It’s my Opinion

DESPITE the best efforts of Ellon Community Council, local democracy was dealt a hammer blow last Sunday when less than 30 people turned out for a hustings meeting in the Victoria Hall, featuring the candidates vying for a place as elected members for Ellon and District on Aberdeenshire Council.

The meeting had been reasonably well promoted, was hosted in a well known venue, and provided a last chance to quiz the six members who seek our affections at the polls today (Thursday).

So where were you, given the importance of the local election?

Were you shopping, working, watching football on TV, in the pub or - more likely - just not particularly interested?

If it was the latter, shame on you. It means you deserve poor representation for the next five years, for that’s the last chance you will have before 2017 to vote for the councillors who represent you when important decisions are being taken.

The candidates and indeed the community council - and in particular, chairman for the afternoon Mark Grant - deserved better on a day when some of the key issues of the moment were being discussed, some of which will be talking points for the next term.

But all in all, a real chance was wasted by the apathetic public of Ellon.

Sunday was your day, and in my opinion you fluffed it, leaving a bad taste for those of us who genuinely believe in public debate and getting the right people to represent us at all levels of government.

The two hour session, as it transpired, was nothing if not interesting, and I can say with hand on heart that all the candidates were articulate, passionate and committed to the cause.

Even where I did not agree with them, I was in admiration of their enthusiasm to stand for election, though it will be hard going for them trying to please what appears to be a less than grateful public.

So having harangued those of you who chose to give the debate a body swerve can I ask just what you wish - if anything - to make local politics meaningful?

Or has all meaning for the hustings gone from the public scene?

It would appear so. The post-hustings observation that “’in the 70’s we would have filled the hall” seems pointless, given the new requirements of voters - whatever they might be.

We have clearly moved on, but to what effect, and to what purpose?

More desperately - but probably inevitably - there were no youngsters present in the crowd to counter the old brigade seeking to influence matters from the floor. What transpired was a small sample representative of a narrow demographic.

You could of course argue that the meeting was poorly promoted, though I could not possibly comment. However, I would be reluctant to be critical of the community council who were giving it their best shot on your behalf.

I do, however, know that our continuing apathy as voters will reap a dreadful political dividend, as any individual wishing to stand will perhaps think again before stepping up to the mark - no pun intended Mr Grant.

But just in case you have yet to vote today before the polls close at 10pm, why not make an old man happy and pop along to the nearest station and cast your vote?

You know it makes sense, and you know what I don’t really care who you vote for - in, it’s my opinion they could all do the job.

That said, keeping the electorate satisfied might be a real challenge - though after Sunday, I suspect all our local candidates have already sussed that one out.