Karen Conaghan is named as new leader of SNP opposition to Labour
Councillor Karen Conaghan, who has always conducted herself with dignity in the roles of education convener and deputy provost, has become leader of the SNP group of the SNP group on West Dunbartonshire Council.
SNP spin doctors tried desperately this week to cover up that the previous leader, controversial anti-democrat Cllr Jonathan McColl, who was re-elected in the Lomond Ward on May 5, had decided to step down of his own volition earlier this month.
But it was an open secret that Cllr McColl, whose close friends include the disgraced former SNP finance convener Derek Mackay, who is up to his neck in the SNP ferries scandal, has been made to walk the political plank.
New SNP leader Karen Conaghan, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and dumped Jonathan McColl.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is not known for suffering fools gladly and she was dismayed when McColl was delegated to go to Edinburgh to plead the case for more money for West Dunbartonshire.
Instead of taking part in a formal meeting at St Andrew’s House, Cllr McColl and Mackay went to a bar and discussed the matter, which involved £ millions, over a pint.
Cllr Conaghan has been brought off the bench in an effort to bring some respectability to the Dunbartonshire SNP, whose reputation has been badly tarnished by Cllr McColl’s conduct.
Here are some questions she should be asked to clear up in the name of openness and transparency.
- Does she agree with Nicola Sturgeon’s statement in the US at the weekend that an independent Scotland should be ready to join NATO?
- Would she support nuclear disarmament, which would have a catastrophic effect on the local economy and jobs at the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane and Coulport.
- Where does she stand on abortion and a woman’s right to choose?
- What is her position on same sex marriage and transgender issues?
- Does she believe in Freedom of the Press and freedom of speech?
The decision to dump him could cost McColl around £30,000 a year in allowances and expenses.
He was earning more than that from his election to the council and appointments to outside bodies such as the Health Board, who are themselves in a bad place over the debacle that has accompanied the building of two new “super hospitals” in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
A public inquiry presided over by Court of Session judge Lord Brodie, below right, is currently taking place, and there has been widespread speculation that criminal prosecutions may follow.
Cllr Conaghan has kept her nose clean in office, although teachers’ unions and parents are not enthralled with the way the Covid-19 pandemic was handled in schools.
Remarkably, the First Minister was laughed out the door when she appeared to approve of a scheme to cut the bottom off classroom doors to allow air to circulate more freely through schools.
The Scottish Labour Party, ably assisted by MSP Jackie Baillie, became the only political party in Scotland to have control of a council when the results of the election were finally announced.
They took over at West Dunbartonshire Council earlier this month, winning 12 seats – including two in Lomond and Leven, where the sitting SNP councillor Caroline McAllister had been cruelly pushed out by her party colleagues for taking a stand on gender matters. She went off and joined Alex Salmond’s ALBA party.
The result of the May election marks the beginning of a new era for the SNP in West Dunbartonshire, with Councillor Conaghan joined by first time by Clydebank councillor Gordon Scanlon, who despite his inexperience will serve as depute group leader. Councillor Scanlon was elected in the Kilpatrick ward.
Councillor Conaghan was elected unanimously by her SNP colleagues. She has been a member of the council since 2017.
She told journalists: “We have new younger councillors in Gordon Scanlan, Sophie Traynor and Lauren Oxley who, despite their youth, bring a variety of experience and a wealth of new ideas.
“I am also looking forward to working with Chris Pollock whom I was pleased to see elected alongside me in the Dumbarton ward.
“There’s a good balance with returning councillors Ian Dickson and Diane Docherty and Jim McElhill back again.
Speaking after the election on May 5, Councillor McColl, who will most probably be given a convenership and the extra cash that goes with that to keep him on side, pledged that the SNP would hold the incoming Labour administration to account.
He has been quoted as having said: “Obviously it’s a disappointing day for the SNP. We will work as an effective opposition to scrutinise the work of the Labour administration in a worthwhile way.”
Let’s hope he jettisons the Tamanay Hall tactics which saw him involved in bitter battles with Labour in which he called their then leader and possibly their new one, Cllr David McBride, a liar and had to apologise publicly for that.
- Labour will appoint a new provost to replace the SNP’s William Hendrie at a public meeting in the Burgh Hall in Church Street, Dumbarton, at 2pm today (Wednesday). Because the Burgh Hall, which cost £16 million and counting to regenerate and was never fit for purpose, the seats in the public gallery will be limited, so get along there early if you want in. Under the SNP, the Council locked people out at both Dumbarton and Clydebank.