Martin Rooney, Michelle McGinty and Douglas McAllister.

BILL HEANEY’s notebook column

Secret Scotland. Tell me about it. The Dumbarton Democrat, the only independent media platform operating in West Dunbartonshire – owned and edited locally and completely FREE for the public to access – has had to put up up with the SNP and Labour snowflakes taking the huff when we told one of them to ‘bugger off’.

The snowflakes do not include the MSP Jackie Baillie but they do have in their numbers the Labour Group of councillors who form the administration on West Dunbartonshire Council.

To name but three, Council leader Martin Rooney, his deputy, Cllr Michelle McGinty and even the Provost, Douglas McAllister, should be told to desist from backing a decision by a press officer to deny The Democrat the right to ask questions of their Press Office. Freedom of the Press is a completely new concept for these people.

Chief officers themselves disgracefully don’t answer questions without a press officer holding their hand. Or even with one by their side. The hubris is oozing out of them. They’re a second rate team being paid first rate salaries for creating chaos in a small Scottish town

It was the SNP who started this stupid stramash because they said The Democrat was biased on behalf of Labour. They and the suits and skirts of officialdom moved in on me to throw me out of a meeting when I asked the then Provost to turn up the sound in order that the press and public could hear what was being said. I did not, as they claim, interrupt a meeting.

One official put her hand on my arm and said I should leave and I told her to bugger off in as civil a way as it’s possible to say that to anyone. She had been a friend and colleague in another life.

Her claims of unacceptable behaviour on my part are a distortion of the actuality, but it is common these days for people to complain they are being bullied and I don’t doubt that many of them are, but I am not guilty of this. WDC are and were found to have bullied an employee at a recent tribunal.

Everyone knows the party in charge of the council when all this incident happened is as sleazy as they come and this has been widely reported in the media.

Astonishingly, Labour’s snowflake councillors are supporting this SNP decision. They are by their support for this injustice giving credence to the SNP. That wasn’t what the local electorate voted them in for. They wanted change.

They haven’t got it though. People have been badly let down.

They have turned out to be a secretive bunch of nodding heads taking council tax money under false pretences. If that sounds hard then it is meant to be.

Here’s what Anas Sarwar, the Labour leader in Scotland, thinks of the SNP, but maybe he should look over his shoulder or down into councils like WDC where some of his own Labour members are acting disgracefully by adopting the same sleekit tactics as the SNP.

Commenting following FMQs in the Holyrood parliament on Thursday, Anas Sarwar said: “There is a culture of secrecy and cover-up at the heart of this dysfunctional and incompetent SNP government.

“The dodgy deal with Liberty Steel; the ferry fiasco; the shambolic Deposit Return Scheme; even heart-breaking tragedies at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital  – all shrouded in secrecy. But incompetence has consequences whether it’s hidden from view or not.”

They have told me that  if I want to ask questions then I will have to do it through the Freedom of Information system.

Anas Sarwar knows what that means – “Freedom of Information laws are one of the last defences against SNP cover-up – but Ministers are riding roughshod over these laws.

“But new data we are publishing today shows the number of FOI requests the Scottish Government has passed on to Ministers for approval has risen fivefold.

“Once a case goes to Ministers – to sign off or to cover-up – waiting times double, with one in every six FOI responses breaching legally-binding response times.”

We at The Democrat are sick to the teeth of the SNP and the Tories blaming every failure including those listed by Mr Sarwar on the covid pandemic. What about incompetence and laziness?

Mr Sarwar says: “The SNP despise transparency. At every turn, they cover up failure instead of confronting it.

“No answers on what is going to happen to their shambolic deposit return scheme; no answers on the ferry fiasco despite years of delays and millions of pounds overspent; no answers for families bereaved by the scandal at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, and bullying investigations kept secret.”

Can I add my pwn tuppence worth such as the GP they sacked without taking on board the evidence and public petition against that? And then there’s been the bullying and the tale of two town centres.

Mr Sarwar said: “The SNP are taking Scots for a ride – and we don’t even get to enjoy the luxury campervan. This is a dysfunctional, incompetent and sleaze-ridden government, failing on the basics and this has consequences.

“An NHS at breaking point and a cost-of-living crisis spiralling out of control, a party in chaos – distracted from the day job, finances under police investigation, former Council leader under police investigation, the last Chief Executive arrested, and the last treasurer arrested, offices raided and police tents in gardens.”

Don’t forget that West Dunbartonshire Council had its own police investigation into contract procurement. The golf days and the, the whisky and champagne and fine dining after which the line-up of chief officials suddenly thinned out and some departed with so-called golden parachutes.

Mr Sarwar told Holyrood: “I have two questions for the First Minister. He says he is transparent.  Can he tell us – how many police investigations are ongoing into the activities of his party and his government?

“And when will he finally end the rotten culture of secrecy and incompetence at the heart of this SNP government?”

I wonder would Anas Sarwar mind if I were to ask very similar questions about local government in West Dunbartonshire? Or if he would like to tell his local Labour members to wise up, man up and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

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