It’s rare that I put out two posts in the same day, but today was extraordinary even by the fruitcake standards of some of our councillors. This requires no explanation and was sent to the same group as shown in the earlier post.
I didn’t expect to be coming back to everyone so soon. I had worked on the basis that I’d give everyone the coming weekend to consider how bad a position they were in.
Unfortunately, Cllr E Morton has issued a mostly false statement to the press this week and which has appeared in The Buteman today. Her words, taken from the summary we get each week of how we have responded to press enquiries, were as follows:
Provided quote from Cllr Ellen Morton. Saying this is excellent news for council tax payers across Argyll and Bute. Mr McMillan had been questioning the operation of Rothesay Harbour and seeking damages of £350,000. With our offer that he consent to both petitions being dismissed, on the basis that we had answered each of his points, both in terms of law and fact, being accepted by Mr McMillan the court then issued a ruling which determined all matters in our favour. Our harbour staff have been fully vindicated – they have, and continue to, operate Rothesay Harbour in a fit and proper manner.
This statement is nonsense and much of it is untrue. This isn’t the first time Cllr Morton has resorted to issuing stuff that isn’t true but let me tell you why this particular rubbish is untrue. The reason this is important is because the scandal of Rothesay Harbour was 100% of the 1st nasty and vindictive complaint by Cllrs Walsh, E Morton and Scoullar and a goodly chunk of the 2nd complaint by Messrs Sneddon, Loudon, Hendry and Milne. Maybe she thought this was a way of getting payback for the complaints against me.
Mrs Morton’s statement is baloney for the following reasons:
- It is highly debatable that it’s “excellent news for council tax payers” because we do not yet know what defending the action cost us. I have asked Mr Hendry for the legal costs because, perhaps conveniently, they were not available for the paper to our P&R committee. We will only know if it’s excellent news once we know the full facts, and there are a lot of them. It is also the case that we have spent a small fortune not just in defending the case but in getting surveys carried out and reports written during the time prior to the claim being formalised against us. It has also taken up a huge amount of officer time over several years.
- We denied the allegations Mr McMillan was making but his allegations and our denial were never proven in court because the matter never went to a proof. The case for both sides remains unproven.
- Mr McMillan never accepted any of our arguments so that is a false statement.
- Our harbour staff have not been vindicated for the same reason: the case never went to a proof. Interestingly, the same vindication garbage is emanating from Rothesay Harbour.
- The court issued no ruling because it never went to a proof. The case was dropped by mutual agreement.
- It is my view that there have been, and remain, a number of concerns about the operation of the harbour in Rothesay so the fit and proper claim is also unproven.
- There was an enormous loss to the council’s area in the many years Mr McMillan had to berth his vessel in Ardrossan. Some of this time was unavoidable but most of it was an avoidable loss to the island of Bute and to Argyll & Bute. It runs to a very large sum of money, with crew and provisioning of the vessel having to be made from Ayrshire.
The truth is that we offered to settle the case prior to it going to a proof with both parties agreeing to meet their own costs. Mr McMillan agreed to this because, had he gone to a proof, he could have been liable for court costs in the region of £250k, give or take £50k. He could not afford to take this risk but we were prepared to risk public funds in taking it to a proof. His view is that the matter was settled out of court. The attached seems to confirm this, ie neither party won and both paid their own costs.
The triumphalist drivel emanating from Cllr E Morton gives a completely distorted picture of events. She should never have said it to herself, never mind the media.
Cllr E Morton should correct this and apologise for putting out nonsense in all our names. Attached is the offer we made to settle the matter which confirms what I have said above.
My role and that of other councillors was simple: we argued that Mr McMillan’s case appeared to be strong so why not sit down and try and settle this by mediation or arbitration. That would have been the most cost effective manner of settlement in our view. Sadly, mediation or arbitration was flatly rejected by officers who seem to think that the bottomless pit of money to defend cases is theirs and not that of the public purse.
I truly despair of the depths we are taking this council to under this so called leadership.
The attachment to the email is at this link: fax-re-settlement