Highland SNP Group Councillor Ken Gowans Resigns From Party After 40 Years
5th September 2017
The resignation from the Scottish National Party and Highland SNP group of Councillors will come as great shock to many party members but seems to be symptomatic of the malaise since the election in May.
Councillor Gowans who represents the Inverness South ward has issued a statement -
"It is with great regret and a heavy heart that I have arrived at the conclusion that whilst I remain committed to the cause of independence for Scotland, I feel that my personal views and ethos are no longer compatible with those of the leadership of the SNP Highland Group.
It is my belief that I will be better able to represent the constituents of Inverness South working outside of the SNP Highland Group along with my other colleagues on Highland Council.
I have therefore resigned from the SNP Highland Group and regrettably, the party. After over 40 years of membership in the SNP, this is not a decision I have arrived at lightly."
The SNP Leader Maxine Morley-Smith has also issued a statement that may not endear her to many in Ken Gowans ward where he was re-elected. The SNP Leader's words may only go to show the severe divisions that exist in the Highland SNP group when suddenly a man with 40 years SNP party membership resigns.
"Unfortunately, despite being elected on the back of SNP votes only 4 months ago, Mr. Gowans has decided that his career is best served by walking away from our group and our party.
Ken fought the election for the Inverness South Ward along with his wife, Michelle Gowans. The SNP funded and supported their election campaign. People voted for Ken as he was the SNP candidate. Surely they could expect Ken to do his duty for several years at least, not abandon ship at this early stage? Is Ken going to pay this money back to the party? If he had lost his way with the SNP, why not resign and allow the electorate to choose an alternative SNP Councillor? There are still 5 years to go of this term.
Ken has now shown that he is definitely a politician driven purely by personal ambition. Since he was first elected as an SNP candidate 5 years ago, he hasn't missed an opportunity to try and pursue his own career goals. Whether his multiple failed attempts to be an parliamentary candidate or his repeated attempts to be elected to the SNP Group leadership, Mr. Gowans's overriding concern has always been his own status.
Since the May election, it has become apparent that the Independents and their allies in the Liberal Democrat, Labour, and Conservative Groups will not support an SNP councillor on anything within the Highland Council. It is a matter of 'anything but the SNP'. We will continue to stand up for what we believe in and for our electorate in the face of that spite. However, that is obviously too difficult for Ken Gowans."
Ken Gowans is not the first SNP Highland councillor to resign from the leadership situation.
Dave Fallows SNP councillor for Badenoch and Strathspey resigned in May 2016 when Maxine Morley-Smith was leader. He cited issues of principle with national policy as his reasons, highlighting issues of apparent centralisation, of women only selection procedures and of lack of genuine reform of Council Tax as his main difficulties.
Another Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban resigned the SNP whip on Highland council in 2016 and subsequently was re-elected as an independent in the May 2017 election.
Jean Slater who represented Inverness Ness-side ward since 2012 was not selected by the SNP as candidate for the 2017 elections so she resigned and stood as an independent but was not successful
The list of resignations from the SNP group in the past few years has grown longer -
David Bremner in Landward Caithness after disagreements with the SNP Highland leadership in 2008.
Alex McLeod in Wick in 2013 over election expenses irregularities.
The SNP like many groups has its internal arguments but there is little doubt it is not helpful for the group as whole hoping to push the administration to back proposals or shade policies they do not like.
The Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson (Independent), has expressed disappointment at the reaction of SNP councillors following the news of senior SNP councillor, Ken Gowans's, resignation from the party group.
Councillor Davidson said,"The statement issued by Opposition Leader, Councillor Maxine Smith, is extraordinarily personal, and demeaning for someone in her position. It is unnecessarily full of political venom.
I hope this isn't a sign of how the SNP intends to operate on the council. We should concentrate on debating policies, not personalities," says Councillor Davidson.
Councillor Davidson continued by saying she wasn't surprised at Ken Gowans's decision to resign from the party he has been a member of for forty years, "Ken's frustration has been clear for some time. He obviously realises the SNP is an overbearing organisation, determined to push forward with ever more centralisation and that the Highland group has little independence or flexibility. Instead of taking its lead from party headquarters, it’s time they started working for the Highlands."
"I’m pleased Ken has decided to put his constituents first. He is an experienced and effective councillor and I look forward to his continued contribution to the council."
The Highland Council political make-up is now -
Administration: Independent Group, the Liberal Democrat Group and Labour Group
Oppositions Groups: SNP and Conservative and Unionist
Independent (Ind) - 29
Scottish Conservative and Unionist (Con) - 10
Scottish Green Party (Green) - 1
Scottish Labour Party (Lab) - 3
Scottish Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem) - 9
Scottish National Party (SNP) - 21
Vacant - 1 (Ward 7 Tain and Easter Ross)
Total number of Elected Members - 74