Councillor ‘astonished’ by party membership move

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A South Kintyre councillor was blindsided by a decision to remove him from the political party he has represented for the last 20 years.

Donald Kelly has stood as a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party councillor since 2001 but, after submitting his application to once again represent the party in the 2022 Scottish local elections, he was told he cannot be considered as he is no longer a Conservative councillor.

He was not informed of the decision to remove him from the party prior to submitting his application for reselection and said he is being ‘met by silence’ when asking for an explanation.

Councillor Kelly, who told the Courier he finds the decision ‘astonishing’, prides himself on supporting what he believes is best for the area he represents, rather than blindly voting in line with his party.

‘I strongly believe a local councillor should put the interests of their community before party politics and this is something I have done and will continue to do,’ he said.

In 2010, Councillor Kelly and independent councillor Dougie Philand, of the Mid Argyll ward, formed the non-politically-aligned Argyll First group.

During a visit to Campbeltown that year, he met with Annabel Goldie, then leader of the Scottish Conservative party, and Ruth Davidson, who later became the party’s leader from 2011 until 2019, who both endorsed his membership of the group.

Following the visit, Baroness Goldie sent Councillor Kelly a letter in which she wrote: ‘As to our discussions regarding the establishment of Argyll First, I recognise all that you are trying to achieve. It is good to know that we have committed Conservatives such as yourself working so hard in communities up and down Scotland.’

In two local elections since co-forming Argyll First – in 2012 and 2017 – Councillor Kelly was reselected as South Kintyre’s Scottish Conservative candidate.

On both occasions, he was re-elected as a councillor, as a Conservative member of Argyll First.

‘For the past 11 years I have received no communications from either the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party’s central office or the Argyll and Bute Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association indicating they did not agree with my stance,’ said Councillor Kelly.

When he pointed out the endorsements of Baronesses Goldie and Davidson regarding his Argyll First membership, he said he received a ‘totally dismissive’ response and was advised that their comments would be ‘irrelevant’ because of changes in party leadership since they were made.

‘Since 2010, I have continued to work for the community, standing up and fighting the corner for South Kintyre and its residents at every turn,’ said Councillor Kelly.

‘After serving for the last 20 years as a Conservative councillor, continually increasing the Conservative vote in the South Kintyre ward, from initially the hundreds to the thousands, I am absolutely disgusted at the way I’ve been treated.’

His Argyll First co-founder, Councillor Philand, said he is proud to call Councillor Kelly his colleague and finds his treatment by the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party ‘totally disgusting’.

Councillor Kelly intends to discuss the matter with current party leader Douglas Ross.

‘It is extremely disappointing after two decades of dedicated service to be met by a wall of silence, where no-one is prepared to provide a proper explanation or justification for their actions,’ he said.

‘I have worked tirelessly for the last 20 years and have never been anyone’s puppet.

‘I will be standing at the 2022 elections as an independent councillor and, if re-elected, I will continue to fight the corner and vote in the best interests of everyone in South Kintyre.

‘I sincerely hope that everyone who has supported me over the years will continue to do so.’

Despite repeated attempts to contact the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party’s central office, the Courier’s questions and requests for information have gone unanswered.