Liberal Democrats candidate chats to Brig ahead of the general election

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Credit: Liberal Democrats

Brig caught up with the Liberal Democrats candidate Wendy Chamberlain as part of our coverage for the general election on June 8.

It was the general election in 2015 that inspired Wendy to get involved in politics and this time around she is representing the Liberal Democrats in the Stirling constituency

Her party is proposing a 1p increase on all income tax bands and the revenue is promised to be spent on the NHS.

With Scotland being devolved though, it has control over its own income tax and therefore can only benefit from dividend tax.

Estimated to raise around £35 million in the 2018/2019 financial year, the Scottish Liberal Democrats plan to use these funds to improve mental health services.

For Wendy, a focus on young people’s mental health is of particular importance by better equipping GP practices, schools and police divisions.

She said: “I’m a mum with two children; my daughter is in first year at high school and certainly the pressures like social media and the phone impact is something that I certainly never experienced when I was at school, so I think young people’s mental health is increasingly coming to the fore.

“Where I think the Liberal Democrats are quite distinctive is  we’ve always believed that mental health should be on a par with physical health, and it’s not so that is something that we really want to change.

“When you look at the reasons for unemployment and people falling into the system of worklessness a lot of the time there are quite complex mental health issues at the root so I think it could have a totally transformational change on things if we really focus on that.

Her work as a police officer for 12 years until 2011 has enabled her to understand the pressures faced by those working in the public sector which is why the Liberal Democrats plan to scrap the 1% pay cap on the public sector is particularly important.

She said: “The pay cap has been in place for a couple of years now, which means that, although inflation might be low, people’s wages aren’t increasing at all. So even if inflation is low there is still inflation, so what you have and what you’re getting in your pocket is still getting you less.

“By taking away that and actually really valuing the work that people in the public sector are doing and appreciate the almost unwilling sacrifice that they’ve been expected to give as a result of the financial crash and we should be doing something about that so we are very keen to do that.

These plans would see public sector workers like teachers and nurses £780 better off by 2020.

It is the Liberal Democrats stance on both Brexit and Scottish independence that is an extremely strong selling point for Wendy.

The party opposed Brexit and want the final decision to be made by the public by calling for a referendum after negotiations on whether to accept the deal or remain as part of the EU.

The Liberal Democrats are also against a further independence referendum.

Wendy explained: “Our position is the only one that reflects what happened in both previous referendums, there was a very strong message on both votes in terms of staying.

“We want Scotland at the heart of the UK, at the heart of Europe, and I would definitely admit that last June I was pretty devastated at the result of the Brexit vote.

“My husband is an SNP member so that means fun for us at home, but what it does mean is that I can absolutely see the arguments on both sides in relation to Scottish independence.

“But once I considered and reflected I was like Alex Cole-Hamilton, who’s our MSP for Edinburgh West, he said: ‘Having had my heart ripped out in terms of the EU vote I don’t then want to take my arm off as well by then going down the path of independence’.”

It is education that Wendy said she felt “most passionately” about though as her party pledge to repair Scottish colleges.

With college numbers dropping by 152,000, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have promised to reinvest in education by adding 1p to Scotland’s income tax.

Wendy said: “I accept that education is a devolved matter but I do think that what we want to do in terms of the penny in Scotland on income tax for education there’s a long-term economic benefit.

“I’ve got a concern as a parent where regardless of your political affiliation there’s a recognition that Scotland’s education system is not performing the way it should be.

“Although I think that university education is really important, I did work as a college lecturer for about 18 months and I do think that the cuts that there has been to college places are potentially really damaging because not everybody wants to go to university and not everybody needs to go to university to contribute positively to the workplace.”

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