Sunday, 22 July 2012

Captain's log supplemental

As I stated in my earlier post, at the council meeting held on 3 July, Labour Group Leader Derek Milligan referred to the SNP/Independent/Green coalition. I am grateful to Provost Joe Wallace, who immediately intervened to correct this.

Sitting next to Derek was Labour colleague Councillor Adam Montgomery. Why then did Adam, in a letter published in this week's Midlothian Advertiser, three times refer to the 'SNP/Independent/Green' coalition, if not to convey to the general public a position he knew well to be untrue?

In the same issue, another letter from the prolific letter writer 'Name and address withheld', also referred to 'my coalition'.

At the same council meeting, there was discussion relating to the make-up of a committee, during which Derek claimed I should not be a member as I am effectively part of the administration on the basis that I have voted consistently with the SNP. This is disingenuous. Leaving aside the votes where I was committed as part of my agreement to vote with the SNP (i.e. elections of Provost and Council Leader), there have only been two or three votes taken - as most decisions so far have not been taken to a vote. On the remaining votes, I have not been persuaded by Labour's arguments.

Provost Wallace succinctly pointed out that the previous Labour administration had never expressed a similar view of the Liberal Democrats, who had consistently voted with Labour over the previous five years. Quite. 

One of those issues, which Labour has rightly highlighted, is the move from a 4-weekly to 6-weekly cycle of council meetings. I voted for the change as a compromise. I supported Labour's opposition to reducing the size of two committees, and negotiated the removal of that change in return for supporting the change to the meeting cycle - as I was assured by the SNP that council officials were very much in favour on the basis of greater efficiency.

I now feel this may have been a mistake. However, had the Labour Group approached me before the decision and appraised me of their concerns, I may very well have supported them rather than being forced to make a decision in the middle of a meeting and without the full facts at my disposal.

If, as Derek Milligan claims, “The smart money is this group won’t last till Christmas", then what is the Labour Group's Plan B? If they have any hope of regaining power, surely I should be somewhere in that plan, rather than driving me into the arms of the opposition.

I have read a lot over the past week about the late Bob McLean. I didn't know Bob very well; we exchanged pleasantries and the occasional chat when I saw him, usually in the Co-op in Bonnyrigg. Having read more about him, I wish I had got to know him more. Clearly he was a shining light in the Midlothian Labour Party, and it's a pity he didn't become more active in 'front line' politics. Midlothian and Midlothian Labour would have been greatly enriched were he to have been a councillor. Perhaps he's the best councillor Midlothian never had.


  1. Most of what you say here is quite correct Ian, but I take issue with the idea that the Lib Dems consistently voted with the Labour party, which you know is not true. We regularly presented alternative budgets, we voted both with them and against them on numerous occasions. I hardly think its right to make a comparison we never had a formal agreement with the Labour party.

  2. Hi Euan,

    Perhaps my statement wasn't clear, but it was Provost Wallace who said at the council meeting that the Lib Dems had consistently voted with Labour. I have heard similar from a number of sources, although admittedly all Nats. It's a difficult one to verify as council minutes only show up the totals unless a 'roll call' vote is taken, which is rare.


  3. We probably voted more often with them than not, two out of three of our original councillors were very close to Labour (one defected), but Les was very much an independent voice, the problem was often what the Nats were often proposing was not thought through it was merely not what Labour was saying.

  4. Well at today's council meeting I supported both sides' arguments about equally - by coincidence I should stress. I tended to support the SNP if Labour were clearly point scoring with no real argument, but on a couple of points Labour I felt were in the right. The first one (an amendment to Standing Orders) was therefore tied 9-9 and led to an adjournment and a 25 minute delay in the start of real business. Shades of things to come?

  5. As a councillor in the last administration I would say the Lib Dems voted with Labour 90% of the time. As you say Ian, Katie defected, and Ken voted as he was told to by the (former) Provost. Yes, Les was more independent, but by the end of the five years he was, effectively, just another Labour vote. To say the SNP only put forward proposals to oppose Labour is disingenuous in the extreme - indeed, there was agreement on many issues.