Jim O’Neill says last week’s revelations that some councillors are taking decisions over how to spend our money without having paid their own fair share should have implications for what those councillors are permitted to do.


A report last week from the BBC says that some 32 Scottish councillors owe their own councils arrears totalling £140,000 in unpaid council tax. These are people who, every day, make decisions about spending our money on council business, while not having paid their fair share themselves.

This investigation started out in a small story in the “Rotten Boroughs” page of Private Eye. Someone at the magazine then had the brilliant idea of using Freedom of Information queries to ask every council in Britain how many councillors owed council tax debts to their councils. They got enough of a response to make it a story in its own right, and to pressure reluctant councils to cough up the information.

Armed with a mass of information they then used their investigative skills to identify a number of specific councillors, of all parties, and to create a website list containing all the information they had. Faced with the legendary Private Eye investigation techniques, some councillors even outed themselves in a welter of apologies and promises of repayment. It would be interesting to see how many carried through these promises.

BBC, using the same techniques, have now identified all the councils in Scotland where money is owed by sitting councillors. 12 of the 32 councils are affected, from Glasgow to the Western Isles, and the money owed is not insignificant. However, not being the scurrilous magazine that Private Eye is, they seem to have taken a decision not to pursue the individuals involved.

That, I think, is a mistake. When I am voting for a councillor, apart from their party affiliation, I want to know whether they are candidates in good standing. Luckily, in North Ayrshire where I live, there are no councillors in debt to the council. But in those 12 councils, I think the electors have a right to know who they are. Let’s name them and shame them, regardless of party.

Indeed, I believe that my own party, Labour, should take the lead in identifying party members in this position, and should ensure that no candidate is selected to fight a seat if they owe a debt to the council in which they are seeking to stand. Further, current sitting councillors should not be given posts of special responsibility as long as they remain in arrears. I know this might sound harsh to some but I believe that those who are spending our council tax should have paid what they owe, just like the vast majority of the electorate.

So, Alex Salmond’s venture into talk show comedy is proving a bit of a disaster, according to the majority of critics except in that well known independent paper, the Herald’s nationalist sister paper. In his first show, the guest was not a well-known Nationalist politician, or someone from his horse racing punditry past, but David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, a man whom the SNP government and members profess to despise. I presume that Mr Davis was well paid for his performance.

Salmond then went on, in a subsequent show, to make a very laddish and grossly offensive joke about a number of senior female politicians. When Scottish Labour raised concerns about the joke, Salmond’s response was that we were only annoyed because Kez had not been referenced in the “joke”. Mr Salmond, the world has moved on from that kind of Jim Davidson comment and more should have been expected of a former First Minister of our country. If that is how he sees successful women, it is just as well that he is no longer either in Holyrood or Westminster. I hope that the women of any constituency where he seeks re-election in the future remember his views of them and send him homeward to think again.

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11 thoughts on “Name them and shame them

  1. A typical O’Neil article. Like the curate’s egg.
    Who could disagree that those in public office should be above board and seen to be above board. There cannot be a separate dispensation for those in positions of trust, who abuse that trust. After a debt is in place for a set number of weeks, we should know about it and how it is being resolved.
    Part of the problem is the lack of serious journalism, at all levels, in Scotland now.

    As for Salmond, come on, this is the FRINGE—a set up designed to be NOT FOR THE STRAIGHT LACED. Bad jokes abound. Worse ones more so.
    I am friends with a number of Labour councillors (have known them for years). I could recount events and jokes that would make your hair curl (if you truly thought Salmond’s effort was “gross”) involving them—but I wouldnt. I’m certain you could as well.
    That a number of political critics have panned Salmond was always going to happen. They are from Brit Nat publications in the main, and would have criticized Salmond if he had been riding a mono-cycle standing on his head juggling odd sized bottles of wine while reciting the Kama Sutra backwards. Because their reaction was political, not artistic.
    And his first guest WAS a nationalist—just that he was an Anglo-British one. I’m also certain that the SNP and Labour may equally “profess to hate” Mr Davis, but that is just “show biz” for the gullible is it not?

  2. Jim I agree with everything you say regarding the councillors who owe money.
    Alec at the fringe. Apart from the joke David Davis it turns out his former Chief of Staff has stated that our Brexit Secretary Only works a 3 day week . Does not read the papers in his red box and likes his drink.
    I would have thought the FM could have complained about the joke but no . So how about his singing nope.
    When Eck said the present group of SNP MPS turn up for their work every day. Are hard working and take a full part in committee meetings. I thought good that’s what we pay our MPS to do. But Jim Gavin you are both right this is the fringe. Our Eck is the star attraction. So what annoyed our FM it was this. Eck after praising our SNP MPS then went on to say they are not making an impression to well behaved need to brake the rules every now and again.
    Well the party that used to boast they could in Blairite style shut a bad news story down in 2 hrs went into overdrive. . A high level source within the SNP told the Sunday Times of all papers that our FM was fizzing .John Boothman reported that senior sources had said that the FM was fizzing over the remarks about her MPS.
    We were told that when Eck was leader he demanded iron discipline from all his MPS and all members .This senior source close to our FM told us Alec when FM would never have allowed this when he was FM
    Now it was the Fringe the show got its run extended.
    When the SNP press office went into action and a senior source briefed the Sunday Times a non story that was going nowhere suddenly as they say took on legs.
    Own goal all over it. Alec at the fringe should have stayed there.
    Maybe our Brexit Secretary could explain what he is going to do about Australia New Zealand and Canada wanting the same rights as Europeans to come and live in Britain after Brexit.
    I might as well mention the named person rule remember that.
    The faculty of advocates have warned ministers there is a lack of clarity and the acts ability to safe guard the interests of children and to protect the professionals who would be given extra responsibilities as a result
    At least they cant blame Eck

  3. As Gavin says, it s the usual “good in parts” contribution from Mr O’Neil.

    For the council tax owed, it might be best to wait and find out why some (and it is only some) councillors are behind in payments. I don’t think your average councillor is that well paid for their trouble and there might well be good financial reasons for their current circumstances. Those that dodge should be disciplined but lets not assume everyone is a bad egg.

    As for the now “de rigeur” swipe at the SNP and all things indy that flies in from left field in all Mr O’Neil’s posts …. sigh. Salmond put on a Fringe show that sold out (with extra shows added) and had a good many quality guests from all points on the political and showbiz map. Those who support independence gave it rave reviews and those for whom the very idea of their own country governing itself is anathema slated it …. with a little contrived spoiling to boot. “Quelle surpris”!

    All in all, a standard post from Mr O’Neil. Its “deja vu” all over again.

    PS Isn’t the French language great 😉

  4. We had a couple of senior local councillors who attended an event of our pipe band as top table guests and their speeches, “humorous” anecdotes, mainly consisted of jokes about Alex Salmond (fair game) but also Hookers and Homosexuals… this, not at the fringe but a Burns Supper attended by children and young adolescents as well as us old fogeys. I have no reason to think that all local labour politicians are this way disposed but it does seem that they were well used to this sort of speech not being challenged.

  5. The Salmond joke was nothing it was going away. It was the FMS people who gave it oxygen . They said she was fizzing over his jibe over SNP MPS being to well behaved
    Turns out Eck was not the only politician at the Fringe. Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell were there .Former Labour Minister Alan Johnston was there advertising his book. Mr J took the time to predict that our PM is toast .Will be replaced by David Davis as PM by March he is also predicting Jeremy Corbyn will be in no 10 in a year.
    Our FM also took part in the Fringe at the book festival.
    Now somebody some where in the SNP should have said this topic is not a good idea. The topic is not a good idea . Having the tv news in covering it is not a good idea. The FM answered truthfully . Then everyone went daft .
    The SNP did not exactly line up to help her out of the hole.
    Eck the FM Jeremy all at the Fringe Jeremy on tour good . I would like to see them all out and about they might get to learn how the real world lives.
    The Fringe is over now the real silly season is about to start .Holyrood is coming back and the conference season is nearly upon us.
    The FM was asked by reporters on Wednesday if she would reshuffle her cabinet by the end of the year her reply you will have to wait and see.
    Well that reply has opened the floodgates of speculation .
    We are being told a whole string of radical new policies are about to be revealed. If so why were they not revealed in the last 10 years. We are being told her 9 strong cabinet is full of SNP veterans who largely keep a low profile. A whole raft of new MSPS are pushing for promotion. When asked when we can see improvements she said I deliver the governments programme for Government on the 5th of September so there is a very precise date.
    This press speculation is her own fault. It will be interesting to see if the Finance Minister survives. His own people were actively briefing against him. This was just before the hols.
    Interestingly SNP sources were telling the media we will see.
    I look forward to any comments. I am in the Labour Party it is my thoughts you get not the parties .

    1. David, when journalists use the word “source, or sources close to”, its usually because they have NO actual source but to cover for an invented story they hope MIGHT be true.
      So the Sunday Times, which is patently no friend to the SNP, plant a story damaging to the SNP, and then justify it by claiming an “SNP source”.
      American journalistic editorial ethics rules stipulate both that, sources should be identified, and stories should be supported by more than one source.

      British journalism would collapse if it had to follow proper codes of ethics.

      1. Except that’s not in the least bit true. Journalists, rightly, protect their sources. When they say they have a source they usually have a source. And you’re talking complete crap about the US system. Ever heard of Deep Throat? Kinda well known.

  6. I was going to stay out of the blog but then I found a few other stories.
    Jon Snow delivered the MacTaggart lecture at the festival
    He has accused Facebook and Google of paying only nominal sums to news organizations for their work. He also tore into Facebook for encouraging the sharing of sensationalist and fake headlines . Like the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump for President during the US election campaign. It was viewed more than 1 million times.
    Damien Collins chairman of the culture media and sport select committee has said there is a very legitimate case for sanctions against digital companies that fail to remove fake stories.
    Tommy Sheppard SNP MP for Edinburgh East said in a speech in Edinburgh on Thursday night that the SNP should abandon the threat of an Indy Ref in this decade
    He also believes the FM should in his words decouple Indy from full EU membership . He thinks that she should tell us we will get a second vote on Scotlands relationship with Europe after independence if Scotland leaves the UK.
    Tommy has said the Election result is a major wake up call for the SNP. He does not believe a new ref can be held before Brexit is complete. He told his audience will have to focus on answering questions not properly addressed in 14 . His words .
    He has stated that the SNP should concentrate on securing a mandate for a second ref in the 2021 Holyrood Elections. He also said have courage in your conviction because the truth is if we cant win a majority in 2021 under a system of proportional representation then we will not win a Scottish ref the year anyway.
    He said the challenge is now to have a plan and come back in 21 to secure a majority. His majority went down from more than 9 thousand to less than 3thousand 500 there was a swing to Labour Tommy told his audience that pro independence voters switched to Labour because they like Jeremy Corbyn.
    Well the SNP leadership might not welcome it but its for me exactly the kind of thinking about where we go and how to get there that needs to be done by all Scottish parties.
    It might be a good idea if our PM and her 3 day a week Brexit secretary did some thinking to
    Anyway who needs that lot when we have in North and East Ayrshire Stagecoach providing the laughs
    The no 11 route which I use nearly every day is plagued with roadworks so there is severe disruption to the bus service. We know and understand this but what was the excuse before that ha ha.
    I have noticed that Stagecoach Inspectors have been behaving even stranger than usual recently .
    2 weeks ago in Irvine the no 22 Perceton bus arrived late . I was at the same bus stop waiting for a different bus .
    There were about 20 people expecting to get on the bus . The driver got off along with the other passengers put his jacket on left the lights on closed the doors and without a word disappeared with his bag into the distance.
    If you think that’s weird there is this. Stagecoach have a travelshop In Irvine near the bank and across the road from our town hall and new Leisure Centre the Portal .There are also 2 busy bus stops there one of them the no 11 stop where you get the bus for Crosshouse Hospital and Kilmarnock .
    Now within The Travel Shop there lurks a strange being known as a bus Inspector . We know when the bus usually late road works you understand is about to arrive. Our bold Inspector suddenly appears at the Shop door and if he sees heaven forbid 2 no 11 busses at the traffic lights our bold Inspector springs into action .
    With a speed that would shame Mo Farrah he sprints across the road in front of traffic to get to us.
    With a wild waving of arms and fingure pointing he signals the second and sometimes 3rd bus to pull in let people of and leave without picking us up . It does not seem to bother our Inspector that there can be 40 of us some with prams and wheelchairs trying to get on the bus that did stop .I have told him if sprinting across a busy road to move a bus on was an Olympic Sport he would get Gold every time .With that he goes to the crossing and walks back to await his next victims.
    I have to say and on 2 occasions I have phoned Greenwood Accademy Dreghorn to congratulate their pupils who I have seen without being aske give up their seats. I also said I saw 4 including 2 girls lifting a pram onto the bus.
    The bus Inspector at Kilmarnock bus station is also showing signs of strange behaviour .
    He has taken to telling bus drivers in full view of waiting passengers to leave the station with no one on board
    The reason they have to keep the service running road works.
    But I really started to worry about our Kilmarnock bus Inspector on Friday.
    I arrived at the station to get the bus produced my pass got my ticket and looked for a bus.
    Bays nos 1 and 2 the no 11 stances were empty . But I spotted a no 11 single decker sitting empty in stance no 3.
    So I said to our bus Inspector will I get on that bus . Our bus Inspector looked at the offending bus with a thunderstruck face and said in a loud voice how did that get there . So just to be helpful I said will I get on it. Our bus Inspector said in another even louder voice eh naw pal I have another bus coming HOW DID THAT GET THERE.
    Well a double decker arrived we got on the driver got off to stretch his legs. He left the door open that is how we heard the fallowing conversation our bus Inspector grabbed our driver . He pointed toward the offending no 11 in stance 3 and said Gonae dae us a favour and HIDE THAT BUS.
    Well that was met with a lot of laughter on our bus . So our driver got on our bus the other one safely hidden and we proceeded on our way.
    I know this has been a long comment but I hope you get a laugh at the bus part.
    Finally I would like to ask everyone to read the Susan McNamara blog on Down Syndrome babies its disturbing and heartbreaking

  7. Gavin thank you for your comment . I like to see other peoples point of view. I like to give my own opinion not the party.
    The phrase Nicola is fizzing sounds like a quote and from someone who knew what they were doing. The bit about September the 5th was according to the STIMES Nicola.
    The SNP are media savvy the people leaking those stories know what they are doing.
    Alec Salmond and Kenny MacAskill both gave their books to Murdoch owned papers.
    Murdoch is not exactly a friend of Labour. We could teach other parties lessons on that. While I am at it Labour announced their plans for brexit . I read it in the Observer so there ha ha. What happens Frank Field appears on the 5pm news to complain. Now our politicians don’t ask for my opinion. I have an opinion on everything .
    If I don’t I will soon get one ha ha. anyway I look forward to your next comment
    PS I hope the local Stage coach bus inspectors don’t read my dig at them . It would not take them long to work out who did it. I don’t fancy walking everywhere

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