Tag Archives: Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

The Sound of Silence: Advertiser Embargo On McMafia Mentions Continues

A few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of any in depth analysis of the Monklands McMafia affair in the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser. I was expecting a flood of letters of support from tame party hacks, along with an update on the protest which had been cobbled together. I thought it may be nice if the Advertiser had a letter with a differing viewpoint to balance things up. I was mystified to find no mention of it at all, anywhere in the pages of the paper, not even in their summary of social media comments. My letter is reproduced below.

With nominations closing on 29th March 2017 at 4pm, I’m fairly sure that this will drag on for a few weeks yet. By that time we’ll know if SNP HQ has stuck to their guns or have capitulated. If the former, it’ll be interesting to see if the deselected councillors stand as independents against the SNP, or swing behind the new candidates. were I at SNP HQ I’d certainly be looking to bring in candidates from outside the branch as it may be difficult to gain volunteers from a branch which has saw kind of treatment which lead to the resignation of Councillor Alan Beveridge and candidate Tommy Montgomery.

With rumours of more scandal to come involving the branch, an impending court case with Councillor Alan O’Brien, senior SNP figures trying to bring former SNP Councillors back into the fold and the little matter of an election for which the local party has no candidates, no strategy and increasingly no chance of winning, things are looking more interesting by the minute. Will the Advertiser cover it though? There’s the $50,000 question!

Dear Sir,
The article in last week’s Advertiser regarding the deselection of the husband and wife team of Councillors Michael and Agnes Coyle made no mention of why this situation came about, and from reading it one may have got the impression that this came out of the blue, which clearly isn’t the case. Two years of political infighting, with many allegations made to SNP HQ of bullying, cronyism and nepotism across Airdrie, Coatbridge and Bellshill were summed up in a mere 29 words. The article made no mention of the numerous complaints made about the Westminster selection process which saw Neil Gray installed as SNP candidate for MP and saw Councillor Alan Beveridge resign in disgust. I am aware that there have been other complaints from many other now ex-members and the vetting process which led to the deselection of these councillors no doubt considered all these factors plus much more which obviously I am not privy to.
It was interesting to note that it was left to Graham Russell, the president of the constituency group, to speak on their behalf and that their council group leader David Stocks was silent on the matter. Another point which perhaps went unnoticed was that the emergency meeting of the branch mustered a mere 60 members out of a claimed membership of over 1100 people.  That’s only around 5% of their members. I’d imagine that I could probably get more disaffected members to sign a petition supporting headquarters decision than actually attended the branch meeting itself!
I’m glad that SNP HQ has finally addressed the issues raised by myself and others. It’s unfortunate that to have action taken many members had to resign, and they had to take their grievances to the press rather than have the SNP deal with them fairly and honestly. For my part, I have to say that I am utterly disappointed in Nicola Sturgeon as a leader. I contacted many people at SNP HQ regularly during and after the Westminster selection process debacle, and Nicola Sturgeon was copied into emails where possible and mailed by hand, directly to SNP HQ. My attempts to have this issue acknowledged on Twitter saw me blocked by her and for me this action in deselecting a few councillors is in some ways too little, too late, and she must share a huge portion of the blame for the shambles in North Lanarkshire. If she is to go any way towards redeeming herself she must take a far quicker, fairer and firmer grip on rogue branches. The demotion of Alex Neil, Michael Coyle and Agnes Coyle is a positive step in the right direction. I now hope that those decent members remaining in the Airdrie branch have the spirit to seize the day and show everyone that they want a fresh start, though they will need to rid themselves of the remnants of the old guard to do so. They can still salvage something from the wreckage if they have the will to, although this may be difficult as there is always the possibility that these deselected councillors will stand against the SNP themselves, as many Labour councillors are now doing against their own party in retribution for being deselected.
This begs the question: if councillors are deselected by their party and immediately stand against that party, where was their loyalty all along; to themselves or to their constituents?
Yours Sincerely,
James Cassidy

Monklands McMafia Scandal: What’s On The Menu?

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 240216

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 240216

Given the front page revelations which were carried by the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser last week, one might think that a newspaper crammed with investigative journalists would be following up on a story that goes from the local SNP group all the way up to the First Minister herself.

You might think they would have published THIS plea from a local councillor calling on the First Minister to suspend the local group and launch an immediate investigation into this scandal.

You might think they would have printed THIS letter where I try to give a different perspective from the one splashed across their pages.

You might think they would be seeking out stories and actively investigating this. I don’t think that is happening.

This weeks recipe in the Advertiser was for some butternut concoction. I hate butternut. Perhaps next week they could have one for succulent lamb.

Monklands McMafia Scandal: The comment they DON’T want you to see

Letter to the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, dated 29/02/16. UNPUBLISHED.

Dear Sir,

I would have thought that as a former Monklands Labour member, SNP Councillor Michael Coyle would need no lessons in how the term ‘Monklands Mafia’ originated. In case he has forgotten it would be worth reminding ourselves of how the term came into use. It was to do with the Labour run Monklands District Council having adopted, or being perceived to have adopted practices where jobs and funding were allocated based on your membership of the Labour party, your support for elected Labour councillors, your family relationship to councillors or friends and colleagues of councillors. Encapsulated as “Jobs For The Boys” this was a morally bankrupt system of supporting a power base by giving favours and expecting votes in return. The term “Monklands McMafia” now being used in the mainstream media is simply a reflection that the SNP are indulging in these and other distasteful practices also and was never an allegation of criminal activity. One only has to look at Alex Neil MSP and Neil Gray MP to see the practice of employing friends and family has been embraced by the SNP, indeed it is a matter of public record that Councillor Coyle works for both, in addition to them having employed their wife and brother-in-law respectively.

I’m sure that until Councillor Coyle drew the media’s attention to them, most people would have been unaware of the allegations Councillor Coyle claims were made against him in regards to organised crime and also to the arson attack on my car which he raised prominently in another newspaper. I would like to state that having only seen the very brief extract carried in the Advertiser I cannot comment on the scope of the thorough and extensive enquiry into Councillor Coyle, but I am concerned at two things. There is an element of the letter which reads more like a friendly character reference than a summary of the facts. Secondly it is not normal practice for Police Scotland to issue letters of this sort. I contacted the investigating team and a senior officer regarding the arson attack on my car and was told that “no suspects were ever identified” in relation to this. When I asked if I could have that confirmed in writing I was told that Police Scotland aren’t in the habit of providing such letters. Perhaps I would have had more luck if I was employed by a cabinet minister and an MP! 

James Cassidy

#MonklandsMcMafia

The Monklands McMafia Scandal

The press have dubbed the current scandal with North Lanarkshire SNP the “Monklands McMafia” crisis, and it appears that what I have been saying for over a year about the SNP in North Lanarkshire is finally getting coverage in some of the mainstream press, and is surprisingly even being covered in The National. Last year when I wrote my Open Letter To Nicola Sturgeon I was contacted by National reporter Andrew Learmonth, whom I was happy to speak to. He asked if he could call back, but never did. I contacted him again in the light of his article on this very issue, as I felt I could offer some insight into this. He again failed to call back. I hope he does, as his article does not go far enough in my opinion.

In the Herald: SNP urged to release secret Monklands McMafia report I made the following comment, which I am posting here as the Herald webpage is renowned for removing comment. I have provided links where possible, something frowned upon by the Herald.

This is a joke right? The investigation and subsequent report both pre-date the 2014 Referendum and the current round of complaints for goodness sake!
Nicola Sturgeon has been made aware of the concerns about this branch on numerous occasions, all of which happened post September 2014.
Councillor John Taggart: Resigned, cites lack of democracy
Councillor Alan Beveridge: Resigned, cites bullying and a climate of fear and intimidation
Tom Montgomery: Resigned, after suffering series of malicious allegations made by a branch member to HQ. Allegations proven false after Police and North Lanarkshire Council independently investigated.
Councillor David Baird: Still in party, reported to HQ for alleged financial impropriety, details leaked to media.
Councillor Julie McNulty, Accused of racism by Sheena McCulloch. Reported to HQ, details leaked to Daily Record.

At the same time we see allegations of homophobia by Airdrie Councillor Sophia Coyle quietly allowed to slip away, shielded by the party, no suspension, no comment. What I find utterly amazing is that having been unable to get any comment from Councillor Coyle on the issue, the local press then carry comments from her on a wide range of other issues, a local quarry issue being one. Were I journalist who had attempted to gain a comment on this I’d be failing in my duty if, when speaking to her I failed to raise the issue. Yet this is what happens. It is no wonder that many people in Airdrie say they distrust the local press.

Nicola Sturgeon has turned a blind eye to this issue. This cannot be covered up by people indulging in whitabootery, as some have tried on here already. Nicola Sturgeon MUST now acknowledge that there is a problem with a Monklands McMafia and act accordingly.

We deserve better.

#MonklandsMcMafia

#SNP

 

 

 

Mair Squirrels!

This weeks Advertiser has a letter from a Mr Smith (highly original), criticising me for making Freedom of Information requests as this costs money, and this arises from my criticism of Councillor Michael Coyle of the SNP, who has, from the wording of an article in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, taken legal action against North Lanarkshire Council.

This is the second letter criticising me in the last two weeks using the “Look, Squirrel” technique. If only the Advertiser had actually printed this letter, it would have shown Mr Smith’s claims for what they are.

Squirrels, Big Numbers, Apples and Oranges and the Girl Who Cried Wolf…

Letter to The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 05/02/16

Talking P: With Elaine (Not C) Smith MSP

Talking P: With Elaine (Not C) Smith MSP

Dear Sir,

I see that M Wilkinson engaged again in that well known political technique of deflection, or “Look, Squirrel!” as it is sometimes referred to. I wrote in to this newspaper about reports of alleged bullying within Airdrie SNP which have been already reported in the national press and he tries to deflect this by focusing on something else entirely. It’s all too easy to be deflected so that the topic initially discussed, alleged bullying, quickly becomes forgotten.
Another popular political technique is to throw big numbers at people in the hope the sheer size of the number will stun the voters into thoughtless acceptance. I don’t know about anyone else, but start adding noughts on to numbers and my eyes usually start to glaze over. Couple this with the “Apples and Oranges” technique of trying to compare two apparently similar figures which are actually completely different and you usually have a sure-fire winner. Take last week’s column by Coatbridge MSP Elaine Smith. In it she bemoaned the current housing crisis and belittled the Scottish Government’s record, citing that in 2013 they had presided over the building of a mere 14,885 homes, the lowest number since 1947. What’s more she said, Labour have a plan to build 60,000 houses over five years to help end the crisis. We’re all saved! Hang out the bunting! Haud on a minute…
Like most things Labour say these days, things just don’t add up. I first wondered whether Mrs Smith’s figures were accurate and went online to investigate. I read that house building figures in Scotland peaked in 2007, just before the banking crash and have never regained those heady figures achieved under the umbrella of the boom and bust Blair/Brown government. Since then completions have risen and fallen slightly; in 2010 it was 16,911, in 2011 it was 15,226, in 2012 it was 14,981, in 2013 it was 14,885, in 2014 it was 15,562. Complete figures for 2015 are not available yet, so the total for the last 5 complete years is 77,565.
Mrs Smith’s column shows both “Big Number” and “Apples and Oranges” in action. Having thrown the big, shiny number of 60,000 in, Mrs Smith is relying on you not doing some basic maths; that 60,000 over 5 years is only 12,000, way below the 14,885 all time low she complained about. She’s also compared an annual housing figure with a five year target, rather than compare like with like; five yearly target versus five year figures, and so on. So Labour’s answer to the crisis in housing is, if I am reading this right, to build 17,565 LESS houses than the SNP, and to berate them in the process. One has to admire the sheer brazenness of it. Unfortunately that’s all there is to admire about Labour these days. They have become the political equivalent of the Boy Who Cried Wolf; one day they will actually tell the truth and no one will believe them.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

 

As an Aside, I did try to clarify this with Elaine (Not C) Smith MSP. She failed to respond:Talking P2

Link to Housing Completion Figures

Councillor Michael Coyle’s Views Sought on Bullying Allegations in Airdrie SNP Branch

Source: Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Source: Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

A heavily edited version of this letter, which omitted some of the most important points, was published in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser on 27th January 2016. I have highlighted the missing sections.

Dear Sir,

Having seen the article where Councillor Michael Coyle claimed he was the victim of bullying I could not let the claims about Councillor Alan Beveridge go without comment. Mr Coyle is the chair of the Airdrie branch, and now that he has spoken on the subject, I for one would welcome his comments on the multiple accusations of bullying levelled against the Airdrie branch. Since this time last year there have been a swathe of resignations from the branch, and many of those who left received letters (a copy of which was posted online for all to see by Councillor Beveridge), which were signed by Councillor Coyle, which claim that they are holding files on those members and will use them should those people attempt to rejoin the SNP. It is my understanding that those people who asked for the details to be revealed under Data Protection legislation were ignored by Mr Coyle’s branch. The bullying which led to Councillor Beveridge’s resignation occurred during the Westminster selection process which saw Neil Gray elected as MP, and consisted of a stream of false accusations to SNP HQ about candidate Tommy Montgomery, and which led to police and council investigations which completely exonerated Mr Montgomery. I complained strongly to SNP HQ about the situation and was initially given the runaround, followed by a wall of silence, and what seems like a complete unwillingness to investigate its own internal problems. These are issues which have been mentioned in the national press but which have been studiously avoided by the Advertiser, which has led many to questions how impartial it is.

Looking further into the article in your paper, I personally think it is probably not best practice, for one family to occupy so many posts in the same small committee. Surely if one of them were to have to excuse themselves from a vital vote it could be the case that their close relationship would mean they all be forced to do likewise?  How does that benefit anyone if three members have to excuse themselves instead of one? Pointing this obvious fact out cannot be described as bullying, and the only person suggesting that something is going on is Mr Coyle himself. What is really galling is that it is the council-tax payers who will no doubt be picking up the council’s bill for the legal action your article states he has instigated against North Lanarkshire Council.

As a final point, reader M Wilkinson parroted Councillor David Stocks by calling for Councillor Beveridge to resign and stand again in a by election, as before resigning he had stood on an SNP ticket, with SNP funding and support. I take it he would support Councillor Alex Lunn in Edinburgh, as well as Mike Dillon and Marie McGurk in Renfrewshire doing the same? Which is a strange position, as a former Justice Minister welcomed Mr Lunn to the SNP fold with no such reservations.

Yours Sincerely,
 
James Cassidy