Editorial: Reluctance to accept the wind of change is already blowing

Sunday Supplement

Today insideMoray’s Editor takes a back seat as the weekly editorial has a guest writer – the first of several who will be invited to ‘take the chair’. We are delighted that Councillor Douglas Ross has agreed to be provide our first guest editorial.

Councillor Douglas Ross

Stuart has been a journalist for many years and knows exactly how to pitch these editorials so while I was delighted to be asked to do the first guest one, I’m not convinced it isn’t just a ploy by Stuart to show how difficult it is by getting some amateur like me to do it….

My remit was to give my take on the workings of the council this week. While there’s no point in repeating the decisions we took, I thought I’d give you some background to what goes on during the debates and outside the chamber.

I’ve admitted before that I came to InsideMoray late in the day but in the week where it was mentioned in the council chamber I think we’re seeing a shift in how the public can react to the decisions we take.

No longer do the public have to wait a week or more to have their letter published in the local papers if they take exception to something the council has decided. Through social media they can post an almost instant reaction.

In fairness we are also seeing that on the comments page of the local papers websites and I feel, certainly with the younger councillors at least, that debates in the chamber can be influenced by the discussions on these sites beforehand.

[box] “No longer do the public have to wait a week or more to have their letter published in the local papers…..”[/box] Social media has also led to a change in how we operate. In the past I would work with ward colleagues to get a local issue raised and hopefully resolved but when it came to council-wide decisions I would keep my cards close to my chest and then present them in the chamber.

My reason for this was because I always feared having an idea stolen and put across by someone else – but I can see now how that made it difficult for other parties and councillors to support me as they have little time to digest the pros and cons.

So when the opportunity came through this site to meet with the SNP group to discuss my plans for a different way of working, it was the first time in seven and a half years as a councillor I’ve shared my idea with another group to get it through. It’s taken long enough, but I think that in itself is progress.

Anyone watching the webcast on this item will know the debate didn’t go how I hoped it would. Some Independent Councillors don’t like the idea and I’m assuming it’s because they see their positions as committee chairs being under threat.

I was more surprised by the reluctance of the SNP and Labour group leaders. Again, it’s only my opinion, but it seems that with an opportunity of ridding the council of the adversarial nature of Admin v Opposition and the possibility for some of their members to chair committees and drive forward changes in policy, they would prefer to stay in opposition and oppose for the sake of it.

I hope I’m wrong with this and will happily come back on here and make a public apology if I’m proved wrong at the next Full Council meeting in March.

Finally, for those watching the business on the council webcast the chamber can come across as a bit of a bear pit – often I seem to have little support and get criticised from all sides but as a referee it’s second nature to me.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m officiating at Inverness v Aberdeen, the Dundee derby and the Edinburgh derby. After the last couple of weeks in the council I feel I’m prepared for anything these games throw at me!

Can I take this opportunity to wish all the readers of insideMoray a happy and healthy Christmas and a prosperous 2015.  Here’s hoping it brings some change to Moray Council and we can move on from the last few months and get back to what we were elected to do, representing the people of Moray

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