Déjà vu: leader and depute return to council’s helm

Lib Dem councillor Robin Currie from Islay was re-lected to Argyll and Bute Council in the May 5 election, and then re-elected as its leader by 19 votes to 16 at the first meeting of new councillors at Kilmory Castle.

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Argyll and Bute Council is partying like it is 2021 again, with council leader Robin Currie of the Liberal Democrats, and depute leader Gary Mulvaney of the Conservatives, reappointed to their former roles, leading another coalition of Conservatives, Lib Dems and independents.

Mr Currie of the Kintyre and the Islands ward, and Mr Mulvaney of Helensburgh Central, emerged victorious in a vote by new councillors at their first full meeting in Kilmory Castle today (Thursday May 19).

The former Tory MSP Maurice Corry was also elected as provost, replacing the unseated Conservative David Kinniburgh. Bute independent Liz McCabe was also voted in as depute provost, replacing retired Oban independent councillor Roddy McCuish.

All these elections were won by the same margin of 19 votes to 16.

Councillors Currie and Mulvaney will now again lead Argyll and Bute Council, supported by a ruling, 19-strong coalition of 10 Conservatives, five Liberal Democrats and four independents called the Argyll, Lomond and Islands Group.

It again pushes the SNP, the largest single party with 12 councillors, into opposition.

The opposition SNP group, led by Oban councillor Jim Lynch, and others failed by three votes in each of its amendments to name independent Dougie Philand as provost, the SNP’s John Armour as depute provost, the SNP’s Jim Lynch as leader, and the SNP’s Audrey Forrest as depute leader.

In his first address as the leader of this new council, councillor Currie from Islay said: ‘Today I am a skipper of a new ship that will bring improvements to the communities that we all serve.

‘As any captain, I will rely on my team working as a collective. I wish for all 36 councillors to work together, for together we can achieve a lot. No group or individual has a monopoly on wisdom. Through our conversations, we will progress together.

‘Together, we will charter a clear, calm passage.’

The new provost, councillor Corry, paid tribute to his predecessor David Kinniburgh, who served as provost for 18 months following the death of Len Scoullar.

Councillor Corry said: ‘It is a great honour and privilege to be asked and elected to be provost of this excellent council, which I served on from 2012 to 2017.

‘I offer congratulations to all the new members of the council, and express heartfelt thanks to David, who was a long-serving councillor and also my predecessor. We are sorry to see him not with us today, but we wish him well.

‘Thanks to all members who retired from the council. Going through the induction training last week, I was very impressed by the council’s progress over the last five years.

‘We have seen this reflected in all parts of the council and several projects. Now it is time to get down to business.’

The four independents joining the majority Argyll, Lomond and Islands Group of 19 councillors are: Kieron Green of Oban North and Lorn, Mull’s Andrew Kain of Oban South and the Isles, John McAlpine of Kintyre and the Islands, and Liz McCabe of the Isle of Bute.

The 10 Conservative councillors are Garret Corner, Maurice Corry, Amanda Hampsey, Daniel Hampsey, Tommy Macpherson, Yvonne McNeilly, Gary Mulvaney, Gemma Penfold, Andrew Vennard, and Peter Wallace.

The five Liberal Democrats are Robin Currie, Graham Hardie, Paul Donald Kennedy, Ross Moreland, and William Sinclair.

The 12-strong opposition SNP group, the largest single party, are: John Armour, Gordon Blair, Jan Brown, Math Campbell-Sturgess, Audrey E. Forrest, Willie Hume, Reeni Kennedy – Boyle, Jim Lynch, Ian James MacQuire, Dougie McFadzean, Julie McKenzie, and Iain Shonny Paterson.

Two other national parties have one representative each on the council: Luna Martin from the Greens, and Fiona Howard from Labour.

Two independents, South Kintyre’s Donald Kelly and Mid Argyll’s Dougie Philand, have joined forces as leader and depute leader respectively of the Argyll First group, while the independent Mark Irvine of Lomond North is unaligned.