Post One – Open Letter to the Convener, CnES

An open letter to Alex A Macdonald, Convener, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)
from Murdo MacLeod, former Emergency Planning Officer


I didn’t expect a brass band or even a lone piper, but a ‘thank you’ would have been nice


Remember me? I worked for the Comhairle for nearly 20 years. I retired early at the age of 62 because I came under new managers whose behaviour affected my health and made it impossible for me to continue. I do not intend to expand on the way I was treated in this communication, but I know that you will not be surprised to learn that I compiled a comprehensive contemporaneous record of ongoing events, which I intend to make public at a time of my choosing. Lies and deceit and dirty tricks WILL be exposed and their perpetrators given full credit for them.

My purpose in writing this letter is to take issue with you because the Comhairle has not acknowledged the contribution I made to emergency planning and preparedness in the Western Isles. You’ve had six months since my retirement to organise a civic ceremony and a banquet (big party) in my honour, but instead of that, I get the impression you would rather deny my existence. So here is your reminder!

I am not going to let you pretend that the authority is unaffected by my departure; I didn’t just do my job; my involvement in emergency planning went above and beyond the call of duty. Let me give you some examples:-

  • When the consortium of oil companies comprising Agip, Enterprise and Marathon planned exploration drilling west of the Hebrides in 2000, I persuaded them to donate to the Comhairle a container with counter pollution equipment to the value of £91,500, plus a further £8,000 to upgrade our communications infrastructure.

  • Conoco (uk) Ltd, drilling a year later, were convinced that they should not be perceived as niggardly and bequeathed a trailer full of counter pollution equipment at a cost of £43,000. You will remember of course that Conoco also donated a Mobile Chemical Decontamination Unit costing £30,000 to the Comhairle. The photos are still on the CnES website of you personally accepting the unit from Dr Gillian Bishop on 30th May 2001. This acquisition put the Western Isles at the forefront of Scottish local authority areas in terms of decontamination resources. It meant that during the Anthrax contamination incidents and scares after 9/11, we had a chemical response capability that others were scrambling to emulate.

  • You may also recall that on November 25, 2002, the Stornoway based Coastguard rescue helicopter ‘Mike Uniform’ carried out one of the longest rescue missions ever executed by a civilian helicopter. This was made possible by the availability of aviation fuel on the exploration drilling rig ‘Jack Bates’, operating northwest of the Butt of Lewis. I bet you have never once wondered how come the fuel was there. It was there because I had arranged for it to be there! I had persuaded the exploration companies to agree that every oil rig and drill ship working in Hebridean waters would carry pods of aviation fuel for precisely that purpose. The ‘Jack Bates’ was carrying three such pods.

For more than a year after I could no longer work, the Comhairle trampled over its own procedures and made a mockery of the law of the land in order to make things as awkward as possible for me. But that was alright, wasn’t it? The new Chief Executive; that outstanding example of sagacity and probity, was still in his honeymoon period and must be supported, whatever he did. I wrote to yourself for help and you rebuffed me. An employment issue you said. Of course it was an employment issue; I had been driven from my job.

Then, when I appealed for more added years for pension purposes, you chaired the appeal panel where you and your chums, aka Cllrs. Carlin and Munro, sat radiating sanctimonious hostility and staring at me as if I had just crawled out from under a rock. You prohibited me from addressing the panel and you rejected my appeal without the benefit of any figures; just an assertion that the authority could not afford it. This from a finance officer who started off by informing us that he had not had sight of the paperwork until the previous day. Why did the panel think this was acceptable? Did you consider that his professed lack of knowledge actually supported his contention that the Comhairle could not afford to grant me added years?

I gave you, in the words of a former manager, “a Rolls Royce service”, but Comhairle nan Eilean Siar discarded me like I was garbage. In the end I was glad to go; but I will not put up with the Comhairle pretending that I never existed, so I’m making this communication public. I know it will be tempting to respond by dismissing me simply as a ‘disgruntled former employee’. Don’t bother! I am a former employee. I am disgruntled – and I am now going to expose how the Comhairle treated me after all my years of dedicated service.

Not so long ago, Members were castigating Western Isles NHS Board for the way staff were allegedly being treated within that organisation. It is a shame that they don’t seem to have the same concern for council employees. I am aware that I am not the only person at this time who feels a deep sense of hurt and injustice at the treatment that they have received during their employment with the Comhairle. It is time that councillors turned their attention to what is going on within the authority and put it right, before more able and dedicated people are driven out.

I hope that you will use the money you saved from my salary wisely and that you will not fritter it away on trivia. But oh dear, I nearly forgot; you’ve already lost £25,000 per annum from the Western Isles NHS Board, because you can’t provide them with an emergency planning service any more.

Och well; never mind, there might just be enough left to fund one trip to foreign parts for yourself.

We all look forward to your response.

Murdo MacLeod.

PS One more thing – now that I’ve been gone so long, it’s okay for you to remove my name from your website. However, if seeing my name on the Emergency Planning contact list gives you a nice warm cosy safe feeling, you may keep it. JUST DON’T CALL ME WHEN THE BROWN STUFF HITS THE FAN!

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3 thoughts on “Post One – Open Letter to the Convener, CnES

  1. John says:

    It’s so true

    You give a part of your life to devote it to Work & when you simply ask for a token for all you have done you are let down badly.

    The Council is not what it was at one time but it’s disappointing that it has come to this.

  2. Zeus says:

    Well, what a surprise. This sounds like the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I’ve not had any direct experience of being employed by the council but unfortunately I am only too aware of the appalling treatment towards a member of my family.

    Now then. This particular case relates to a reasonably long standing member of staff. So I guess this sort of thing can happen to anyone.

    So what’s the story? Well, in short the individual felt they were dreadfully and unfairly treated. I have to admit that I also feel the same way. In fact we all knew what the outcome was going to be and we were all proved right. Not only that, many colleagues felt the same and openly mentioned it, but when asked if they would support and help virtually everyone backed off. So to me at least, it would appear that there is an undercurrent of fear and oppression. I’ve concluded that if this is the case then the council might be fostering the kind of environment that is conducive to bullying and harassment.

    A little more detail then? Well, I can say that recruitment and grievance procedures and processes were not followed. And there is a catalogue of other subsequent related matters. All the evidence I have to hand supports a strong case.

    This is the worst bit. I can’t even begin to express the effect this dreadful treatment had on a proud intelligent person. It took such a terrible toll.

    So, has The Comhairle Titanic struck a berg? How many more stories of mistreatment are there hidden below the surface or can her Captain Smith, officers and crew keep her patched, seaworthy and afloat?

    I’ll keep an eye on your site for news from others.

  3. na hearadh says:

    Very saddened to read this blog. I too had the experience of working for the Comhairle though more recently. An experience to remember, I still bear the scars. Rotten to the core with a culture of bullying, corruption, intimidation, coercion.Not a week went by without being threatened with disciplinary proceedings, for no reason other than certain people wanted to take credit for my work and were coercing me into covering up the fact that they had been appointed well beyond their abilities. Reports I had spent hours on, my name was removed and my managers name inserted. Meetings I had arranged and contributed to, my name was taken off the minutes, and all my contributions attributed to my manager. When I protested, the Union backed me, until they had to take action – then it was just a cover up exercise. The Union were equally as vile and corrupt as the Comhairle.

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