Rundown of council election hustings

7 mins read
Photo credit: Annabelle Cooper

What’s a political campaign without a squabble and jibe at other parties failures? If you made it to the council election hustings organised by PolSoc on April 20, you’d realise fairly quickly the answer to that is non-existent.

Though tensions ran high in Logie that night, and frustration was clear, there was certainly no water thrown or arguments over who would make the best First Minister.

The audience mainly appeared to consist of members from political societies on campus. It almost felt like being in the cafeteria in Mean Girls, with people scattered around the lecture theatre, sitting next to those who their political views aligned with.

If you’re still trying to make sense of the whirlwind that is local politics, sit back and let Brig be your guide.

Round One: Local Issues 

The night kicked off with opening statements from each candidate and why you should give them your vote.

Labour expressed that they were “the only anti austerity party standing in this election”, which was contested by the Liberal Democrats who feel they have a strong stance on the matter and are capable at dealing with the situation.

The first questions came from the hosts themselves, PolSoc’s David Campbell and Margereta Rončević quizzed the Labour and Conservative candidates present about their current parties coalition proposals to privatise sports facilities including The Peak before pressing other candidates for their opinions.

Labour councillor, Danny Gibson, standing for re-election in Stirling North, responded that when the party took over Stirling Council, they vowed not to allow public services to be taken over by private companies and the decision to scrap this sentiment was done so based on this premise.

Stirling Council scrapped the plans to grant a contract to a private company back in February despite previously selecting them as the preferred bidder.

Liberal Democrat candidate, Stuart Auld backed this sentiment, calling for more funding from Hollyrood to prevent issues like this from happening.

The candidates standing for each party all felt that privatising Stirling’s sports facilities was wrong.

Members of the audience had the opportunity to ask questions on local issues and the first question for all candidates was what they would do to assist tenants with rent.

Chloe Campbell, Green candidate, responded by informing the audience about the Green Party’s plans to introduce a private renters forum to give tenants a voice while also restricting the number of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Though it was recognised that the high rent prices are problematic, SNP candidate Gerry McLaughlan expressed that he couldn’t say a rent cap will happen.

The next local issue was regarding the service First Bus currently provide and what candidates would do to improve the situation.

Labour began by explaining how they fully support re-regulating the bus service and made comparisons to Lothian busses, believing it is a good model to base potential changes on.

Ross Oxburgh, Scottish Unionist and Conservative candidate, expressed that because of the difficult road network in Stirling, there is never going to be a perfect bus service.

Independent candidate Jennine Rennie who is standing for election in Falkirk, feels the current transport services need to be held accountable as currently this doesn’t appear to be the case.

The Liberal Democrats believe the key to the problem is having to regulate whereas the SNP calls for negotiations to renew the relationship with the bus service.

Round Two: National Issues 

In the event that Scotland rejected independence again in a second referendum, what would the candidates do to maintain good relations with the EU was an interesting question put forward for all candidates.

Ross admitted that although he voted remain, he feels that we will be “fine on our own.”

The other candidates, although expressing that they voted remain, didn’t share the same view.

Gerry McLaughlan despite admitting that he was surprised by the announcement of a potential indyref2, and thought this was a challenging question with the SNP’s stance on independence in mind, claimed that he’d be able to carry on and deal with it.

Stuart Auld expressed that although Brexit is a “monumental disaster”, it is in Scotland’s best interest to stay part of the UK as going our separate ways would be applying the same kind of logic and wouldn’t necessarily make matters any better.

The evening concluded with a question directed specifically for Ross from an audience member regarding Ruth Davidson refusing to say she didn’t agree with the rape clause.

Ross Oxburgh shifted the blame to the SNP by claiming they had known for 18 months beforehand that this legislation was coming. Despite this, he didn’t necessarily express whether or not he agreed with the legislation himself.

Jennine Rennie feels that she hasn’t seen a political party that has taken sexual abuse seriously. Tax credit should be available for every child and explains that this is a dangerous piece of legislation that could result in suicides and so shouldn’t continue to exist.

The other candidates shared the same view that this legislation is not appropriate, people shouldn’t have to fill out a form and it should never have been introduced in the first place.

The council election hustings certainly made for an entertaining and informative evening. For anyone who thought local politics wasn’t particularly exciting, the course of that evening certainly didn’t paint that picture.

Voting for the council elections take place on May 4. Make sure to get your voice heard and exercise your democratic right.

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