A read a piece on the P&J website this morning about Councillor John Cox from Banff. John has not been selected by the SNP to stand for re election in Banff under their party.
The article says that Cllr Cox has been at odds with the SNP's party policies for some time, in particular his support of Brexit and his opposition to the SNP's business rates increase. I'm sure there are two sides to every story and while I don't know all the history of the last 30 years that Cllr Cox has served the community of Banff, it did start me thinking. How much need is there for party politics at a local level?
Party politics nationally in Scotland and the UK are fine, you need to have politicians and parties who can make decisions and take them forward. Not all decisions are right, as we know, which are right and which are wrong all depends on which side of the political fence you stand on. Locally do we want, or need, a party system that will either blindly follow or wildly oppose the party line coming from Holyrood or Westminster?
In times of cuts to budgets and services, I think there is more a need for independent direction and governance at a local level. People who can work with the constraints of the budgets and legislation that comes from central government, to try and get the best possible outcome locally. Working for local people and not spinning the party line that 'it will be better because the party and the leader says so...'
In England there are no Independent run Local Authorities, there are a few where Independent Councillors are part of the coalition but no out and out Independent ones. Scotland on the other hand has three wholly Independent Local Authorities
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Recently the Orkney & Shetland Islands were voted the best places in the UK to bring up children, of course location has a lot to do with this I imagine, but also local governance plays a part surely? Are the Islands and electing independent councillors because they are doing more about what is right for the islands than they are dealing with the party politics? Is it the fact they are not physically connected to the the rest of the UK that makes them more independent and this helps them to get on and do the things that need to be done locally?
When and if any local candidates come knocking on my door the run up to the election, it is local issues in Turriff, Cuminestown, Fyvie and all the other towns in the ward that should be important, not what the party thinks of Brexit or how nasty are the SNP putting business rates up. I want to know what they are going to do to work for the communities in their ward.
Looking at our current councillors, what did they do about the toilets at the Haughs being closed? There were pretty silent about it until the weight of public opinion backed Aberdeenshire Council in to a corner and they agreed to keep them open for another season. It was only when this decision was made that the SNP councillor Sandy Duncan popped his head up with a press release about how he and Lib Dem Anne Robertson had had meetings to arrange it. Nothing about the public outcry, nothing about the public petitions, and banging my own drum a bit here, nothing about it being highlighted on My Turriff for the community to see what was happening. It's a shame that Cllrs Duncan & Norrie (Robertson was on holiday) didn't have more to say and more discussion about the closure when they sat in the meeting of the Formartine Area Committee that agreed that the proposals to shut a number of public toilets in the ward should go to the Infrastructure Services Committee for approval.
Now we are ten months on since the toilets were closed, I'm yet to see what any of our local councillors have done about this. Along with Morag & Joyce, I've had several meetings with Aberdeenshire Council officers about what we can do to get the toilets reopened. We are still working on possible solutions, I've not seen any councillors at the meetings or heard much from them.
This is where independence from party politics comes into play I think, it is about fighting for the best outcome and not about the party line. It should be about doing what is right for the communities, not having to agree and support the party regardless of the damage that would be done to those communities.