John has written to each of Argyll & Bute’s 36 councillors asking them to vote down a plan to ban the traditional display of election posters on lampposts, when it is considered by the meeting of the full Council, this Thursday (22 January).
The ban proposal was narrowly passed by the Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee when the Chair, Liberal Democrat Ellen Morton, used her casting vote to break a tie on the issue. The ban was originally proposed by Cllr Morton and Conservative councillor David Kinniburgh.
Mr Finnie intervened after he was alerted to the plan by Stacey Felgate, the Chair of Oban’s new community café, Grassroots. The café is intended to provide a place for people to socialise and discuss community issues, and it was one such discussion that led to a campaign group being set up to oppose the poster ban.
“The election-time display of candidates’ posters is a Scottish tradition and a visible expression of our democratic values. It reminds us that an election should be – as the referendum was – an occasion for community discussion, not just an order form for the private expression of self-interest.
“With the wonderful exception of the referendum, Scotland has a crisis of democratic participation. Scotland has lower turnout, fewer candidates per seat, and less of our population putting themselves forward for election than any comparable European country. It is perverse to attack a tradition that is one of the few factors mitigating this situation.
“Sadly there have already been other Councils that have banned election posters, while of course doing nothing that might inconvenience commercial advertisers. Banishing our democratic process from the streets is another step along the path to privatisation of public space, where making and spending money are the only acceptable activities.
“This proposal has passed through the Council with unseemly haste, with the result that councillors have very little real evidence to go on. For example, it is claimed that the measure is necessary to save expense caused by candidates being late in taking their posters down, but councillors have net even been told how much the cost to the Council is – or if there even is one.
“I suspect there are some who support the ban precisely because it will harm participation. There is a certain kind of politician that doesn’t want to deal with the demands of an engaged electorate. I hope the Councillors of Argyll & Bute will show that they are the kind who are unafraid of democracy – in all its noise and colour – by voting down this ban on Thursday.”