministerial programme needed to be updated to “ensure it factors in meal and preparation time”.

Some details in the memo, apparently outlining  further COP26 demands, had been blanked out.

The Scottish Government argued that disclosing them would jeopardise “the protection of personal data and free and frank provision of views”.

Ms Slater’s list — similar to orders dished out by many celebs prior to a public appearance — sparked Holyrood chatter she “couldn’t be bothered” grafting every day, despite her party’s vow to save the planet.

Scots Tory environment spokesman Graham Simpson said: “This astonishing email reads like the demands of a Hollywood diva, not a Scottish Government minister.

“The future of the planet was on the line, so it defies belief that an environment minister should be putting restrictions on her workload and insisting on days off during this crucial summit.

“Emissions don’t take days off. If she wants to be a government minister, Lorna Slater must grow up and accept the responsibilities that come with the job.”

Ms Slater was a week late arriving at COP26 after she tested positive for Covid.

When she finally turned up in Glasgow, she headed to city centre pub The Pot Still with fellow minister and Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie following two lunchtime events. A photo posted online by Mr Harvie showed Ms Slater raising a dram.

When a Twitter user asked what she was drinking, the Canadian-born MSP replied: “The bartender chose it for me.”

At 9.04pm she tweeted saying that she’d had “a great night” me­eting other Green politicians from the rest of the UK and overseas.

But sources claimed Ms Slater — who accused Boris Johnson of not working hard enough during the summit — had shocked Holyrood with calls to limit her duties.

One added: “It certainly raised eyebrows. The Greens could only have dreamed of being in government a year ago and all of a sudden they had two ministers as COP26 approached.

“Scotland was the focus of whether we let the world burn but a Greens minister whose party was set up to save the planet can’t even be bothered working every day.”

Slamming the alleged lazy attitude shown by Ms Slater — whose remit includes green skills, circular economy and biodiversity — the insider added: “The nature of politics is that it’s not nine to five, and that is not great for family life.

“But COP26 was very much a one-off and you would expect a Green minister especially to be making an exception.

“There are other ministers who wouldn’t dream of making a fuss like this — especially not during COP26, having claimed that it was so vital to saving the planet.”

Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokesman Colin Smyth also hit out amid the row over the summit, which is well known for presenting delegates and politicians with intense workloads.

He said: “We already knew Green ministers’ jobs were made up, but I hadn’t realised they were part-time.

“This staggering set of rules from Lorna Slater show just how out-of-touch the Greens really are — and how little interest they have in delivering a green agenda.

“The minister’s point-blank refusal to work a little overtime to attend the most important global climate conference in years shreds the last of her environmentalist credentials.

“It looks a lot like the two things Lorna Slater does per day are propping up a failing SNP administration and cashing her ministerial paycheck.”


Married Ms Slater became a minister in August last year when the SNP sealed a coalition- style agreement with the Greens.

Speaking about the impending COP26 on October 8, she said: “I don’t know if all the governments around the world understand the scale of what is needed.

“Certainly Boris Johnson and the UK Government give me sleepless nights where he thinks environmentalists are Kermit the Frog while giving out licences for new oil and gas exploration.  That’s terrifying, that’s condemning us to an apocalyptic future.  I think COP26 is our last chance to save planet Earth.” 

Later, on the second last day of the summit on November 12, Ms Slater attacked the PM’s efforts and contribution to the event.

She blasted: “Boris Johnson is not pushing his government to do anything. He has absolutely dropped the ball.

“If you look at the amount of work the First Minister has done this week — she’s been everywhere, she’s talked to everyone. She’s really setting Scotland’s place on the world stage. I’m really proud to be part of her government.”

The Scottish Government defended Ms Slater’s timetable.  A spokesperson said “All Scottish ministers worked hard throughout COP26 to make it a success.  In spite of having Covid for the first week, Ms Slater had a busy schedule of engagements and initiatives to demonstrate leadership on the climate emergency here in Scotland, including banning some of the most harmful single-use plastic products.”


I was brought up in Dumbarton when people had very little. The wages from Denny’s shipyard for those people lucky enough to be employed there were risible. The hours were long and hard. Health and safety rules were non existent. People like my grandfather retired without a pension aged 75  after working as a riveter in the shipyards for more than half a century. Of course, the community (well, the Council) put up a statue to William Denny, pictured right,  in front of the Municipal Buildings in College Park Street. At the time too many local people were living in damp housing or were actually homeless. Large families were crammed into single ends in crumbling tenements, where they cooked on open fires and washed in the sink;  toilets were out the back or on the staircase,  and water and sewerage arrangements were primitive. Rachmanism was rampant in the Vale. Crime and drunkenness were commonplace.  For some  people, not much has changed unfortunately. And MSPs like the Green Party’s Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater are being paid £100,000 a year to sit on the SNP Cabinet at Holyrood while one SNP councillor is on two salaries, one from West Dunbartonshire Council and the other from the Scottish Parliament. Fair is a four-letter word in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her local lieutenant, Council leader Jonathan McColl, would prefer it if we didn’t report these things. Perhaps a contract will be awarded soon to places statues of this gruesome twosome in  front of the Council offices? Of course, we would have to ask the rich contractors to come up with a donation to one of the local food banks or throw a few bob in the direction of a community project for those far too many children still living in poverty.

The way we were – Dennystown during the century just past.



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