Teenagers are running the city of Aberdeen
May 2007: A review of Scottish local government in 2005-6 identified 79% of 1,200 Councillors to be predominantly male, with an average age of 55. Only 1% were under the age of 30.
The review prompted the Labour party executive to lower the age limit for council candidates from 21 to 18 and in order to facilitate change it also offered controversial goodbye golden handshakes to veteran Councillors.
Pay-offs of up to £20,000 formed part of a £7m package to persuade older and long-serving Councillors – many of them Labour stalwarts in the central belt of Scotland – to retire. More than 400 took up the offer and stepped down.
For the first time, the country’s 32 local authorities were elected using the single transferable vote system of proportional representation and the results in Aberdeen were significant with the election of a number of SNP teenage LBGTQ+ activists to Councillor status and their appointment to high profile roles in the City Council which the party formed together with the Lib/Dems.
SNP Councillor, Kirsty West, filled the post of the authority’s new education convener and her brother John, had a special reason to be in celebratory mood since only a year after leaving school he was elected to the city council becoming Scotland’s youngest Councillor in the process and was then promoted two weeks later to the post of Depute Provost, salaried at £25,000 + expenses, all at the tender age of 18.
His appointment to the senior post required him to chair full council meetings in the absence of the lord provost, and to attend civic functions and many political observers expressed surprise and concerns since he was also a student at college studying, at the expense of the taxpayer, for his first year law exams and there was doubt about his ability to discharge both commitments effectively despite his civic duties being much reduced by agreement, to facilitate his studies.
Sep 2007: Aberdeen’s teenage Depute Provost quit his university law course after failing three exams. He said: “I hope to return to further education to study something else at a later date. I basically decided that the course was not for me before the exams and rather than make the same mistake twice I am going to take a year out and think about where I want to go with things.”
Sep 2008: Aberdeen’s young Depute Provost is to have his civic duties scaled back yet again, as he is returning to university. West, is embarking on a history and politics degree. He previously studied law, but dropped out. His council obligations are being cut back to allow him more time for his studies at Aberdeen university. Opposition Councillors have raised concerns he may be unable meet his obligations while studying. Studies subsequently abandoned.
May 2012: His tenure in office was marked by sustained criticism from the press throughout his time as a Councillor and he gave up his budding political career moving south to study at civil engineering at Edinburgh University.
He later gave up his studies and went backpacking around the world. His whereabouts in 2022 are not known to myself but I expect someone will know where he is and any career choices made by him between 2012 and 2022.
Comment: John West wisely stepped away from politics in 2012. His five years as a Councillor and Depute Provost may have been financially fruitful for him but journalists might consider their recurring criticism of his performance to be entirely justified and the Aberdeen electorate short changed. But the seeds of anarchy planted by the small group of arrogant teens would be added to by devious means and bear fruit in the growth of Aberdeen and Scotland’s SNP LGBTQ+ powerhouse.