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Highland SNP councillors who resigned from council group told to stand for re-election

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillor Maxine Smith.
Councillor Maxine Smith.

Three SNP councillors who resigned from the party group on Highland Council last week have been told to do “the honourable thing” and resign their seats as well.

The call came from a former party colleague who said he hoped the resignations would allow the party group to now focus on being an effective opposition at the council.

SNP group co-leader Maxine Smith resigned late last week, along with fellow Cromarty Firth councillor Pauline Munro and Nairn and Cawdor member Liz MacDonald.

Cllr Smith gave a damning assessment of the motivations of other SNP members within the party group as her reason for going.

“Things have changed so much, in that it is full of individuals who only care about their own personal upward political careers and others who attach themselves to those factions,” she said.

“Now all I see in my group are the hard-working sincere SNP councillors being downtrodden by those who are trying to get themselves noticed to forward their own political careers.”

Councillor Pauline Munro.
Councillor Pauline Munro.

The three have said they will sit together under the banner Independents for Independence.

Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Niall McLean however, blasted Cllr Smith for allowing the group to become “lapdogs” to the council administration.

He also said that, having resigned from the party group, they should now face the voters in fresh by-elections.

“The people who were elected and who have just left the SNP group were elected under an SNP banner, with the trust that they were going to take forward SNP policies and work within the SNP,” he said.

“The SNP funded their campaigns and put them in the positions that they are in.

“Now that they have left the SNP, they should do the honourable thing, stand down and stand for re-election, under a different banner if they so wish.

Councillor Liz MacDonald.
Councillor Liz MacDonald.

“There is no way they should still hold their positions in committees or keep going forward under the banner of an Independents for Independence group when they were actually elected to serve as the SNP.”

He added: “Going forward, the SNP group could be in a strong position and when the group is formed I fully expect it to hold the Highland Council administration to account.

“There will be no cosy arrangements with the administration and I would hope the group would be able to pull together things, such as alternative budgets.

Councillor Niall McLean.
Councillor Niall McLean.

“We will no longer be the lapdog of the administration.”

Cllr Smith had already announced her intention to step down as co-leader of the SNP council grouping, along with fellow postholder Ian Cockburn, but her and her colleagues’ move to quit the group entirely appeared to come completely out of the blue.

It followed the reinstatement of suspended members Ron MacWilliam (Inverness Ness-side) and Kirsteen Currie (North, West and Central Sutherland).

Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner said he had chaired a meeting where it was decided after “long discussion” to welcome the pair back into the group – without it ever having been made public what they were suspended for.

However, in an email seen by the Courier, the defecting trio of councillors claimed the reinstatements came at the direction of the SNP’s central HQ.

Other SNP councillors approached for comment about the resignations refused to speak ahead of the group’s AGM tomorrow.

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