Edinburgh opposition councillors silenced, debates shut down and dissent recorded as approval. Is this democracy? – John McLellan

How does a civilised society slide into authoritarianism?

Thursday, 31st March 2022, 4:55 am
During an online committee meeting, council leader Adam McVey muted Conservative councillors as they tried to speak (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
During an online committee meeting, council leader Adam McVey muted Conservative councillors as they tried to speak (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

Many an academic has wrestled with the question and there are no definitive answers, beyond a complex mix of factors such as desperate economic times, the collapse of law and order, stifling of political dissent, or a charismatic but deranged leader.

We certainly have a spiralling cost of living, but no widespread unrest as yet, the UK Government is moving to protect freedom of expression, and our leadership depends on your point of view.

So, if it were to happen, where or how might it begin? Tuesday’s Edinburgh Council’s policy and sustainability committee might provide an inkling of its genesis.

At least the Edinburgh public can rest easy the city is not in the hands of a charismatic leader, but in recent weeks we have heard criticism of Edinburgh Council dismissed, Kremlin-style, as “lies” and, as for the actual stifling of free expression, it seems the SNP’s curate of cancel culture Adam McVey has an itchy trigger finger.

Chairing the online committee for the last time before May’s election, Cllr McVey seems to worked out how to use the mute function because three times when hearing things he didn’t like from my Conservative colleagues he simply cut them off.

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The background is the quite deliberate actions of the SNP-Labour administration at the last full council meeting to avoid, and then vote against, debating the shocking report into the physical and mental abuse of young people in the authority’s secure units; “illegality, maladministration and injustice” which should have been dealt with years ago.

On Tuesday Cllr Jim Campbell tried to ask officers what they thought about the guillotining of that discussion only to be told by Cllr McVey it “wasn’t a real question”. And when he tried to respond, off went the sound.

Not surprisingly, Cllr Campbell used the chat bar to protest that free speech was being curtailed, to which Cllr McVey haughtily retorted he was due more respect, when it seemed like fair comment.

He claimed to have ruled Cllr Campbell’s question inappropriate when in fact he had silenced him without anything resembling an explanation. Who was disrespecting who? When Conservative leader Iain Whyte protested, he too was silenced. And then again.

As the meeting descended into acrimony, Cllr McVey threw out an entire Conservative amendment on grounds of the competence of one paragraph, with the usual preening pomposity to which we have become accustomed, and which I don’t doubt made him feel very smug.

In a further travesty of democracy, Cllr Whyte’s dissent to the next vote was rejected and the clerk recorded unanimous support for that item when it was obvious the Conservative group was opposed.

Over the past fortnight, open accountability has been battered in Edinburgh just because the ruling SNP-Labour coalition is trying desperately to cover up the dangerous incompetence and bullying arrogance at the heart of the authority for which it is responsible.

They do so in the belief that May’s election result will still allow them to stitch together another cosy coalition of extremists, official or not.

I don’t have to put up with their guff any longer because I’m standing down, but you don’t either, dear reader. Vote this self-serving shower out.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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