Councillors are elected to express the views of their electors and the communities they represent. It was a central theme to my election campaign – that I would be a strong, loud voice standing up for the interests of Lochaber – hence the reason this website is called Lochaber Voice.
Frequently those views will be uncomfortable for council officials and administration councillors to listen to. No doubt, they will disagree vehemently with those views and their tone. That’s the baseline of politics, even at a local level; you often disagree with what other people are saying. What is important is that you respect those differing views and the right of others to express them freely. There are some obvious caveats to that freedom, relating to inciting of hatred or racism.
There is a worrying trend of councillors reacting to what another councillor has said, by reporting it as a breach of the councillors code of conduct. A recent heated exchange about limiting this year’s council rent increase, lead to an alternative approach be ruled incompetent by the Council’s Deputy Chief Executive. Understandably, opposition councillors were frustrated they hadn’t had the opportunity to put the issue to the vote. So, Independent Leader Carolyn Wilson, expressed the view that this was “stifling democracy.” In doing so, she has landed up being reported to the Standards Commission for Scotland, for the audacity of criticizing a senior official in public. The complaint doesn’t come from a council employee but her three political opponents, Councillors Alston, Gray and Hendry.
How much time and public money is going to be wasted on pursuing this issue? The councillors code of conduct should be there to stop individuals abusing the planning system for personal gain or fiddling their expenses. It’s there to ensure councillors act in an honest and open way. It shouldn’t be used to settle petty disputes between councillors, seemingly intolerant about what someone else has said.
Read more: Watchdog to probe Alness councillor’s jibe – Ross-shire Journal