UPDATED Wednesday, June 28 at midday

Just back from a couple of days in Edinburgh from where I was able to keep in touch with Democrat readers thanks to forward planning and digital technology.

No big deal there then. It’s what people do in 2023.

You couldn’t make up what happened next.  I had contacted West Dunbartonshire Council Library Service to obtain a ticket for a talk being given this Thursday evening in Alexandria Library about the life of George Orwell. Great idea. I hope the councillors will all be present.

I received a commendably swift reply which was there waiting for me when I logged on to my computer after I returned home on Tuesday. I was delighted.

So happy in fact that I wrote a short note to Allan Gordon, the Service Development Librarian, who wrote: “Thank you for contacting us. This is to confirm that you don’t require a promo code/passcode to get a ticket.  If you click on the button that says Get Tickets you will then have the option to select the number of tickets that you require.

“You will also see an orange Register button at the bottom of the page.  If you click on this you will be able to register for your ticket(s).  It will ask for your name and email.  Once these are supplied the ticket(s) will then be sent to your email.  We hope that this helps and if you have any further problems please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

My heart sank though when I received a note from the administrators of the Council comms site that my thank you note had been blocked.

Allan, it appears, had not been told that I was Public Enemy Number One when he wrote this. That I had the cheek to to ask for proper facilities to be made for the press and public attending council meetings in the Burgh Hall and for the sound to be turned up so that council taxpayers like me could hear what was being done in our name. Good and bad.

And I was banned from receiving the usual courtesies which have been afforded to the press since Edmond Burke referred to the press as the Fourth Estate in the UK parliament.

Democracy is supposed to operate with openness and transparency which politicians keep promising but never get around to implementing – unless it’s on their terms, of course.

West Dunbartonshire Council has, of every shade of politics, an unfair share of Boris Johnstons in miniature in its midst, puffed up, hubristic little people promoted beyond their competence.

The blocking notice I received from the Council stated: “Sorry your email could not be delivered due to content policy reasons. “

We are talking about a thank-you note here. The Council does not have a policy to ban me from contacting members and officials. It never did and “content policy reasons” is a lie which shows clearly that It’s not the elected members who make policy at West Dunbartonshire Council.

It’s highly paid chief officials who have little or no experience of doing the jobs to which they have been promoted and who, in the end, are paid off in large sums of money for their failure to deliver for the public who fund their services with their taxes.


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WHY is it then that West Dunbartonshire Council are being so curmudgeonly – not to say sleekit – that they have so readily adopted the Secret Scotland policies of the recently shunted out of office First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon of unhappy memory for most of us?
Quite simply, the SNP have much to hide and they have no wish to be seen publicly for the incompetents they really are or to have their project failures and mega money losses plastered all over the media.
They banned The Democrat because the then SNP council leader Councillor Jonathan McColl said we were biased towards Labour, who now hold the administration after they won the highest number of seats in the local government elections last May.
If we were indeed leaning towards Labour in our coverage of local matters then we received little thanks for it.
We are still banned by the Council which is now Labour-controlled.
And if newspapers are supposed to keep their distance from politics then why has West Dunbartonshire Council taken the Lennox Herald into bed with them.
That is the same Lennox Herald that once had a 78 per cent household penetration figure with a circulation around 15,000 and had an editorial and advertising office and even a print works In Church Street.
However, it is widely agreed in the world of business and media that weekly newspapers – indeed all newspapers – are well past their sell-by date. Some of them such as the Dumbarton Reporter have even stopped printing.  That they are dying on their feet. They are no longer a newspaper in the true sense of the word. The world has gone digital.
The Lennox Herald no longer has an office in the community here; it employs few people and certainly doesn’t print here. The circulation is below 4,000 weekly, and that is a kind estimate of its sales figure, which it keeps very quiet indeed.
Of course, it is owned by a multi-national media company and all pretence of being local has disappeared from it.
The long tradition of having a local people owning a local newspaper is dead and gone.
So, what’s the score with the Lennox Herald and the Council’s coming together? Who’s paying who for the privilege? I think the public should be told if a deal has been struck between them.
After all, the supposedly skint Council has money for vanity projects washing down the steps of its offices in Church Church Street, but not for school transport for children from deprived areas.
But for mega rich oil companies that they intend to pay £millions to clean up the pollution they left behind at their tank farm in Bowling.
Talking about Church Street and the Burgh Hall, the £16 million they spent refurbishing it and failed to create a suitable council chamber – people can’t hear or see who is taking part in debates there – is going to be used as a CHURCH.
Again we have a head scratcher from the suits and skirts who run the place.

Riverside Parish Church, St Augustine’s Episcopal Church and St Patrick’s Catholic Church.

West Dunbartonshire Armed Forces Day this year will take place in Dumbarton on Saturday.

So far as we can gather that’s the correct date for this event, which they managed to get wrong on all the banners for the Balloch Loch Lomond Highland Games.

They had to spend more public money correcting it.
They go on to inform us: “It [the parade] will follow the usual format of a parade through the town centre, followed by a church service in the Civic Space, Council Offices, Church Street, Dumbarton.”
But it won’t. Their instructions for forming up are all over the place. Precise instructions are meant to be precise, especially when you are dealing with the Armed Forces.
Here we have Dad’s Army meeting real soldiers.
The council say the Parade will form up in the car park, adjacent to Dumbarton Health Centre, Station Road, Dumbarton, G82 1PW. There are two car parks adjacent to the Health Centre.
The route will be as follows:
• Step off from the Health Centre
• Onto Station Road [in which direction, left or right?]
• Across the traffic lights, continuing onto the High Street
• Continue down the High Street and follow the road around to the left into Church Street
• Eyes Right at the steps of the Council Offices (Main Entrance)
• The parade will then turn right into the gates leading to the car park at the rear of Council Offices [where is this gate?]
• The parade will fall out in the car park under contingent arrangements
Following the Parade, a short, ecumenical church service will be held in the Council Offices, Church Street [So, will the parade then return to Church Street and by what route?]
The Service will be conducted by the Reverend Stephen A Blakey, Staff Chaplain Scotland.
All are welcome to attend [if they can find it].
Why, I feel I have to ask, is this service being held in the council offices when there are no less than three churches of different denominations within spitting distance?
St Augustine’s Scottish Episcopal Church, where so much has been done, and is still being done to help the needy through the Cost of Living crisis, is just across the street from the council offices.
St Patrick’s Catholic Church is in Strathleven Place, which is just 100 yards or so from Church Street in Strathleven Place and, of course, there is Riverside Parish Church, which is on the corner in Church Place.
I don’t think we should give in here to the Council bullying us by banning us – they have form for that with their staff – but maybe we should all turn up on Saturday and say a prayer for them because, boy, do they need it.
A previous event involving veterans of the Armed Forces in Dumbarton involved a different route to the one being planned for Saturday and involved a service in St Augustine’s Church and a celebratory meal in Riverside Parish Church Hall. Pictures by Bill Heaney


Some media outlets have been made exempt from plans by the Conservative Party to charge journalists for attendance at its upcoming annual conference, it has been reported.

Since they have already taken their lead on how to deal with the media from the scandal-ridden SNP, the Labour administration at West Dunbartonshire Council might well follow the Tories’ latest execrable strategy  and charge The Democrat for attending their farcical “public” meetings in the Burgh Hall. These are the meetings where you can neither hear or see who is talking from the public gallery.

The Council’s track record of locking us out of a meeting at Clydebank Town Hall and their petty refusal to give us a drink of water, never mind a cup of tea at meetings which go on for hours is an indication of how they feel about being held to account by the press.

They can’t stand criticism and refuse to grant us the time-honoured co-operation between the press and the council. They have crushed the fragile flower that is democracy underfoot.

The Society of Editors, alongside other news organisations and representative groups, have previously called for the £137 fee for the Tory conference to be scrapped on the basis that any fee for media attendance at conferences – regardless of the political party – sets a deeply concerning precedent in a democratic society.

A Conservative Party spokesperson confirmed that a “range of exemptions” for some “local” media outlets had been granted on the basis of “the challenging financial situation many local outlets face”.

It has also been reported that some media outlets have been given a “waiver code” to dis-apply the entry charge including broadcasters who had contributed to infrastructure at the conference.

The Society continues to call on the party to scrap the fees in full or refund the accreditation fee for those who attend on the day.

The Democrat calls on the Council to get off its high horse and treat us the same as all other local media.


  1. The big question here is whether it is legal to block a West Dunbartonshire resident from contacting the council.

    A blanket IT ban denies a citizens rights. It denies them access to all manner of services.

    Email communication to secure access to everything from rubbish collection, to booking access to the recycling centre, to contacting social services, to contacting all other manner of services is increasingly a prerequisite for accessing service.

    Blanket IT bans can not be legal and WDC will be in breach of their legal oigations.

  2. Bill, I’m interested greatly in the below paragraph which seems to be making very serious allegations – but without further substance?

    “So, what’s the score with the Lennox Herald and the Council’s coming together? Who’s paying who for the privilege? I think the public should be told if a deal has been struck between them.”

    I don’t live locally anymore so I don’t read the Lennox other than the stories they put online. But is there a suggestion that West Dunbartonshire Council is paying them to run positive stories? That sounds like a scandal to me and I know it’s something you wouldn’t publish without having evidence. So I really hope you are able to share that with Democrat readers or can do some further digging and expose what’s going on.

    Keep up the good work. Ally.

    1. I didn’t say anyone was paying anyone, just asked the question since if there is an agreement then the public should be told about it. Thanks for your kind words Ally. Bill

      1. Absolutely they should. It would make the Lennox little more than a council newsletter, and that should be advertised. I’ve every confidence that you will uncover it if there is. A Freedom of Information request should surely answer how much taxpayers’ cash is being sent the way of the Lennox. It’s going to be fascinating to find out. Take care, Ally.

      2. I didn’t say anyone was paying anyone, Ally, I simply asked if there had been some sort of deal
        It seems the Lennox is now supplying its new to Lomond Radio. I wonder if that radio station has to be a member of IPSO, which the Council demands that I should be?

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