‘Carbuncle’ image for Cumbernauld is a “good thing”, says councillor

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 22:02 on 11 February 2015

Politics    Carbuncle Awards

26-06-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Cumbernauld Town Centre; Picture shows Cumbernauld Town Centre, as viewed from A8011 footbridge.
Winning the award might force politicians to take action, Cllr O'Brien claimed. Picture: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

AN INDEPENDENT councillor in Cumbernauld has launched a furious attack on North Lanarkshire Council and the politicians of the town in a rant regarding Cumbernauld town centre’s development.

Alan O’Brien, the SNP politician turned independent councillor phoned in to BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship ‘Morning Call’ programme last Wednesday (4 February) to launch a scathing attack on North Lanarkshire Council, Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Limited and the politicians of Cumbernauld.

Louise White, the radio programme’s host began Mr O’Brien’s introduction by asking: “You’ve been a recipient of this award in the past, haven’t you?” to which the Cumbernauld North councillor replied: “Not personally, no.”

Elected in 2007 under the SNP banner to the Cumbernauld North ward, Mr O’Brien was excluded from the SNP for seemingly making homophobic remarks towards a colleague. 

Reports from the time alleged that Mr O’Brien had called his SNP colleague, Paul Delaney a “poof” for wearing a sleeveless T-shirt – allegations that were swiftly refuted by Mr O’Brien, who said at the time: “I utterly abhor homophobia.”

Following an internal party investigation, Mr O’Brien resigned from the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 2011, after it was confirmed he would not be allowed to stand for the party at the next local election.

In 2012, however, the Cumbernauld councillor made a startling comeback and was swept back into public office under the Cumbernauld Independent Councillors’ Alliance banner, and has been known for his outspoken remarks ever since.

Therefore, having a reputation for being outspoken, it came as no surprise to Mr O’Brien’s critics and opponents when he went on national radio and proclaimed that Cumbernauld town centre should continually take home the infamous ‘Carbuncle’ award.

Asked by Louise White, “It’s not awfully attractive, Cumbernauld, is it?” the elected member – who did not immediately identify himself as a councillor – said: “It’s the middle that lets it down a little”, before saying that the town centre had been “neglected” for years.

Referring to what he described as the “nefarious goings on” happening within North Lanarkshire Council, as the authority digested the news that its largest town had picked up the ‘Plook on the Plinth’ award, Mr O’Brien said: “I’m a big fan of these awards.

“What it does is it makes politicians sit up and pay attention. Politicians don’t like bad publicity – they are obsessed with positive spin, and nowadays not much else.

“The carbuncle award was a positive thing for Cumbernauld because the idea is that politicians would have had to take some action on it.”

The Cumbernauld North councillor went on to describe what he called “sinister” goings on within North Lanarkshire Council, which he claims built the famous Arria statue as a means to take attention away from the dismal state of Cumbernauld’s town centre. 

Towards the end of his two-minutes on air, Mr O’Brien said: “Cumbernauld should be getting this award, year in and year out until politicians finally do something about the state of the place.” 

His comments have ruffled feathers in the council, with some elected members telling Cumbernauld Media off-the-record that he expects people to “dance to his tune”.

One councillor explained how Mr O’Brien simply ignores the fact that the council only owns “footprints” of land surrounding the centre so big development is very unlikely, while a second elected member described Mr O’Brien as a “broken record”. 

Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Limited, meanwhile, has made no comment in the wake of Mr O’Brien’s comments, although the group’s chairman, Councillor Allan Graham pointed to some of the various works that have taken place where the organisation has control.

The projects included the new town centre signage, landscaping works, the rebuild of the Muirfield Community Centre, which will be known shortly as Cumbernauld Community Enterprise Hub and proposals to drastically overhaul Cumbernauld town centre’s dank A8011 bus stances.