A dispute over party political organisation by councillors serving on the Comhairle has erupted into a public stand-off between elected members.
SNP Group Leader, Cllr Gordon Murray, has issued a strongly-worded statement against councillors with political affiliations who do not declare their party allegiances and who operate outside of their national or local party structures and manifestos.
Cllr Murray said: “Unlike other parties, the SNP requires members standing in any election to stand on a party ticket and declare this – it’s called being honest, open and transparent. It is a shame that other parties do not do likewise.”
The Stornoway North councillor went on to defend his SNP group’s decision to work to a locally determined manifesto, claiming that independent councillors working to their own agenda are at risk of being overly guided by the Comhairle’s senior staff.
Cllr Murray concluded: “Surely it is better that elected members have their own vision for our islands rather than relying on officer driven strategies and service redesign projects, produced one/two years after election?
“Sadly, it seems, our officers necessarily have to fill the vacuum left by members who have no vision of their own.”
But, after a heated social media exchange, Point councillor, Norrie MacDonald, has hit-back at Cllr Murray’s claims.
In a statement, Cllr MacDonald said: “Cllr Murray must think that he is the only person within the councillor group with either the vision or intellect to drive or change policy.
“I quickly learned that to achieve anything, you need consensus (from amongst ourselves as councillors) and also, and very importantly, to work with the full-time officers to realise what can be implemented, what is practical, and what concrete proposals will/can get carried at council.
“You need a coherent strategy not a gesture that has ‘mass appeal’ with no chance of success.”
“As for the tired old ‘independent councillors’ smokescreen, Cllr Murray alleges that a select group (the Chair’s group) are responsible for some sort of ‘behind the scenes’ decision making secrecy and that his group, and presumably the rest of us, are not privy and do not have access to the real power-making and decision-taking within the council. Paranoid clap-trap.”
Cllr MacDonald concluded: “As for my own ‘vision and policy’ and his perceived lack of, therein, I’ve tried to find influence, and work quietly behind the scenes (as a veteran of 18 months), by speaking to the people who know how the ‘process of government’ works, even at this most local of levels.”