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Highland SNP Group Councillor Ken Gowans Resigns From Party After 40 Years

5th September 2017

Photograph of Highland SNP Group Councillor Ken Gowans Resigns From Party After 40 Years

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


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