SENIOR Inverclyde councillor Jim McEleny has left the SNP to join the Alba Party.
The move was announced as the pro-independence party started by former SNP leader Alex Salmond held its first conference, at Greenock Town Hall.
Mr McEleny’s son, Councillor Chris McELeny also left the SNP for Alba and is the party’s general secretary.
They will form an Alba group on the local authority and say that their priority will be to continue to hold the Labour administration in Inverclyde to account, and champion the need for Scottish independence as an immediate priority to aid the district’s recovery from the covid pandemic.
Inverclyde now has eight Labour councillors, five from the SNP, two from Alba, two Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat, and four independents.
Jim McEleny, who was chair of the SNP Group on the local authority, cited the SNP’s lack of urgency on independence for the switch.
He said: “I have voted SNP in every single election since the 1970s. People used to say to me that I was wasting my vote and I would tell them that they were the ones wasting their vote because whether it was Tory Governments or Labour Governments that took us to illegal wars, Scotland didn’t get a Government that reflected our hopes and aspirations.
“However, in May I voted SNP with my constituency vote and Alab on the list. The whole point of the SNP used to be not to govern a devolved parliament in perpetuity but to deliver Scotland’s independence.
“Therefore I was taken aback that the SNP actively campaigned to stop more independence supporting MSPs being elected to the Parliament in May’s election by encouraging people to vote SNP with their list vote when everyone knew the SNP couldn’t win list seats here.”
He added: “Since the election there has been no progress on independence whatsoever. The coalition with the Green Party just seems like a distraction to cover kicking independence into the long grass.
“All we hear is that independence will be a priority after the pandemic is over but the reality is that covid makes independence more vital now than ever and without it we are going to be saddled with the policies Westminster impose on us such as removing the Universal Credit uplift — which thousands of people in Inverclyde rely on — and more Tory austerity.
“Alba is now the only party campaigning for independence with urgency. It therefore seems obvious to me that if you believe independence is an immediate priority, not something to put off every time you win a mandate to deliver it, then joining Alab is the best way to campaign for it, now.”
Councillor McEleny, who was a civil servant for four decades, and active trade union representative before being first elected in 2017.
Councillor Chris McEleny said: “I am delighted to welcome Councillor Jim McEleny, my dad, to the Alba Party.
“We will continue to stand for issues that matter, such as bringing more jobs to the area, making our sport and leisure facilities more affordable, rolling out free school meals to every primary and secondary school pupil, and making sure independence is campaigned for as an urgent priority.”
Councillor Elizabeth Robertson, leader of Inverclyde Council’s SNP group, posted on social media: “Last night, Cllr Jim McEleny came to tell me that he has resigned from the SNP, and is now a member of Alba.
“It has seemed to me for some time that this has been Jim’s direction of travel, and so the news came as no surprise. Jim’s manner of letting me and the group know was both honourable and respectful.
“Our group have been neither surprised nor rocked by Jim’s decision, which is the best one for his family. It is regrettable to us, but did seem inevitable.”