Then it was off to Stornoway to speak at our Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles) local government branch AGM. The subject not surprisingly was our Public Works campaign and in particular local government cuts. The council is facing similar cuts to mainland local authorities next year and is anticipating worst to come. One of the key themes of Public Works is the importance of public services in creating community solidarity. This is particularly evident in island communities where public services provide the glue that sustains their strong sense of community. As always it is a pleasure to visit our island branches where you can count on a warm and hospitable welcome.
Whilst I was in Stornoway I took the opportunity to meet up with Donald John McSween the Labour candidate in the forthcoming UK general election. I first met Donald John 19 years ago on my first visit to the islands. The circumstances could not have been more difficult as the Council lost £24m when the BCCI bank was wound up with debts of £7bn. The council eventually got its money back, but it was a worrying time for everyone on the islands and council staff in particular.
I went up to assist the branch and Donald John was the Branch Chair. You could not have asked for a better branch officer in a crisis. DJ handled the world’s media, the council and our members in a calm, professional manner that greatly contributed to the initial crisis management. I think he would make a really good MP. I have been known to be a bit scathing of professional politicians, with little real life experience, that are too common in all political parties these days. Donald John certainly doesn’t fall into that category and I wish him well in his campaign.