Ayrshire councilor dramatically quits SNP after party’s ‘drift to the right’ at national level


A highly-respected East Ayrshire councillor has quit the SNP group – just weeks before the 2022 Scottish local authority elections.

John Bell, 65, has also resigned his membership of the party and will serve out the remaining weeks of his term as an independent councillor.

Mr Bell represented the Doon Valley (Ward 9) for the SNP since 2012.

Now the former explosives engineer and miner, who grew up in Muirkirk, has announced his intention to run as an independent candidate for Doon Valley on May 5.

Mr Bell quit the SNP after he claimed the party, at national level, had ‘drifted to the right’ under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership.

He’s already informed East Ayrshire Council leader Douglas Reid of his decision to quit the party.

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Mr Bell admitted: “I had a very friendly meeting with Councilor Reid to discuss this.

“My problems were not with my friends and previous colleagues in the SNP group in East Ayrshire, but with the leadership nationally and the divisive policies being espoused at Holyrood.

“In my opinion I have seen the party drift to the right. It’s with a heavy heart that I’ve announced my intention to leave the SNP.

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“I’m a socialist and always have been. When I told Councilor Reid I was leaving, we left on good terms. Basically, the problem is not at local level.

“There are problems there at the national level, especially with the funding of local government. We are not getting enough from Holyrood.”

Another concern which is believed to have prompted Councilor Bell’s decision to end his association with the SNP is their policy of introducing gender neutral toilets in schools, as mooted for the new Doon Valley community campus.

The party’s recently introduced, but nonetheless controversial, Schools Survey also triggered concerns with Councilor Bell, who felt that some questions were ‘too personal’ and ‘sensitive’.

He said: “This new SNP is a copy of the failed New Labor ideal: a party with a left-wing membership but a right-wing leadership, and I cannot in good conscience remain in such a party.”

One of Councilor Bell’s major achievements during his tenure was a campaign he successfully waged to increase the Back to School clothing grant allowance for parents of school children.

It was Councilor Bell who managed to secure an increase in the grant from £50, which was set in 1996, to a much higher allowance of £120 for primary school and £150 for secondary school pupils.

He reflected: “If I don’t do anything else and don’t get re-elected, then I’m happy with that contribution.

“My primary concern is my constituents and I hope I have earned their trust in order for them to re-elect me.”

Mr Bell will retain his position on various committees of East Ayrshire Council.

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Ayrshire Live did contact the SNP in Edinburgh over Mr Bell’s resignation.

A spokesperson said his departure “did not come as a surprise to colleagues”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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