Having seen the Advertiser front page this week I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the views expressed by SNP Councillor Sophia Coyle as distasteful, and I’m sure many people will have possibly decided that they will not be voting for her in next years elections. Unfortunately we don’t get that choice as Ms Coyle is a Holyrood list candidate, and we don’t get a say in selecting her; the SNP does. A high place on the list is a reward by the party for services rendered, the virtual guarantee of a seat with the only requirement that between selection and election that you keep out of trouble and say nothing controversial. Ms Coyle is not the one who must campaign, debate and engage; that’s Alex Neil’s job. Ms Coyle can simply sit back, keep schtum and if the SNP gain enough votes she’s in regardless, and from the tone of your article she intends to maintain a stonewall silence on this issue. Which is ironic as I understand that the Gay rights group Stonewall as well as the Equality Network have expressed their concerns at her comments. Perversely, if we don’t want someone with these views to represent us, the only way we can actually vote against her is to vote against Alex Neil so that he takes the list place! And they say The House of Lords is a rotten system!
With Councillor Coyle gagged, the SNP are now speaking on her behalf, stating she is “comfortable” with equal marriage. But is she? Given that Airdrie SNP were addressed only in the last year by a specially invited guest, controversial Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney (who among other bizarre views states that gay behaviour leads to dying young) I’m wondering when this Damascene conversion took place.
It must be asked; what could possibly have changed those beliefs that she so strongly held? Five years ago she was for lowering the time limit for abortions, she was against gay marriage, against gay adoption, and against the assisted suicide bill, and so firmly did she oppose these she would defy the party whip if it came to it! Now she is “comfortable” with it? The SNP take an extremely hard line on those candidates who defy the party whip, and had these views been known prior to vetting I’d be very surprised if she was selected. I’m even more surprised that the Advertiser editorial “makes no judgement” due to her refusal to respond. Since when did newspapers refrain from having an opinion because the subject of the story refuses to comment? Papers would be guy thin if they did!
Some people would agree with Councillors Coyle’s previously stated views, others would likewise disagree and would not vote for her on that basis. The problem is, we now do not know what her views are and unless Councillor Coyle breaks the SNP code of silence we will not find them out until she is safely seated in Holyrood.
The press have a duty to obtain answers on this very serious matter, and I hope they will not be deflected from that duty, despite her silence. In 2016 we will be asked to vote SNP to get Alex Neil as an MSP, and at least he can be judged on his record. Sophia Coyle’s record, even without this scandal is not impressive. Her high expenses belie her average attendance of 39% of meetings over the last two years, with zero attendance on two of her appointed committees in the same timeframe. This doesn’t signal to me that the people of Airdrie are getting the greatest of deals here, and I have to ask; with the hugely impressive influx of talent to the party, is this best they can offer us?