In this series of council election interviews, Brig has spoken to many budding councillors; from former student Chloe Campbell of the Scottish Greens, to the Liberal Democrat Fayzan Rehman.
Now, it is the time for the Scottish Labour candidates for Stirling North Danny Gibson and Jennifer Preston. Sadly, neither were able to meet for an interview, but they did send Brig their responses over email.
Scottish Labour are set to have a tough job to do to see success in the upcoming council and general elections. Expecting to lose control of Glasgow City Council and with little prospect of things turning in their favour by Thursday, Scottish Labour have a tough time ahead in the next week.
In Stirling, the SNP have criticised Labour for being unable to have majority control in the council, meaning they cannot fulfil their manifesto pledges. Both Jen and Danny argued against this.
They said: “The proportional representation voting system for council elections makes it almost impossible for any one party to get a majority on the council. Indeed the voters have failed to give the SNP a majority in the last two council elections in 2012 and 2007.
“The political reality requires elected councillors to try and find ways of working with their political opponents and Labour have done so since 2012, which, in fact, has allowed them to deliver their manifesto over the 5 year term”.
Danny Gibson is the current Stirling East councillor for Labour, and serves as Environment Convenor. Meanwhile, Jennifer is a new face to council politics, living in St Ninians, having moved from Shropshire in 2014.
Danny is a graduate of Stirling University, and so we asked how his party could work with the Students’ Union, with incoming VP Communities Jamie Grant hoping to forge greater ties with the council.
They said: “There are undoubtedly areas where the Students’ Union and the university could be working more closely with the council, such as on issues relating to providing an adequate supply of housing for the students who come to study here, and to tackle problems that can occur in relation to public transport.
“As your Labour councillors we would hold regular surgeries on campus and in the town to ensure that we are open and accessible to the student population, and we would like to strengthen relationships with the Students Union so that we can ensure council services are meeting students’ needs”.
Housing was at the forefront of Jamie Grant’s mind when speaking of links with the council, and so we asked the candidates about their plans for housing in Stirling – a high topic in their manifesto.
They said: “We believe that everyone deserves a warm, safe home. In the past 5 years the Labour-led council has built over 300 new council homes in Stirling and we’ve committed to even more in the next 5 years, including the next stage of the Raploch regeneration.
“We’re also committed to addressing fuel poverty and so we’ll continue to insulate both council homes and the private homes which need it the most”.
When it comes to students more directly, the Scottish Labour candidates were sympathetic to the difficulties students often find themselves in when they are at the whim of landlords.
They said: “We have implemented an overprovision policy which means there is a cap on the number of HMOs [Houses in Multiple Occupation] allowed in the city. This will tackle the growing prevalence of landlords using HMOs simply as a vehicle to make more money out of students.
“We have also ensured that Stirling Council is committed to a strong approach to enforcing private landlords’ obligations to their tenants, and if re-elected we will continue to ensure that is the case”.
For anyone unfamiliar with an HMO, an HMO is a term that applies to any living accommodation occupied by three or more unrelated persons as their only or main residence, and who share kitchen and/or bathroom facilities. Living accommodation occupied by students during term-time is always regarded as their main residence.
Moving on, in 2015 Stirling Council was accredited as a Living Wage employer, which saw a wage of £8.33 introduced in April last year. The scheme benefited around 600 staff, and it is Labour’s aim to continue to push for a Living Wage.
Danny and Jen said they wanted to press organisations who work alongside the council to also introduce a Living Wage for their employees.
Finally, as is the way with our interviews and so it shall be wth our last, we asked Danny and Jen what their main manifesto pledge is.
They said: “We’re really proud of our plans for a municipal public transport company. The SNP aren’t interested in using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to regulate bus services in Scotland – probably because bus tycoon Brian Souter is one of their big donors.
“As a result the private companies who run our local buses are free to prioritise the most profitable routes and aren’t always interested in serving the communities who rely on public transport the most.
“We’re therefore going to investigate the creation of a municipal public transport company which will prioritise communities and make sure buses run where and when they’re needed, not just where there’s the most profit”.
In a previous interview with Brig, SNP candidate Jim Thompson spoke of the SNP success during its 2008-2012 in providing more funding for bus services, and provided some ideas as to how to cope with the deregulated bus system.
Because we could not give Danny and Jen a proper grilling on their manifesto pledges, it is up to you to decide whether they deserve your vote when polls open tomorrow morning.
Counting will take place on Friday, with the results (hopefully) posted by late afternoon.