Why are politicians among the few occupations you cannot have sacked for incompetence?
Just about every other profession – doctor, researcher, engineer, accountant, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker – relies upon the competence of the individual. If a doctor regularly misdiagnoses or wrongfully prescribes medication, they are struck off the register. If an engineer screws up in calculations or measurements, they’re given the heave-ho. If a candlestick-maker’s wares accidentally start an inferno, they’d likely be fired. So why is it that politicians can only be persuaded to step down when they wreak untold havoc upon communities through incompetence, corruption or sheer wrong-headedness? Why must it come to outright illegal activity before action is taken to remove them?
It’s no coincidence that another two jobs from which you seemingly cannot be terminated as a direct result of inability are journalists and bankers. And it’s no coincidence that the three occupations which seem most profoundly opposed to Scottish independence are politicians, journalists, and bankers.
I make no bones about it: most of the politicians based in Inverclyde are either incompetent or corrupt. There are, of course, exceptions – I know several personally on both sides of the independence referendum who are extremely hard-working, competent and genuine – but Inverclyde Council has a sordid recent history. In the last decade alone, the Council has been brought to task by Audit Scotland for its gross incompetence, poor leadership, and generally considered the worst local authority in Scotland. But while improvements have been made, there are still significant barriers to overcome.
In 2008, Inverclyde Council did not apply for Scottish Government funds specifically put aside for local authorities to tackle health inequality. In 2011, the FMO project not only failed to reach its £1.9 million savings target, but actually lost £400,000. In 2013, they only managed to get 1 in 10 high-risk potholes fixed within a six month time period, and a mere 14% of their target. When the Scottish Government enacted their mitigation of the Bedroom Tax, they sat on the money allocated for the affected in Inverclyde for almost a whole year. And now they’re planning on destroying Gourock’s shops with a one-way bypass – because I sure as hell can’t see how making it easier to bypass Gourock could possibly be seen as investing in Gourock. This is, of course, the same council which saw fit to refurbish the council buildings to the tune of £2.3m, wasted time and money on unnecessary and disruptive traffic lights, and is happy to have the support of the Conservatives.
It’s with this in mind that I’d like to tell you about an incident in my hometown.
Here in Gourock, I’ve noticed some Yes graffiti on the walls. Our red-rosette MSP Duncan McNeil has naturally expressed his disgust at this disgraceful defacement of public property and called upon Stuart MacMillan & Yes Inverclyde to condemn such actions:
FURIOUS Gourock residents have hit out at ‘mindless’ vandals who have splattered expletive-ridden pro-independence graffiti over their neighbourhood.
Locals living in Midton are angry that vandals have turned their streets into a political battleground by spraypainting slogans on buildings and shopfronts.
One message on garages at Finnie Terrace encourages people to vote for ‘independance’ (sic) in September’s referendum by using an obscene term.
The message was crudely daubed beside a tick which is placed alongside a Saltire and the words ‘Vote Yes’.
William Dallas, 64, pictured, who says he has no political allegiance, has lived in the area for 40 years and is outraged at the vandal attack.
He told the Tele: “It’s a criminal act.
“This is disgusting as far as I’m concerned.
“The people who did it have committed a crime and I hope the police investigate and find out who the people responsible are and they should be taken to task.
“This is not about Yes or No, it’s about the state of the area.”
Pro-unionist campaigners have been quick to criticise the vandalism.
Greenock & Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil said: “This is a new low and it’s disgusting graffiti.
“There isn’t a moment’s regard for the Midton community who could have to live with this for weeks and months to come.
“We must be clear in the condemnation of this.
“Supporters right across the divide will be sickened by it and we have got to disassociate ourselves with this completely.”
Yes supporter and SNP MSP Stuart McMillan also criticised the culprits — but then went on to say that he did not believe the graffiti attack was carried out by an independence supporter.
He said: “I’m not convinced it’s a Yes supporter that’s done this.
“I’ve met practically everyone in Inverclyde who has been campaigning for a Yes vote and I can assure you none of these individuals would have undertaken this nonsense.
“When I saw the photos my immediate hunch was this was by someone not involved in politics in any way, shape or form.
“The fact they can’t spell the word independence suggests to me it’s someone trying to cause trouble.
“People also vote with a cross — maybe this is trying to put voters off and confuse them.”
Ronnie Cowan, who heads up the Yes Inverclyde campaign, added: “It’s nothing at all to do with us.
“We condemn this — it’s an act of vandalism.
“Whoever has done this hasn’t done us any favours at all. This just damages our campaign.”
Greenock police say the graffiti has not been reported to them but have urged any witnesses to get in touch.
Sergeant Allan O’Hare said: “These incidents have not been reported to us, however we will investigate them and anybody with information or who knows who is responsible should get in touch by calling 101.”
What Duncan fails to note at any point is that, as is quite clear in the photographs (even the one in the Greenock Telegraph), at least one instance of the Yes graffiti was painted over what appears to be existing “Vote No” graffiti:
One wonders how long that graffiti was there, and if Mr McNeil was aware of this lack of “regard for the Midton community who could have to live with this for weeks and months to come.”
What Duncan also neglects to mention is that the residents of the Midton area have been forbidden from displaying any “political” material in their homes – which extends to Yes (or No) posters in their windows. Several have tried, but people have come around ordering them to be taken down – it isn’t clear if it’s the housing association or what, but I know at least one resident who just keeps putting their sign back up after they’ve left.
When people who feel strongly enough about something that they want to display it to the world are actively prevented from doing so in a legal manner, then of course there are going to be some who feel like they have no other option but to respond with illegal activities like this. Because the people will make their voice heard regardless – so why fight them, and force them into such a situation as this? When the people feel their self-expression is being stifled, of course some are going to take action that isn’t sanctioned by law.
I’d also say it’s a bit rich for Duncan to single out a bit of paint as “disgusting” considering the deprivation and dilapidation of the Midton area: if anything, the graffiti brings a splash of colour to the depressing grey ruin which still lingers after decades of decline under a Labour council – the same council, of course, which was so poorly-led and unaccountable that extreme action needed to be taken, gifted five council officials £100,000+ salaries, and recently awarded themselves a lovely backdated 2% pay rise – aye, it’s the graffiti which is the scandal in Inverclyde, all right…
(This is why I’m embarrassed beyond belief when people assume I’m a Councillor when I’m volunteering at the Yes Inverclyde shop. Maybe it’s because I wear a blazer, or maybe I look like one of them, but there’s a reason I don’t want to get involved in politics on an official level.)
After 300 years in the Union, Inverclyde is in trouble. It has the second lowest life expectancy for males in the whole of the UK – up from third a few years previously – and thus, some of the lowest life expectancy in the whole of Europe. For every vacancy in Inverclyde, there are 35 applicants – the worst employment opportunities in the UK. One in four children in Inverclyde are living in poverty. The population of Inverclyde has plummeted by the greatest amount of any Scottish local authority, even as the population of Scotland has been increasing. Inverclyde NEEDS a Yes vote, because there’s absolutely no chance a No vote will result in change for the better.
No, of course I don’t condone the illegal defacement of public or private property – but neither do I condone the reckless, criminal incompetence of a council which has wrought immeasurably greater harm onto the people of my home. That’s a bit more serious than a few daubs of paint.