Public Servants: or are they?

There may be no immediate parallels to the awfulness of Hillsborough and it’s aftermath but if you think about it, there are parallels with the culture that surrounded it. Scotland is every bit as bad as elsewhere in the UK, I am ashamed to say.

  • Public service has become a misnomer; it’s often about public servants serving their own self interest, not the public’s.
  • When mistakes are made, it is rare for public servants to hold their hands up and take the blame. Even rarer is someone falling on their sword.
  • More often than not, mistakes are covered up and the denials start.
  • The ethical public servants are often too scared to blow the whistle for fear of damaging their careers, or worse.
  • The whistle blowers become the guilty and the real guilt is ignored.
  • The bodies that are there to investigate, or there to appeal to, are often more interested in protecting the guilty than anything else. Or so it appears.
  • Even on the rare occasion that guilt is established, nobody carries the can.
  • Trust in public bodies evaporates over time, breeding cynicism among those they should be serving.
  • Perhaps worst of all, the guilty become emboldened by realising they can get away with it, so they continue to do bad things.
  • Democracy itself becomes damaged and the unethical cycle continues.

I have given plenty of examples in this blog of the above and, frankly, I am getting rather tired of the fray but I will not give up. Ethical standards need to improve dramatically if public service is to be what it claims to be. Look at the top 5 leadership traits in the image below and then ask yourself who these traits apply to. I have always considered number 2, humility, to be the most desirable but, sadly, it’s also the least seen.

There’s far too much of what I have described above in Scotland and we need to see change and quickly. There are indications of reform in the 2016 SNP manifesto and these need to be converted into action urgently. If a newly elected Scottish government can’t or won’t do this at the top of their popularity cycle, it might never happen. http://www.snp.org/manifesto

It’s up to us, the citizens of Scotland, to make sure reform does happen, so let’s make our views clear after the election next week. And, please make sure you vote next week.

leadership

 

This blog is on behalf of Michael Russell

As I was one of the people who heard some concerns about the Named Person issue which has been in the press recently, I am pleased Michael Russell has issued the following text to explain what is involved and to counter some of the concerns being aired.

The issue of the named person has been raised on a few doorsteps in the last week.  This is a result of a campaign being pushed by the Tories which seeks to exploit a current petition to the UK Supreme Court about the matter.

This follows on two court cases in Scotland in which a small number of people (from a Christian fundamentalist background) attempted to have the legislation overturned.  The cases were thrown out by Scottish judges in their entirety and we expect the same to happen in the UK Supreme Court.

The key facts about the named person legislation are as follows;

 *   The legislation does NOT impose a “State Guardian” on every child.

 *   Most parents and families will never know that there is a “named person” for their children.

 *   The named person legislation has been operating in pilot areas, including Highland council, for several years and has not resulted in any difficulties regarding confidentiality, intervention or interference.

 *   The arrangements in the legislation largely formalise existing good practice and are supported by virtually all children’s charities, the police, social workers and many others.

 *   The names person activity is NOT in addition to other duties but merely recognises a role that has been undertaken informally before.  For children under school age it is a Health Visitor and for those of school age it is a Head Teacher.

 *   The legislation gives “named persons” no greater powers than they already have under existing laws but will help the various agencies to work more constructively together and with a lighter touch when it is needed.

 Those opposing the legislation consistently misrepresent it.  Nothing they have alleged about the legislation in their court case has turned out to be true and all their arguments have lost in court.

The Tories are exploiting the situation and their suggestion that the “named person” arrangements take money away from deprived children is utterly wrong.  In addition problems for children don’t just take place in “deprived neighbourhoods” as Conservative candidate in Argyll & Bute recently claimed at a Hustings.

The existence of a “named person” is likely to help in rare but important instances and as a result it will help children who might not otherwise get assistance at a crucial time.

Only the Tories opposed the legislation in the Scottish Parliament – all other parties supported it.  Labour’s present criticism was not made at the time and is further evidence of their opportunism.

 I would be happy to discuss this with any activist or voter.

 Michael

 

Some thoughts on Dunoon

With the rollout of RET on almost all the CalMac routes, the situation of Dunoon is increasingly fragile.

Last week I went to Skye using the Mallaig to  Armadale route. This is a 40 minute journey and the return fare for myself and the car came to £24.40. If you don’t buy tickets in advance for Western Ferries (and you see people paying on board regularly) the return fare for the 20 minute journey is £32.00.

Even at the advance fare rate for Western Ferries, the return fare would be £17.70 so for £6.70 more you can go twice the distance on the Armadale route.

The cost of commercial vehicle to Dunoon is also high. A local business told me last week it had cost £138 for a lorry to come on a one way basis to deliver equipment to him. The driver had been astonished at the cost and indicated they would not be delivering to Dunoon again.

Add to this the unreliability of the passenger only service run by Argyll Ferries which impacts greatly on commuters, we have a very unhappy situation to contend with.

I am not at all sure what the solution is but that is why some of us are working to see if, long term, a fixed link of some kind could be put in place.

Very soon councillors will be asked to take a decision on proceeding with the redevelopment of the Queen’s Hall in Dunoon. The costs will be somewhere north of £8m I suspect and, on its own, a revamped Queen’s Hall will not bring an additional person to the town, either permanently or as visitors. It’s probably the case that this project has to go ahead given where we are with it and the costs incurred to date but is it a wise spend of public funds? Would it be better, for example, to fully complete the redevelopment of Dunoon Pier to make it a working harbour for commercial and leisure use, plus ferry traffic?

I have to say that if all decision making for Dunoon and Cowal was made here, with the involvement of the local community, it would be easier to make the right decisions for our area. As it is, Kilmory rules the roost and it suits many councillors that this remains the case. You might wish to ask why.

Update

The reason why this site hasn’t had any new content for some time is quite simple. I’ve been very busy trying to defend myself against the 2nd complaint submitted to the Standards Commissioner.

While I was cleared on the first complaint, the second one, submitted by the 4 most senior council officers, is still being considered and I have provided the Commissioner with detailed evidence in response. I am not allowed to give any details about the complaint so I won’t do that. The original information on it, provided before I knew the Commissioner was going to consider the complaint, can be found in May last year, here:

Argyll & Bute: how it works: a complaint against me

The first complaint, though, has not resulted in an apology from any of the 3 councillors who probably wasted thousands of pounds of public money by making the complaint. The full judgement in my favour can be found here:

http://www.publicstandardscommissioner.org.uk/decisions/decision/734/

I plan to update the blog weekly starting later this week.