More confusion over what was agreed in council vote

The Convenor of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has dismissed a claim that a decision made by councillors on the guidance to be given to the authority’s schools for the teaching of lessons in relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP), has been inaccurately recorded in council minutes.
Cllr MacLean is angry that what he thought was his amended motion appears to have failed.Cllr MacLean is angry that what he thought was his amended motion appears to have failed.
Cllr MacLean is angry that what he thought was his amended motion appears to have failed.

At a meeting of the Comhairle’s full council on Wednesday, Loch a’ Tuath councillor, Calum Maclean, challenged the minute of the previous meeting on November 30, saying that councillors had agreed to a second amendment of his original proposal that would see the authority ‘exclusively’ commending the use of materials for RSHP lessons using materials produced by the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES).   

Confusion and dispute had arisen in the meeting of  November 30 after the councillor moving the original motion, which had recommended noting the authority’s draft guidance for the RSHP lessons, had accepted Cllr Maclean’s amendment.

As such, the Comhairle’s Chief Executive had advised the meeting that under council procedures this meant that the amendment would only be added to the original motion and would not replace it. 

However, later in the meeting, in an attempt to clarify what exactly councillors were due to vote on, Comhairle Leader, Cllr  Roddie Mackay said that he understood the amendment put forward by Cllr Maclean had the intention that the SCES’s materials would be used ‘exclusively’ for the RSHP lessons and as such was replacing the original motion.

Cllr Maclean then agreed with the Leader’s comment and the meeting went to a vote which overwhelmingly backed Cllr Maclean’s original unaltered amendment.

However, after the meeting Cllr Maclean, and the seconder Cllr Gordon Murray, disputed allegations that his original amendment had not in fact been formally amended with the word ‘exclusive’.  Cllr Maclean claimed in a statement that those present had consented to the changed wording of his amendment following the intervention of the Leader.

Comhairle officials subsequently confirmed that councillors had actually agreed to the original wording, which read: ‘It is recommended that the Committee note the report and the guidance being issued to schools in relation to Personal and Social Education Relationship and Sexual Health Education (RSHP).

‘The Comhairle commends the use of the age and stage appropriate material as set out by the Scottish Catholic Education Services for the teaching of relationships, sexual health and parenthood in Western Isles schools, noting that schools may adjust these materials as appropriate.’

Cllr Maclean said he is sufficiently clear on what he understood to be the revised and agreed wording of his amendment. So much so that he emailed the wording as he believed it to be to Comhairle officials, and  that councillors had agreed to the following amendment, which he also believed is the one that had been voted on: ‘That the Comhairle commends the use of the age and stage appropriate material as set out in the Scottish Catholic Education Services exclusively for the teaching of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood in Western Isles schools noting that schools may adjust these materials as appropriate.’

But that claim has now been formally rejected, and the original minute upheld.

The Convenor said: “The reality is it [the minute] is absolutely accurate, word for word. It is what was the amendment…once an amendment has been approved and voted on, then that is what happens.” 

The Comhairle’s Chief Executive then tried to explain the position that members make many comments and say many things during the course of a debate. They may ask questions, some of them are political, some of them are rhetorical, some  are seeking information, but the comments of individual members cannot alter an amendment . 

He said: “The amendment would have to be changed formally by the proposer and agreed by the seconder, which I don’t recall, and that would then have to be accepted by the Convenor as a new amendment on which the Comhairle was voting. That did not in my opinion happen.”

Mr Burr finally added:  “I have to say convenor that had that second amendment been proposed,[and which Cllr MacLean believed was being put to a vote using the word exclusively] I would have had to raise questions about its competence.”