For anyone who hasn’t been following the local press on the proposed development of a new secondary school on Posties Park in Dumbarton, you may not be aware that a mystery correspondent has entered the fray, albeit lurking behind a veil of anonymity. This individual has penned two unsigned letters to the Lennox Herald in support of the proposed build on Posties, and both times he or she has used the word ‘minority’ repeatedly to describe the Save Posties Park campaign. I’m not going to invest too much time in addressing the individual points that this mystery person made, but I do want to give a bit of thought to his or her ‘minority’ categorisation.
For the sake of expediency, and to cut out the he/she/his/her unspecified pronoun use, I’m going to make an assumption that the correspondent is male. Let’s call him, say, for argument’s sake, Perry Flanagan, purely for the purposes of this blog. First name that came into my head…
So Perry feels that the campaign to save Posties Park is based on the “minority interest of a few [people].” Well Perry must be possessed of remarkable insight, because, short of a referendum, we’re unlikely to ever know exactly how the citizenship is split on this subject and so be able to determine minority/majority states with his level of espoused certainty. However, we do possess some relevant data, and I think it’s important that we consider these. So here are some statistics :
The Save Posties Park online petition currently has 549 signatures.
The ‘let’s turn Posties Park into a school’ petition currently has….. Oh, that’s right – there isn’t a petition, nor indeed any kind of community group in support of that argument. So, straight away, Perry seems to be looking a bit lonely out there on that branch.
The Save Posties Park paper petitions have over 1,000 signatures so far. So, just in case basic arithmetic isn’t one of Perry’s subjects, that’s around 1,600 good citizens who have spoken up for the Save Posties Park campaign. Does that still count as a minority view? Well, let’s put it into perspective. It’s almost four times the number of people who selected Michelle Stewart McGinty as their first choice in the 2012 local elections.
We do have some other data available to consider how the community splits on this issue. The Dumbarton Reporter ran a week-long online poll to ascertain where people wanted the new school to go – either on the current site at Castlehill or on Posties Park. 128 people, or 75% of the total, said that they wanted the school to go on the current site at Castlehill. I’m pretty sure that 75% counts as a majority. Take note, Perry.
Now let’s look at the press coverage of this issue. Since May 2013, when West Dunbartonshire Council first made public their intention to re-develop Posties Park, either as a school or as a “super-care-home”, there have been almost 90 separate news items in the local press on this subject. This is a synopsis :
- 36 articles, of which 3 included a front page headline.
- 7 editorials by Bill Heaney.
- 4 op-ed pieces (George Black, Jonathon McColl, Martin Rooney).
All this certainly suggests that the school redevelopment and the associated support for Posties Park is a major community issue. It also suggests that our community has been made very well aware of the proposal and the arguments for and against both sites. The Save Posties Park campaign has been running publicly for five months now; wouldn’t it seem logical that, if this really was a minority group, a vast wave of opposition from the other side would have arisen to publicly quell the campaign? And yet the only opposition to the campaign seems to come from our Labour councillors and their officers. And Perry, of course, who is obviously neither a Labour councillor nor a WDC officer. Obviously.
From the local press, there have been 34 published letters from members of the public, and only Perry’s two letters have been in support of building on Posties. From the ‘vox pop’ features in the local press (Tweet of the Week, On the Wire, On the Spot), there have been 18 public comments, and only one of these was in favour of building on Posties (where an interviewee referred to Posties as a “dog’s toilet”, bizarrely).
So, no matter how I look at the evidence that is freely available and unambiguous, I can’t reconcile the Save Posties Park campaign with Perry Flanagan’s assessment of it. I wonder what he thinks when he reads letter after letter in support of Posties Park. Does he ponder why his ‘majority’ allies aren’t rallying round to echo his opinion and show their solidarity? There’s a saying that a leader without any followers is just a guy taking a walk. Maybe Perry should walk on down to Posties and chat to some of the people who use the park, and then perhaps quietly reflect on who is really in the minority.