Opinion – it’s time for unity, not to put out more flags

Five weeks after the bitterly fought referendum campaign ended with pleas for reconciliation from both sides, nationalist councillors have chosen to unite two issues in a way which seems doomed to end in acrimony.

Next week Argyll and Bute councillors will face the usual agenda items such as financial monitoring, new schools and a staff survey.

But SNP councillors have also submitted motions calling for the Saltire to be flown from council buildings every day of the year – and for the council to stop trying to collect unpaid poll tax arrears.

The latter issue has proved hugely controversial nationally, with councils across Scotland saying they have a duty to collect debts from people who have just come back onto their radar by joining the electoral register for the referendum.

The motions are put forward by James Robb, one of three people to have been council leader since the SNP won 12 of the council’s 36 seats in the 2012 elections, and Isobel Strong, provost until the SNP lost control of the council following a bewildering series of leadership changes last year.

Previously she was education lead when plans for the closure of 26 schools were drawn up (the SNP withdrew from a leadership coalition soon afterwards), but claimed to have been kept in the dark by officials.

Both have been councillors for some years – so if the flag issue is so important, why wait for so long to make this request, then choose to present it alongside the potentially divisive debts issue?

The council is still trying to deal with the aftermath of a very damning Audit Scotland report – which criticised leadership and highlighted meetings with unfeasibly long agendas – and faces three years of extremely painful spending cuts because its funding has been cut by the SNP Government (they in turn will blame the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in London).

It’s worth remembering that it was West Dunbartonshire Council’s decision to fly the red flag from its buildings – including the Victoria Halls in Helensburgh – which was seen as a key factor in the area leaving that authority to join Argyll and Bute; memorably, the controversy came to a head when a local resident scaled the roof and replaced the flag with a pair of knickers.

So surely those people we pay to represent us should see that their priorities should be trying to ensure that schools and essential services survive the drastic cost-cutting which is expected in the years to come, and that this is the time for unity, not division.


  1. It was bad enough when the Yes campaign hijacked the Saltire – now this. Can’t they get a life and deal with the real problems like CHORD?

  2. Instead of paying someone to run a flag up and down a flag pole, why not get them to fill some holes in the A&B roads or is that too much to ask?

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