The information in this post has been culled from a variety of mostly publicly-available sources. If it contains any errors or you have information about any other candidates let me know and I will correct or amend the text.
The SNP’s selection of candidates for the Scottish council elections on 4 May seems to have been accompanied by a degree of controversy almost entirely lacking for any of the other parties. This handy guide looks at some of those controversies in nearly half of Scotland’s 32 council areas. As the title says, it includes information about some ‘non-candidates.’ They are people who had either made it known publicly that they wanted to be selected but weren’t or who voluntarily withdrew their potential candidacy for various reasons.
The rest of this post is arranged alphabetically by council area and then, if more than one individual is featured, alphabetically by surname. The name of the ward they are or would have been standing in is included in brackets after their name. Any general issue about the SNP in the area follows after the information about the individual(s). Links to the sources of information used are included mainly as points of reference. You shouldn’t need to click through to them unless you want to check that my interpretation of them is correct: some sources contain additional information not included here, some don’t. Where sources might be difficult to access or have been deleted, entries include screenshots of the relevant information.
In Part 2 of this post I will discuss what we can learn about the SNP from the people here.
Allard, Christian (Torry/Ferryhill). Mr Allard, a French national, was an SNP regional list MSP from 2013-2016, having inherited the seat when the previous incumbent resigned. The Press and Journal rather kindly said he was ‘renowned for his online presence.’ It’s true he’s invariably polite on Twitter but his renown is more for its dogged persistence than grasping an opponent’s point of view. As a French citizen he plays well to the SNP’s current EU fad. As a resident until recently of Aberdeenshire he was unknown to have any interest in Aberdeen city politics or, it turns out, any great understanding of the electoral system:
You’ll observe that when first nominated he believed part of his ward was called Tory (Freudian slip there) and that electors had two votes, like Holyrood. Wrong on both counts.
Cooke, John (Hazlehead/Queens Cross/Countesswells). Mr Cooke is already a councillor and according to The Herald tweeted the offensive ‘quisling’ at least three times last year, compounding his intemperate use of language with a claim on Facebook that the ‘UK Home Office are no better than Nazis’ about a simple immigration case where the conditions of a visa had not been met and the offending family were to be removed to suffer persecution at the hands of the authorities in their native … Canada.
More generally, in mid-March the Daily Express identified Polish national Konrad Rękas campaigning, they said, in Aberdeen with SNP candidates Dell Henrickson, Michael Hutchison, Alex McLellan, and Ciaran McRae. Rękas is, they claim, ‘deputy chairman of the Polish pro-Putin party Zmiana.’ His Facebook page contains numerous entries supportive not only of the SNP but also Sinn Fein. He is also Facebook friends with ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin. It is not known if the SNP in Aberdeen are or were aware of these facts.
Cox, John (Banff and District – former SNP, standing as an Independent). Cox is a decent and long-standing councillor who like a number of others in Aberdeenshire has been in and out of the SNP over the years. The Press and Journal revealed that he’d not been selected as an SNP candidate in February, when they cited a second ex-SNP councillor, Hamish Partridge (also standing as an independent) as saying the SNP group on the council was in ‘meltdown.’ That was an over-reaction although it has in many ways been a house divided unto itself for a long time, with the turmoil focused, ironically, in their supposed stronghold in the North of the area. Also ironically, from a party that is supposed to be the master of the subject, a spokesman was quoted as lamenting that Mr Partridge’s ‘council business is now conducted on social media.’
Reynolds, Glen (Banff and District). Head South to Angus if you want an SNP candidate (Julie Bell) who’s into holistic therapy. Here we have a different sort of alternative health practitioner:
Yes, hypnotherapy. It’s not clear if Dr Reynolds (quite a kenspeckle figure: clock all his skills/occupations on his author website) had hypnotised himself when he gave the local paper details for his profile (cutting via the Aberdeenshire Independent Councillors Facebook page). You’ll see under ‘Previous political experience’ he has volunteered ‘Not known.’ Also that his ‘Best quality’ is ‘Life experience.’ Surprisingly he forgot his life experience included standing as Labour candidate in the general election in Banff and Buchan in 2010, where he lives now. And in Berwick on Tweed in 2005. Tut tut.
Bell, Julie (Kirriemuir and Dean). Ms Bell says on her Twitter page that she is a ‘holistic therapist. Doing politics differently.’ So differently does she do politics that she subscribes to the SNP mantra of oppression lock, stock and scented candle. In response to SNP ‘growth’ commission chair Andrew Wilson who said, optimistically, that the Scottish economy might take 5-10 years to recover from the shock of separation, she tweeted:
And back in December 2016:
I doubt somehow if these gems appear in her election material for the good folk of Kirrie and the glens.
Finally, if her LinkedIn profile is up to date, Ms Bell is also an Angus council employee. Nothing wrong with that and councils have procedures in place to ensure fairness and probity if an employee stands for election. But jumping the gap between hired hand and elected politician can be difficult. I’m not sure an aspiration to ‘do politics differently’ will help with that challenge.
Wright, Paul (Brechin and Edzell). Mr Wright has recently featured in the Sunday Express for what they call ‘“sickening” porn posts.’ For what it’s worth, his interest in the subject seems only to extend to using a couple of images on Twitter during a heated argument shortly before Christmas, apparently in an attempt to smear one particular individual. He’s one of that strange band of ‘cybernats’ who choose to be anonymous online and style themselves as animals (Mr Malky), faux aristocrats (Oor Lady …) or members of the opposite sex, in his case Paula Honey Rose. He now claims ‘everyone’ knows that’s just his Twitter persona but it wasn’t always the case, until someone ‘outed’ him with this photo:
Curiously, last December he travelled alone from Brechin to Edinburgh to lurk outside a Scotland in Union Christmas bash, a strange sort of stalking which he tweeted about at the time:
On his Twitter page he describes himself as ‘An independent person, somewhat difficult to label or categorise.’ We now know he’s not so much independent as SNP.
Footnote: as I drafted this it seemed that Mr Wright had been dropped by the SNP as a candidate and now intends to run as an independent (sic). I can’t be sure this is true as he seems to have put out a series of contradictory and confusing tweets on the subject.
More generally, a correspondent points out that with Mr Wright’ no longer running on an SNP ticket, the party now has 14 candidates standing for a 28-member council. So even in the unlikely event of all their candidates winning a seat, they could not form a majority administration.
Argyll and Bute
Campbell(-Sturgess), Math (not standing). A curious one, this. A Math Campbell-Sturgess has been an SNP Inverclyde councillor for a while but seems to have moved across the water to Argyll and Bute. In the process he’s changed his surname from Campbell-Sturgess to plain old Campbell. See before and after pics:
On 9 March he tweeted:
but he’s not on the list of candidates. Under either name. He may have been nominated but presumably wasn’t selected. Oh well, there’ll always be another time. As for the name change, difficult to fathom unless you know he runs (maybe he is) an outfit called English Scots for Yes. And yes, he says he’s English, despite the ‘Campbell,’ alone or hyphenated. If he was trying to appear more Scottish for the selection process it obviously didn’t work. As you’ll see from a recent tweet he’s also in favour of illegal extra-parliamentary action to achieve independence:
He follows other minor SNP councillors in being prepared to declare UDI. I wonder if knowledge of that that was a step too far for the good folk of Lomond North.
Leitch, Claire (Ballochmyle). Ms Leitch is one of a number of people on 6 April who liked or retweeted an image of a gallows that had been posted on Twitter by a well-known tweeter who uses the delightful handle @YesthatcherDead:
The message with the picture is addressed to a number of Labour politicians and warns that the councils the party holds will be lost in the forthcoming election. Unlike some, I don’t conclude that the original poster is literally wishing death on the individuals concerned. But the combination of the image and the unsavoury name of the originator at the very least raise doubts about the judgement of anyone who says they ‘Like’ such stuff. Claire subsequently tweeted her horror at having ‘Liked’ the image ‘by mistake’:
Careless at least but I’ll take it at face value. Many haven’t.
Brown, Steven (formerly Preston, Seton and Gosford, not standing). On 9 March local paper the East Lothian Courier reported that sitting councillor Steven Brown had not been reselected by his SNP branch to stand again – ‘it is understood his supporters are extremely angry at how he has been treated. One told the Courier: “He’s worked hard over the years but has been stabbed in the back by the new members who joined during the referendum and the Scottish Parliament elections”.’
McLeod, Kenny (Tranent, Wallyford and Macmerry). The same East Lothian Courier article claimed that this second sitting councillor had to scrabble around to get reinstated to the list of potential candidates after a cock up (my phrase not the Courier’s) that may have been administrative or part of the same problem soon-to-be ex-councillor Brown suffered.
Lunn, Alex (Craigentinny/Duddingston). According to the Evening News, there was more than a spat in the local SNP branch over selection for this ward. Sitting councillor Lunn (ex-Labour) was deselected at a ‘brutal’ meeting earlier this year, then two other potential candidates resigned. Party HQ reinstated Lunn and parachuted in two other candidates to fill the gap caused by the resignations. All in accordance with party procedures but doesn’t sound a happy place. Canvassing should be fun.
Ross, Frank (Corstophine/Murrayfield). No election newbie here, Frank is already SNP group leader and depute leader of the council, no less. An accountant to trade, he seems to have forgotten he owned a hotel in the Highlands when he completed his councillor’s register of interests (The Herald). A simple mistake we could all make. If the SNP do well in May he may become council leader although (The Herald again) he may also face an inquiry by the Standards Commission for Scotland. Oh dear.
Keatings, Martin (West Fife and Coastal Villages). Mr Keatings is an Independent candidate and very clear on his Facebook page that he is a ‘Yes’ supporter. Nothing wrong with that, indeed commendably honest, if little to do with local politics. He wouldn’t appear here if he hadn’t posted this recently on Facebook:
If nothing else, his statement is a warning to voters to be aware of the motives of at least some independent candidates and to check why they’re standing. Whether they’d all be as (inadvertently?) honest as Mr Keatings is another matter.
Campbell, Graham (Springburn/Robroyston). According to the Evening Times, Mr Campbell is the partner of SNP MP Ann McLaughlin and has been (still is?) employed by her to work with community groups. He has a chequered political career, having been involved with the Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity, Rise and something called the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. A ‘senior source’ in the party expressed concern to the Evening Times that his candidacy was ‘entryism, it’s toxic and unpleasant … when you’ve stood against the party several times and campaigned against it less than a year ago you should maybe be required to spend a little longer as a member before becoming a candidate.’
Casey, Allan (Dennistoun). The Herald had a detailed article in February on Mr Casey’s previous support of the Provisional IRA which seems to have included writing on his Facebook page ‘Up the provos’ and ‘Your deeds [the SAS’s] would shame all the devils in hell – f**k the brits, remember bloody Sunday 30th January 1972.’ But it was all before he joined the SNP and anyhow he’s deleted the posts concerned, so that’s OK. Casey is another candidate who works for an SNP MSP, in this case Ivan McKee.
McCabe, Paul (Springburn/Robroyston). Is there something about the SNP branch in this ward (see Campbell, Graham above)? The Scotsman reveals he’s written a series of ‘abusive tweets’ about women. Two examples – ‘Deputy Dug [a nationalist jibe at Kezia Dugdale] looks and sounds like an oompah loompah’, and ‘Hillary Clinton: I wouldn’t have sexual relations with that woman!’ But never mind, he’s gay (SNP spokesperson), it’s all tongue-in-cheek, and besides ‘He has huge respect for Nicola Sturgeon.’ So that’s all right, then. As with so many of the examples in this post, it’s not the precise words or actions, it’s the sheer lack of judgement and taste of so many SNP candidates that voters should ponder.
Campbell-Sinclair, Glynis – see Sinclair, Glynis.
Gunn, George (East Sutherland and Edderton). Like one or two others, Master Gunn falls into the ‘non-candidates’ bit of this collection. He’s standing all right but as a ‘ – ‘. You fill in the blank. In other words, a blank appears against his name on the notice of poll. He doesn’t say he’s an Independent and he doesn’t say he’s SNP. But, hold. Is this the same George Gunn who worked not so long ago for local MP Paul Monaghan and Russia Today commentator, about whom so much has been written in this blog? It is indeed. A helpful constituent of Dr M’s has sent me a recent newspaper cutting headlined ‘Sacking threat forces MP’s assistant to quit’ (probably P&J – no date visible). The assistant? George. His offence? Apparently lying that he’d spoken on fisheries (not the party’s strong suit) at the spring SNP conference. Only problem was he hadn’t. He was also recently the local SNP branch secretary but it’s not clear if he’s fallen out with them too. Presumably he has meantime, since he’s standing against an SNP candidate. The boy George looked as if he was on a meteoric rise in the party, having stood for the Scottish youth parliament only two years ago. He illustrates the hazard of voting for independents without knowing exactly where they stand on the issue of separation. Rumour has it that he has a personalised number plate on his car ending in the letters ‘SNP.’ Oh well, if that’s true, no doubt it’ll come in handy when he’s re-admitted to the army of the faithful. Don’t vote Gunn.
Sinclair, Glynis (Culloden and Ardesier). Confused? Perhaps this helps. Spot the difference:
The first image is of sitting councillor Glynis Sinclair on Highland council’s website on 21 April 2017. The second is the same person … in the list of candidates on Highland council’s election page, also on 21 April 2017. According to the Press and Journal Mrs Sinclair/Campbell-Sinclair has changed her surname to ensure she’s closer to the top of the ballot paper (candidates are listed alphabetically). Mrs Campbell-Sinclair/Sinclair says she ‘changed her name by deed poll in February for family reasons, not for any electoral gain.’ Shame she forgot to tell the bit of the council that keeps their website up to date.
Slater, Jean (Inverness Ness-side – former SNP, standing as an Independent). The Highland News records that SNP councillor Jean Slater is standing as an independent in May, having been deselected by the local party branch. A number of such deselections, and subsequent decisions to stand as an Independent, are recorded in this article. The political realist might say ‘It happens.’ But it does seem to happen more often in the SNP than in other parties. Ms Slater’s case is highlighted because of the reported claim by Maxine Smith, leader of the SNP group on the council, that ‘the party’s selection procedure for candidates is rigorous.’ Readers might have cause to question that claim given some of the other example cited in this article. Fellow SNP Black Isle councillor Craig Fraser (standing again – he did pass the selection process) called the decision ‘beyond stupid.’ Retiring Independent councillor from Badenoch and Strathspey Dave Fallows may have hit the nail on the head when he said that Ms Slater’s ‘quiet unassuming drive to help [her] constituents has not been recognised for the immense value that it represents.’
Donnachie, Philomena (Inverclyde North). The words of the Greenock Telegraph tell you all you need to know about Ms Donnachie:
She was embroiled in a national row last year after comparing then Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson to child killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Under a Facebook photo doctored to make Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson look like the Moors murderers, Ms Donnachie, 55, said the only difference was the Conservative pair ‘bury their victims in the DWP [the Department for Work and Pensions], not the basement’ … she also praised the creators of the offensive picture, saying: “Using a recognised image to deliver a powerful message is exceptionally intelligent.”
Philomena is a caseworker for local SNP MSP Stuart McMillan.
More generally, earlier this year councillor Chris McEleny, the leader of the SNP group on the council, was reported in the Greenock Telegraph as saying he wanted to allow people who failed the party’s vetting tests to still stand as candidates in May. This was apparently because the party were having problems sourcing enough candidates for the election. An anonymous party member was quoted as saying the local SNP branch was divided between ‘traditional’ supporters and those who joined in recent years and backed a more left-wing approach.
I don’t know what happened to councillor McEleny’s aspiration, but it doesn’t look good. The SNP have had enough problems with elected candidates who did get through their vetting procedures, as exemplified in this article.
Wallace, Joe (Penicuik). Councillor Joe has been provost of Midlothian council (still is until the election). I’ve blogged about him before, when he was recorded saying at a council meeting ‘the MoD, er, send us people with mental health problems that come out the army with drugs and drink problems and they get passed on to us’ (Midlothian has a large barracks in its area). This sort of attitude and accompanying incoherence is so endemic to the SNP at local level that I didn’t think to include it in the draft of this article until reminded by an online contact, to whom my thanks.
Brahim, Joy (Dalry and West Kilbride). Like one or two others mentioned in this article, Dutch citizen Ms Brahim is a candidate who qualifies to stand in a council area not because she lives there (she doesn’t, she stays in Glasgow according to the Daily Record) but because she works there. Workplace is a quite permissible qualification for candidacy under council election rules. But her job is not any old job, for example in her chosen professions of law or marketing. It’s as an SNP activist working for an SNP politician, in her case local MSP Kenneth Gibson.
Brown, Stephen (not standing). Stephen Brown was selected as an SNP candidate for Dalry and West Kilbride but had to stand down before nominations closed because he tweeted this:
Civic it wasn’t, and a stooshie duly followed. Doubtless the party would deny it, but there is a strong suspicion he only decided not to stand after several days pressure on social media and in the mainstream press like The Herald. He cited health reasons, which was unfortunate because they clearly hadn’t been an issue a few days previously.
Limonci, Maria (Irvine West). See Brahim, Joy. Same situation, although Ms Limonci stays in South Ayshire according to the Daily Record article cited above and works for a different SNP politician, in her case local MP Philippa Whitford.
Sturgeon, Robin (Irvine South). If the name’s familiar, you’re right, he’s the first minister’s dad. It seems to be turn-and-turn-about for the Sturgeon family in North Ayrshire. Mum Joan isn’t standing this time and dad Robin’s having a second attempt at getting elected, having failed in a by-election less than eight months ago. Last time, some nifty use of their single transferable vote preferences by electors did for him. It’ll be interesting to see if the same happens again when all seats in the ward are being filled.
Coyle, Michael and Agnes (both Airdrie South). Another curiosity here. Husband and wife Michael and Agnes Coyle have both been serving councillors for the same ward. According to The Herald, neither survived the SNP’s vetting process. He appealed and got a seat, she didn’t. Now he’s one of two SNP candidates in the ward, she’s standing as an independent, although on the council notice of poll, there is merely a blank space in the description against her name. For some reason, and unlike most councils, North Lanarkshire does not list candidates’ addresses so it’s not clear if they’re still together domestically if not politically. Presumably as context for what has happened, The Herald added ‘Michael and Agnes Coyle are at the centre of the so-called ‘Monklands McMafia’ feuds and are the fulcrums of an old-guard power base which includes former minister Alex Neil and local MSP Dick Lyle.’ (Politics is obviously a family business for the Coyles – daughter Sophia is standing for the SNP in nearby Airdie North)
Lyle, Marina (Bellshill). A late addition to my list of SNP candidates in North Lanarkshire, sitting councillor Ms Lyle features in The Herald on 13 April as facing a formal hearing by the Standards Commission for Scotland. The allegation is that she failed to declare a financial interest in a former council house gifted to her by her father Richard Lyle, SNP MSP. Quite a family affair, SNP politics in North Lanarkshire (see Coyle, Michael and Agnes immediately above).
McAnulty, Julie (Coatbridge North). Former SNP councillor Julie McAnulty is standing as an independent in May. The background is confusing: google her name to see the numerous articles in the media over the last year about her and some of her (now ex-) SNP councillor colleagues. Accusations of a ‘turf war,’ racism and corruption (not necessarily all about her) feature. The Herald’s take on the subject is the same as its views on the Coyles, it’s caused by ‘the bitter feud which has torn apart the SNP in Lanarkshire.’
Perth and Kinross
Doogan, Dave (Perth City North). Mr Doogan has been the deputy leader of the council. According to The Courier in early March he gave a speech in Gaelic to the council in a debate on the language and later provided a translation which read in part:
Let us not reflect on concerns that we have been under the heel of foreign influence and power for over 300 years … The island of Britain is no longer subject to the actions of quislings who may seek to see smaller cultures extinguished on an island of coffins by red coats.
Of course, he was reflecting precisely on his ‘concerns.’ Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser subsequently ambushed Nicola Sturgeon at first minister’s questions by quoting the words, which drew the response from her that ‘I condemn any comments or language that are in any way, shape or form racist or anti-English.’ That’s fine and dandy but Doogan is still an official SNP candidate in a council election.
Whyte, Iain (Hawick and Hermitage). Mr Whyte is included not because he lives in East Lothian, where he is said to have failed to make the cut as an SNP candidate, but because he works for regional list South Scotland SNP MSP and Holyrood minister Paul Wheelhouse. Nothing wrong with living in East Lothian and standing in Hawick, although an unkind local on Twitter described him as a ‘carpetbagger.’ If you work in an area it qualifies you to stand in council elections there. He’s here because he represents a phenomenon noted elsewhere in this article – the junior party worker who then seeks election to public office. It’s something I’ll pick up in the second part of this two-part article.
Cullen, Chris (Ayr East). According to the Daily Record, Chris Cullen displaced sitting councillor Ian Douglas in Ayr East who is not standing again after being outvoted during the SNP’s candidate selection process. He is engaged to the daughter of SNP MP Corri Wilson. The Record reproduced a Facebook message in which he refers to a forthcoming holiday abroad with the two of them as ‘The Ra [IRA] on tour.’ Just a year ago on Twitter he was posting things like this:
Mr Cullen said he supports the unification of Ireland, adding ‘I am not, nor have I ever been, a supporter or a member of a terrorist organisation.’ Fair enough – maybe – but using the colloquial ‘Ra’ and posting approving Tweets from former Provisional IRA members doesn’t look good when you’re going to seek political office. At best naïve given the history of sectarianism in the West of Scotland, his sympathies, whatever his protestations, hint at something darker.
You can find Part 2 of this two-part post here. Feel free to send additional information about any candidates mentioned, amendments/corrections, and news of other controversial candidates that may have been missed here.