Crisis? What crisis? Argyll Tories lose three councillors in three months

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Argyll and Bute’s Conservative group has lost three councillors in as many months, through suspension, resignation, and deselection.

The first shock to rock the region’s Tories came in late August 2021, when the Conservative councillor for Kintyre and the Islands Alastair Redman was suspended by his party for the second time in two years.

In November 2019, two months after becoming policy lead for economic growth in the council’s administration, councillor Redman was one of 25 members suspended from the Tory Party over claims of Islamophobic and other prejudicial social media posts.

His suspension ended six months later in May 2020, when he said: ‘I’m delighted that after a long and thorough process I’ve been readmitted to the party. I never doubted I would. I was an innocent man. I’m not a prejudiced person and never have been.’

Later that year, in October 2020, councillor Redman was appointed policy lead for business, regeneration and commercial development.

Then, in August this year, a Conservative party spokesperson confirmed Councillor Redman had once again been suspended pending investigation, but no detail was given on the reasons for the suspension.

Councillor Redman told The Oban Times his suspension from the Conservative party was an ‘internal matter’. ‘It will be dealt with in good time,’ he said. ‘I have continued to represent my constituents and work as hard as ever, I have not taken any time off.’

He added: ‘My constituents need not worry. Whether I stand as a Conservative or as an Independent in the next election, I will continue to fight for my area. At local level party politics isn’t the prime motivator of voters, I believe.’

The following month Argyll and Bute Council’s administration, a coalition between Lib Dem, Conservative and Independent councillors, was shaken by his resignation.

At a full council meeting on September 30, councillor Redman stood down from the administration, and his role as policy lead for business, regeneration and commercial development. Councillor Redman told The Oban Times he had voluntarily stepped down because of his suspension, but it was a role he would like to regain.

It is one of the council’s most important portfolios, overseeing huge and expensive projects such as CARS schemes, townscape heritage initiatives, business improvement districts (BIDs), the Scottish Government’s Place Based Investment Programme and Town Centre Fund, the Strategic Events & Festivals Fund, Crown Estate funding for economic recovery, etc., to name but a few.

This weighty brief has now been split between three councillors, including the administration’s leader and depute leader.

‘These key areas of work are clearly linked to economic growth,’ a council spokesperson explained, ‘so are shared now by councillor Sir Jamie McGrigor, as Depute Policy Lead, and councillors Robin Currie and Gary Mulvaney, as Policy Lead and Depute Lead for the Economy and Rural Growth.’

Another blow soon followed for Argyll & Bute’s Conservatives. In October, Lomond North’s Conservative councillor Barbara Morgan, who had been chairperson of the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee since October 2020, resigned from Argyll and Bute Council ‘for personal reasons, with immediate effect’, the council said.

Then, that same month, South Kintyre councillor Donald Kelly, who has stood as a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party councillor for the last 20 years, was blindsided by a decision to remove him from the party with no explanation.

After submitting his application to once again to represent the party in the 2022 election, he was told he cannot be considered because he is no longer a Conservative councillor.

‘I strongly believe a local councillor should put the interests of their community before party politics,’ Mr Kelly said, ‘and this is something I have done and will continue to do.’

When contacted by the Oban Times, a Scottish Conservative spokesperson would only say: ‘We don’t comment on internal party matters.’