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SKC members’ ‘no confidence’ vote planned

The Scottish Kennel Club remains in turmoil after a bawdy and acrimonious Special General Meeting held for members last week in Glasgow after the events reported by OUR DOGS over the last seven weeks.

It showed the concern of the SKC members that more than 300 of them turned out on a freezing cold January night to attend a Special General Meeting held in the Ramada Jarvis hotel in Glasgow on the 9th January.  Notice had been sent out to the members with only two items on the agenda: 1. Apologies  2 To discuss the matters that have appeared recently in the Dog Press, before any major changes are made to the running of the club.

The doors opened at 6pm and members were handed at the door a document entitled ‘Timetable of Events’ reproduced elsewhere which for many was the first information that they had received as to what had been going on.

Courteous

Although the meeting was due to start at 7.15 it was nearer 7.30 before the Convener Robert Crawford formally opened the meeting. In his opening comments he requested that at all times only one person to stand up and speak and to be courteous and to respect the chair.

He stated that it would be his decision to take the chair or elect a truly independent chairman with no connection to SKC or to dogs.  He then introduced Mr Raymond Williamson MA LLB from McRoberts Solicitors, Glasgow.  Robert Crawford then quoted the constitution as far as chairing of the meeting was concerned and stated that in the ‘interests of fair play’ there should be an independent chairperson.

Member Alec Patterson then stood up and stated that there was a request already on the table for this and that the constitution was thus being followed.  This was apparently dismissed by Robert Crawford who went on to introduce Mr Raymond Williamson and put forward that he should be the person to chair the meeting.

As Convener Robert Crawford seemed to be trying to impose his choice of independent chair person and as a result Vice President Roy Ellison stood up and amid the uproar and noise stating that that he felt that the imposition of an independent chairperson was unconstitutional as the meeting should be chaired by a member.

He then went on to say that as he was the person responsible for writing the present constitution he felt that he had no alternative but to resign as a Vice President. To shouts of disbelief from the floor he continued by stating that he would also be resigning his life membership of the SKC and then left the meeting.

Member Alec Patterson then proposed Ian Millar to Chair the meeting and this was seconded by Ian Prentice. Mr Williamson who had by this time taken the chair stated that he would not open the meeting until he had ground rules and that everyone was seated.  Another member asked if there were any counter proposals to which Alec Patterson replied (again) that there was already one on the table! A member asked for Ian Millar’s credentials as he was unknown. Ian Millar replied that he was “just a member of SKC” this was received with warm applause and when asked if he would be willing to take the chair said that with some trepidation he would.  Robert Crawford then explained that he would take a vote on who was going to chair the meeting either Ian Millar or Raymond Williamson, this would be done with a show of hands and if it was close then the votes would have to be counted.

The vote was then taken with about four fifths of the members present voting in favour of Ian Millar. Ian Millar then took the chair and asked for no heckling and no interruptions.

Such was the depth of feeling from the floor that it took over thirty minutes just to elect a chair person for the meeting!

A member then stood up and advised that a proposal had been put on the table before the meeting was started.  This was understood to be a vote of no confidence in both the convener and the vice convener and a demand for their resignation from the council.

However she was advised that this could not be included at the meeting as it could only be discussed under Any Other Business. Ian Millar deferred to the Convener on this item who quoted the part of the standing order which states that the chair has to decide if this is competent, relevant and urgent and two thirds of the members must agree before this can be included in the agenda.  Ian Millar also quoted an e-mailed letter from Caroline Kisko, Secretary to the Kennel Club which was written on unheaded paper and stated that it would not be possible to include such an item at the SGM.  This was then queried by a further member who argued that this was covered by the standing orders of SKC’s constitution which had already been passed by the KC. However this was not accepted by the chair (it appears largely because of the letter from Caroline Kisko) and the meeting moved on.

A number of questions them came from the floor as a result of the ‘timetable of events’ that had been given out. A member asked regarding the Executive Council Meeting of 17th September and the working groups,  how group ‘a’ was elected and was advised by the Convener that the group was selected randomly.

Another question came from the floor regarding the conduct of the staff, -could the SKC be liable?  The convener replied that he could not comment.  Most questions seemed to be centered around the e-mail, a member asked who gave permission for the e-mail to be sent to the office?  The Convener then explained that this had been a group discussion whereby the bullet points had been put on a flip chart with a spokesperson and a scribe for each group.  The convener explained that the person who was scribing for this group did not include it verbally but included it in the e-mail.  When asked who gave permission to send this Robert Crawford stated that he did not understand the question.

Another member asked were there any complaints against the staff and were they investigated?  The convener stated that he did not receive complaints.

Ian Millar then went down through the items on the agenda as it stood that members wished information on what was happening as had been reported in the dog press. He invited Robert Crawford to make a statement but stated that as the former Secretary General Allan Sim was also present he should have the opportunity to make a statement.  Allan Sim then agreed to this and Robert Crawford went to the lectern.

Robert Crawford started by talking about the AGM of 2003, review of finances etc, however this was not well received with a general stirring of unrest from the floor with several people muttering about the relevance. He was then halted by the chair who asked him to get to the point.  The Convener then continued along the same lines and was again halted by the chair.  He then launched into a tirade against the former senior staff against a barrage from the floor of catcalls of ‘shame on you’. He did however state that the wording was ‘unfortunate’ on the e-mail that appears to have been at the start of this chain of events. He then started talking about his vision for the future and was shouted down from the floor as ‘irrelevant’ as the executive has not as yet had time to discuss this.

Allan Sim then read his statement out to utter silence from start to finish with the members appearing to show some respect.

Questions were then invited from the floor and started with a member asking if verbal and written warnings had been given to staff as this would be common employment practice. The convener’s answer to this was that he could find no information regarding this within the files in the office.

Another member asked why the e-mail had been sent in the first place, however this was answered that the person that sent the e-mail was not present at the meeting. A member queried the ‘timetable of events’ that had been handed to members as they entered and asked how accurate this was.

A member of the executive stated that she was happy to put her name to this and reminded the meeting that the executive were there to serve the membership but went on to point out that it was two months later when the executive found out about this when a letter was received from Johnston Smillie withdrawing their services to the SKC.

The Chairman then invited any member from “Group A” who was in the hall to explain what had been talked about, however no one came forward.  Another member asked if the staff had received an apology as this had been agreed at the Executive council meeting of 26th November?  The Convener replied that there was an apology in draft form which was with the SKC solicitors for approval. Sheila Stoddart who is a member of the Executive then stated that she represented the firm that was dealing with this although many members of the executive were not aware of this and she had not apparently previously declared an interest.

A member asked about specific complaints about staff and Allan Sim replied that no specific complaints had been lodged against members of staff. Kenny Mackie a member of the executive then stated that he had a copy of a letter sent to the office making complaint about staff. However the author of the letter then stood up and stated that her comments had been taken out of context and the whole letter should have been submitted rather than just a small part of it.

As the meeting continued on a heated vein, a member asked if she could direct a question to the vice convener?  She asked the Vice Convener Mrs Eleanor Bothwell, had she agreed with the handling of matters when she had seen the problems that were occurring with one trustee gone, no staff etc and why did she not report this to the Executive Council. Mrs Bothwell replied that she fully supported the convener in the way that he had handled the situation and could see no problems with it!

She then directed attention of the meeting to the application for CC status for 2007 thus inferring that the office had mishandled this issue and attempting to discredit the staff.

However this was quickly answered by Executive Council member Mrs Irene McManus who stated that the SKC had just received confirmation from the KC to hold a three day show and that there were no problems in this direction.

A member then commented that on what she had heard so far and she had listened very carefully, she had lost faith in the ability of the Convener and Vice Convener to manage the affairs of the club and invited them to resign their positions. There was no answer received to this however and shortly after another member repeated the question. Member Cathy Ryan pointed out that the holding of this meeting had been a great financial outlay to the SKC in postage, venue etc as well as financial drain on the membership who had attended.  She then stated that if things were not resolved that night there would be another call for a further SGM and she would call on another twenty members to sign it immediately.

With many of the members present offering to sign this another member pointed out that ‘apologies’ had not yet been heard and they were at the start of the agenda. They were then heard and Ian Millar closed the meeting. 

So where does this leave the SKC?  There is now the paperwork raised to hold a further SGM with the motion being to obtain the resignation of both the convener and vice convener.  This will be held within 28 days.

However there has also been a request from the Executive Council for a Special Executive council meeting which will be heard shortly and it is understood will also be to discuss the removal of both Convener and Vice Convener.  It is to be hoped that the membership of the executive council who are after all elected to represent the membership will remember the strength of feeling shown by the members when they are casting their votes for a vote of no confidence and a demand for the resignation of both Robert Crawford and Eleanor Bothwell.

As OUR DOGS goes to press the following statement was submitted by The Kennel Club for publication:-

‘The Secretary of the Kennel Club, Mrs Caroline Kisko, attended the SKC Special General Meeting, as our observer. We have not yet had the opportunity to study her report in detail.
‘However, what we can say at this stage is that the Kennel Club General Committee decided at its meeting on Tuesday January 6th, to discuss relevant SKC issues in detail at its next meeting on February 17th. The SKC Convener, Robert Crawford, was asked to convey to his Executive Council, and to his Members at their Special General Meeting on January 9th, that the General Committee wished to be provided with a number of assurances.

‘The Kennel Club has asked for detailed organisation charts and plans on how the SKC will be dealing with the following issues over the next few months.

‘1. The day to day management of the authority delegated by the KC to the SKC.
‘2. The secretarial administration for the forthcoming May SKC Championship Show
‘3. The management of the physical aspects of the show.

‘We have delegated certain powers to the SKC and wish to ensure the successful performance of this delegated authority, and to ensure reliable protection of the Kennel Club Challenge Certificates allocated to the SKC for its Representative Show.’

The KC spokesman continued ‘We don’t want to interfere in any way in matters which are internal to the SKC, but we must, of course, protect the Kennel Club’s position and reputation. For that reason the response of the SKC’s Executive Council to our request for assurances and plans, will be crucial when the General Committee decides how is should proceed on February 17th.’