As most people will, by now, know, James Dornan has stepped aside as the SNP candidate in the Glasgow North East by-election. He did so after a Sunday newspaper reported that he'd allegedly broken charity law by being an UNPAID director of Culture & Sport, the charity siphoned off from Glasgow City Council. (At the time he was subject to a Protected Trust Deed - explanation at the *bottom of this post.) I highlight the word "unpaid" because even if it turns out to be the case, I think it's important to remember that there was no financial gain for him.
James (pictured with some of the campaigners on Saturday) is one of my closest friends and I know him well but even I was surprised and impressed at the alacrity with which he dealt with this. He did so because he is, like most of us, 100% committed to the cause of Independence. That cause will only be served by the SNP and he is, therefore, 100% committed to the SNP. Had he not stood down this would have dominated the campaign. A Labour blogger was sceptical of this and reckons that it's hardly a story. Sadly, I think he will have to get used to the fact that his party hierarchy feel differently.
Had James carried on, we would not be talking in this by-election about how to bring jobs to Glasgow North East, we would not be talking about how to improve health in the area (the health stats here are shocking) and we certainly wouldn't be talking about the way in which Glasgow City Council are savagely cutting education for our children. No, we'd be talking about whether or not James had technically broken the law. We'd be talking about it despite the fact that he had nothing to gain from this and despite the fact that he checked it out before agreeing to join the board. And maybe that would have suited Labour but how would it have changed anything for the people of Glasgow North-East?
The situation is deeply unfair but it's just one of those realities that failing political parties (the Labour Party to be more specific) don't want to address problems and come up with solutions, they just want to smear their opponents.
James has behaved in a truly honourable manner over this. Everyone in the SNP will be grateful that we will not be distracted by personal digs at the candidate. And I would hope the voters (of which I am one) will be glad to be able to debate what actually matters to them.
Given that this all arose because James had some problems with personal debt a few years back, wouldn't it have been great to have someone elected to Westminster who truly understands what it's like to have worked in low paid employment? Someone who really does know what it's like to struggle to juggle their finances rather than someone whose biggest headache is getting the moat cleaned or avoiding paying capital gains tax - (so-called because it's a tax on a FINANCIAL GAIN)?
The other side of this is that someone like James who went into politics for altruistic reasons, because he cares what happens to his community and his country, does not deserve to have his personal business splashed across the papers. The argument that you put yourself in the public eye so you should accept the world knowing your business is one that's never washed with me. And whilst getting into financial difficulty is not something to be ashamed of, it IS something that most people would wish to keep private. Right now, imagine how he's feeling that half of Scotland knows about this.
Despite all that, if you want to know something about the mettle of the man, have a look at the posting on the by-election blog - it's true what they say, you can never keep a committed nat down! And James is nothing if not a committed nationalist.
So, he's done what he had to do to keep the campaign focussed on the issues that really matter to people here. The least we can all do is get out there and work alongside James and whoever the candidate might be, so that families in the North East of Glasgow get the chance to find out how much of a difference it can make having an SNP MP.
I know the SNP through and through and I am happy to assure you that this will only make us redouble our efforts. Onwards and upwards!
* As I understand it, a protected trust deed is a way of managing repayment of debt. It's something that 6000 folk in Scotland apply for each year and it stops someone having to go bankrupt. Someone in this position can be a member of a board of a private company but not a charity. Very few people know this which is probably why James was given the wrong advice. Culture & Sport used to be part of Glasgow City Council but was taken out of the council and made into a charity. James was appointed to the board as a councillor and it was an unpaid post.