Steve Cardownie: Gavin Barrie quit SNP group after an act of betrayal

Gavin Barrie felt he was doing a good job as housing and economy convener. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Gavin Barrie felt he was doing a good job as housing and economy convener. Picture: Stewart Attwood
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And another one bites the dust! Councillor Gavin Barrie’s resignation from the city council’s SNP group may not have been that surprising.

Of course, the administration will continue as before with the coalition still needing the support of one of the other party groups (or at least for them not to all unite in opposition). To lose another member will no doubt fuel speculation that something is amiss. But is it? Or is it just another example of the rough and tumble of politics?

Bragging rights will no doubt be claimed by the Tories whose group now boasts 18 councillors compared to the SNP’s 17 (a reduction of two in less than a year), and the SNP will have to ensure that no other such losses take place or their credibility could be irreparably damaged. I recently wrote in my column that “the stark reality is that contests for positions are more likely to be borne out of personal ambition and any attempt to portray the most recent changes in group positions as a manifestation of some political strategy are wide of the mark. Political party annual general meetings can either be the launch pad or the graveyard of political ambition and it has always been so.”

READ MORE: Senior councillor Gavin Barrie quits SNP

The current situation bears all the hallmarks of just such a scenario when considering the events leading to Gavin’s removal from the position of housing and economy convener. He states in his resignation letter to the SNP group leader: “You were aware that prior to standing for election to the council, I spent the vast majority of my adult life as an active trade unionist rising to national office level. Throughout that time I fought against many workplace injustices both local and national to ensure members and colleagues were always treated with dignity and respect in their workplace roles. I don’t believe that being sacked from my role by a majority of the group with little or no notice, where there have been no adverse comments or complaints about performance, is treating somebody with dignity and respect, especially the way it was carried out … what happened was within the rules of the AGM, although I believe it to be morally questionable.“

He finishes his letter with his resignation from the group and consequently his membership of the SNP.

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It is perfectly clear from Gavin’s correspondence that not only does he believe that he was doing an extremely important job well and did not merit losing it, but also that the manner in which his ousting was carried out was wrong, with him being told roughly 30 minutes before the meeting was due to start that he was to be challenged for his position. He was particularly aggrieved that this potential challenge was known about some three weeks before the AGM and yet he was not even informed by a fellow SNP councillor who had promised to back him and who was aware of the situation for the said three weeks. Gavin stated to me that as he was the incumbent he felt he should have been informed, timeously, that a challenge was in the offing; it wasn’t as if it was a vacant position after all. It is by no means a guarantee that conscientious, diligent work will stave off a challenge for a position as there will always be someone who thinks that they could do it better or, at least, differently and if that results in a contest for a position then fine, that’s democracy at work. But Councillor Barrie’s removal from the position will be a great loss to the city and I sincerely wish Councillor Kate Campbell every success as the new convener. I am sure that given the importance of her new role she will rise to the challenge!