Today was a massive day. Today was of significant importance to myself because I had helped these councillors in all types of weather. Leafleting , canvassing and even had the occasional coffee and a bite to eat. I put my family commitments on hold. My Girlfriend and kids saw less of me each night. Today meant more to me than anything. Today at 2pm I attended the statutory meeting for the council to decide who would be leader, provost, deputy provost and most importantly, who would be in power. I felt nervous and anxious at the same time. Knowing that SNP had 11 councillors and labour 11 also. It was neck and neck. I worked out all the probabilities in my head the night before and when I sat in the car in the car park outside the council building. If we get a couple of the independents on our side and the Tories abstain. If we form the best case for a minority administration. If it goes down to a deck of cards and we get the ace in the pack. These were all hypothetical but they kept racing through my mind. My heart was pounding.
For the past few months I have become really close to the SNP group in North Ayrshire. They’re a lovely bunch of people. They share an amazing vision that will help everyone in our area. They set out to help others. These people more than me deserve to get a good result today. I was praying for them. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best outcome possible. When I read in the paper last week that Marie Burns – our leader of the group and Councillor in Irvine said that she reached out to Joe Cullinane (Labour Leader) to form a coalition.
Her proposal was simple, lets form administration together because that is what the people of North Ayrshire want. Now for me, that is one of a remarkable leader. Someone who despite their differences can put all of that aside to put the people first. When I first read it I was in my Dads. I shouted him over and told him to read it. You could see in his face as he read it that he was proud to have voted for her. He never knew Marie but I had spoken about her often. She’s wonderful, smart and very welcoming. This topped everything.
She was realistic enough to know that both parties had 11 each and she could quite easily of decided to form a minority administration. She chose to put the people first. I will always admire her for that. Unsurprisingly, Joe declined her offer. He refused to negotiate a coalition offer with SNP and try his hand at other negotiations. He would try and get the independents on board, that was a given. Negotiations went on all week and nobody really knew much else on the outside. I tried to ask a few questions here and there but didn’t want to pester anyone.
As I sat in my car outside the council building one and a half hours early. I went through everything in my head. I took the day off work for this and I was ready. I went inside and was the first person to be in the waiting area. I was greeted by the receptionist and was told I was “a little early”. So I decided to wait. Others started tricking in. A couple of labour members who were talking about tuition fees and how it was labours idea came in. A frequent narrative of theirs. I remained tight lipped and focused on the day ahead.
After half an hour Jim Tudhope and John Ferguson came in. I was relieved to see them as they were ‘one of us’. I stood and chatted to them for about ten more minutes when we saw Cllr Christina Larsen making her way into the chambers. This was it. It was finally here. The receptionist told us that we could now follow them in. We trickled in via a side door open to the public. The councillors were all seated in a curved seating pattern. They all had laptops and microphones. The chief executive of NAC Elma Murray took to the panel in front of them.
She announced who she was and asked the councillors if they would mind being filmed live on Facebook. They agreed that it was ok so they went on. A lady came round and handed us an agenda for today’s meeting. It was like a big book with lots of pages. Jim and I had a look through it while Elma was talking and introducing the councillors. The local press were over in the corner, taking notes and pressing play on their recorders. 11 labour councillors on the right of the room, 7 Tories in the middle, 4 independents just behind them and 11 SNP councillors on the left. If the Tories sat with labour it would be earmarked for a perfect political system of right vs left.
One of the first things on the agenda was nominating and voting for a provost and deputy provost. I had never seen this before so I was unsure about what it entailed. Everyone voted for the nominees and it was said that Cllr Ian Clarkson would be provost and Cllr Robert Barr would be deputy provost. The meeting went into a 5 minute recess so that the provost and his deputy could got for a picture and receive their chains. At this point in my mind I was trying to work out if a deal had been made. Pure speculation but my mind was running overtime. ‘So both of them are labour, does that mean we got in because we gave them provost roles’. Every hypothetical scenario was running through my mind.
Elma took to the microphone again and asked the question loud and clear. “Who do you vote for to me the leader and deputy leader of NAC?” The nominations were Cllr Marie Burns (SNP) and Deputy Cllr Alan Hill (SNP) or Cllr Joe Cullinane (Labour) and Deputy John Easdale (Labour). Elma asked for a vote of raising hands. The nominated leader and deputy leader with the most votes wins. She called out Marie and Alan first. All the SNP hands went up. That was 11 to them. I thought to myself at this stage that the Tories would abstain on both because they wouldn’t want to vote Labour in. Elma asked who votes for Joe and John. All of the Labour Councillors put their hands up so that made 11 also.
Then as I look over to the middle of the room I saw Cllr Angela Stephen, Cllr Scott Gallagher, Cllr Todd Ferguson and Cllr Timothy Billings raise their hands. Along with a former Tory councillor who is now an independent. It shouldn’t of shocked me, it shouldn’t of made me mad or upset. But it did. I shook my head in disdain. I had saw on the news just two hours before Kezia Dugdale saying she would suspend any Labour members going into coalition with the Tories. Now this was not the case. This was not a coalition between Labour and Tories. It may have well been though. This was a minority administration propped up by the Tories. It was deceiving, conniving and a massive faux pas from both of them.
It will come back to haunt them. I hope sooner rather than later. I turned to look at Jim and we both never said a word. We had a look of disbelief. It was now evident that Joe and his colleagues had infiltrated ranks with the Tories and they had put local issues aside to stop the SNP at every turn and to stop independence. A very transparent move but a move that sneakily got them to power. When the Chief executive confirmed that Joe Cullinane was now leader and that Labour had formed a minority administration by being propped up from the austerity ridden Tories. I looked over at him. He had a massive grin on his face. This man knows no bounds. He is an opportunistic, careerist. He will fling anyone under his municipal bus just to be the leader of the council. It doesn’t matter how he gets there or what route he has to take. As long as his career is first then the people of North Ayrshire will always come second.
As the meeting drew to a close. Elma was giving councillors opportunities to nominate for posts and duties. I saw Tory councillors reject nominations at every opportunity. It made me realise that they just didn’t care. They had no interest in today other than to stop SNP and effectively stop independence. But I have news for them. They won’t stop The SNP and they won’t stop independence. Because we don’t lie down to opportunistic careerists or part time councillors that just do enough to get by. We’re in this for the long run, we’re resilient in our vision for a fairer, more prosperous society for all. We will close the attainment gap for our kids.
We will shout from the rooftops that we will double childcare and oppose Tory cuts to our elderly and disabled. We got the most votes out of all the parties sitting in that chamber today. That is what keeps me going. We have amazing councillors in place to hold this Labour administration to account at every turn. We will keep going against the hatred towards us. We are SNP and this is our time!
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