A Badenoch and Strathspey Highland councillor has described his shock decision to resign from the SNP as a ‘dark day’ for him personally.
Long time member Dave Fallows was laying was budget leader in the former SNP administration at Inverness headquarters.
He has 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.
He said: "I have, over the last couple of years, become increasingly frustrated by the general direction of the party’s policies. I believe the centralisation of police and fire services did not ‘of themselves’ result in the cost savings anticipated and that severe cuts in overall staff numbers and overload on those who remain have had to be introduced to close the affordability gap, whilst the local appropriateness and knowledge of the services has declined."
On selection procedures, the Newtonmore based member commented: "I firmly believe in the principle that there should be many more women in Holyrood and in local government but for me ‘positive discrimination’ that prevents some outstanding talent locally from even being considered for selection is not the way to achieve that.
"The principle should always be to select the most able individual possible, regardless of gender, addressing the problem of lack of balance by ensuring that both national and local government operate in ways which make it easier and more affordable for women to put themselves forward in the first place."
Councillor Fallows said that it was the lack of action on the Council Tax which had made his mind up the most. "The single most disappointing aspect of policy for me has been that after nine years of promise and opportunity for reform of council tax, all we have is a few adjustments to the banding to make those who live in larger properties pay more. I cannot say how desperately disappointing this is. We simply haven’t been bold enough and took our eye off the ball."
Locally, Councillor Fallows stresses that he has absolutely ‘no quibble’ with his former colleagues or with local leadership and believes that the group have been the principal viable and effective opposition to what he describes as "the directionless rag, tag and bobtail collective of independents who are the administration".
Councillor Fallows said he will, for the year’s duration of the current Highland Council, be joining the Highland Alliance. He said: "They have shown themselves to be a constructive element of opposition when they have needed to be, and will give me the freedom to best represent my own constituents, Badenoch and Strathspey and the people of the Highlands."
Councillor Fallows first voted for and joined the SNP back in 1974, in Moray and Nairn, when Winnie Ewing ousted the then Scottish Secretary, Campbell of Croy. He said: "After all this time, it is a dark day indeed which sees me leaving the party, but I wish all my former colleagues in Highland Council well into the future, and every success in next year’s council elections."
Council SNP Group Leader, Maxine Smith said: "Dave has been a true servant to the SNP over many years, and so he leaves the group with our very best wishes. I hope to continue a close working relationship with Councillor Fallows in the council over the next 12 months."
Councillor Bill Lobban, Chairman of Highland Council’s Badenoch and Strathspey area committee said: "Dave has been a committed Nationalist throughout the entire period I have known him and I fully expect he will remain so.
"I have no doubt that we will continue our excellent working relationship and personal friendship and he will, as he always has, work with me and the other local members to the benefit of the people of Badenoch and Strathspey above all else."