At Random with Martin Laing

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What have our councillors got to hide?

I remain baffled – but highly suspicious – by our councillors’ refusal to allow ‘live-streaming’ of their meetings.

What have they got to hide?

We have reported on this issue a number of times recently. Indeed, a petition calling for meetings to be broadcast as they happen has been signed by more than 1,000 people.

Many other local authorities, including the Highland Council and Western Isles, live-stream their meetings, so why not Argyll and Bute?

This is the 21st century and we all live in a hi-tech world where activities such as live-streaming are commonplace.

What’s more, our gauleiters already have all the necessary equipment, which it currently uses for video conferences, so they have no excuse for denying us a glimpse of them in action.

Councillor Julie McKenzie, who started the petition, was quoted a few weeks ago saying live-streaming the meetings online will not only open the decision-making process to those who can’t attend, but will also improve the quality of debate.

She also made a valid point about the geography of Argyll and Bute and how the very large rural area, with so many islands, often makes it extremely difficult for local taxpayers to travel to Kilmory to attend meetings.

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesman confirmed the local authority has the equipment, saying: ‘The council has invested in new technology, including video conferencing, which has already realised considerable benefits, including saving significant staff time and costs in travelling to meetings.

‘The council’s constitution has an existing protocol which allows members to participate in certain meetings remotely. Future developments could include live-streaming and this would be a matter for elected members of the council to decide.’

Our councillors who oppose being broadcast have, of course, risible excuses for opposing the move. Principal among them is the supposed cost.

But when the kit they need is already in use for video conferencing, where is this so-called cost?

In this day and age, it is vital our local democracy should be seen as transparent. We have – indeed, we demand – the right to see the decision-making process in operation.

Many people would probably find the level of debate less than inspiring and some would possibly be surprised at how dull such meetings can be.

But that does not alter the fact we should be able to tune in.

I repeat: what on earth have they got to hide?

Happy birthday

Congratulations to the splendid folk at Atlantis Leisure, who celebrated the centre’s 25th birthday in style.

We were more than happy to report on the party held at Atlantis, complete with a picture special, in last week’s newspaper.

Sadly, as will inevitably happen from time to time, we made an error due to a technical problem. One of the pictures was reproduced twice. The caption for three-year-old Kyra MacIntyre of Dunbeg Primary School nursery posing with Atlantis Leisure’s winter mascot Coolio was correct but appeared under the wrong image.

So we are more than happy to print the correct photo here this week. And we hope you enjoyed the party, Kyra.

What do you think?

Write to me at mlaing@obantimes.co.uk or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB.