FOR THOSE who don’t know, a strapline is a pithy slogan that encapsulates the culture and ethos of a business. You know the sort of thing: “Keeping the Country Moving”, “Simply the Best”, “Every Little Helps” and so on.
Now, there is nothing wrong with civic pride, which is why almost every county, town and city in the United Kingdom has its own strapline. They are usually displayed on the big “Welcome to…” roadside signs, and most councils take the opportunity to express their area’s unique selling proposition.
For example, Dumfries and Galloway have “The Natural Place”. Staffordshire has “The Creative County”.
Closer to home, Perth has something like: “The Heart of Scotland” while Edinburgh has two: “Inspiring Capital” and “Festival City”. Of course, Glasgow and Mr Happy grabbed the brilliant line “Glasgow’s Miles Better.”
So, what about West Lothian? Oh dear, oh dear. Entering the county you are greeted by “Welcome to West Lothian” and the strapline “UK Council of the Year 2006”.
What? Is that REALLY the best Oor Cooncil could come up with? And another thing: what happened to 2007 and 2008? Never mind; there’s always 2009, isn’t there? Well, actually, there’s not.
Oor Cooncil aren’t even in the running this year – not only are they missing from the Council of the Year category, but their name doesn’t appear in ANY of the 17 categories. No, not one. From “Most Improved Council” to “Children’s Services”, and from “Innovation” to “Transformational Government”, the name of West Lothian Council is conspicuous by its absence.
And, of course, after the recent “Sleaze charge rocks West Lothian Council” headline and the subsequent police investigation into council planning applications, it’s understandable that they’re not in the running for the “Standards and Ethics” award, either.
And while I am always in favour of giving these pen-pushing beardy blokes a big bash, THIS big bash comes in the form of an award ceremony that includes a champagne reception, bottles of wine, slap-up meal, glittering entertainment and a celebrity compere – all held in a swish London hotel, of course!
So, there you go. There are seventeen awards with six nominations in each – over 100 chances at glory – but West Lothian Council (who never weary of telling us all how exceptionally brilliant they are in every field of endeavour) doesn’t get a sniff at even one of them.
Hey! Things might have been different had there been a “Crappiest Strapline” category.
I mean, when you consider that Neolithic pilgrims from all over the UK would trek to the important ceremonial burial site of Cairnpapple in the Bathgate hills, we could surely have something like: “Attracting Visitors for Over 4000 years”. Or how about the fact that the shale on which the county is built launched the oil industry? That would give us “The First Oil Capital of the World”.
Of course, we could incorporate “Silicon Glen” into a slogan, and even the simple “West Lothian Works” would be acceptable.
But, no, we are stuck with the ludicrous and redundant “UK Council of the Year” slogan.
Let’s face it: that turgid little phrase says less about the area and its people than it does about our self-aggrandizing bureaucrats – in so many ways.