Stirling’s SNP Candidate: “I will always champion free education as a fundamental right”

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Credit: The Herald

As part of our series on interviewing the candidates before the upcoming election, we sent over a few questions to the SNP’s Alyn Smith. We were only able to interview him via e-mail. No matter who you’re supporting, make sure to go out and vote on December 12th. Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm.

How do you plan on closing the 148 vote margin between you and Kerr?

By taking our positive message for Scotland to people on their doorsteps. This election is about Scotland’s future, our place in Europe and our right to choose what our future holds. I’ve spoken to many people ahead of this election, with support coming in the direction of the SNP as opposed to Boris Johnson’s Tories. People recognise that only the SNP can beat the Tories here, so support is coming from all points on the political compass. 

Why do you think the Scottish Greens rejected the SNP’s Climate Change (emissions reductions targets) bill earlier this year?

Their official reason was that they wanted tighter targets, however what was written into the Bill was a series of reasonable, yet highly ambitious targets already. Scotland will now reduce all greenhouse gas emissions down to net zero by 2045. That’s the most ambitious target of its kind in the UK. 

In the European Parliament, the SNP sits in the same group as the European Greens. We work together on a range of matters, including environmental and climate change issues. These are at the heart of what I’ve been involved with as an MEP over the past 16 years, and I hope to continue championing these causes as the MP for Stirling. 

You’ve said before that you may not be able to ‘out green’ the Greens but you can win. Considering the fact you’re encouraging constituents to tactically vote for you, do you believe in other constituencies tactically voting where Lib Dems or Labour have a better chance of beating Conservatives?

In Scotland, the main challenger in every Tory seat is the SNP. Elsewhere in the UK, the choice may be different, but here in Stirling, that choice is simple: if you want to beat Boris Johnson’s Tories, vote SNP. 

Would you support a Labour minority government and how will you negotiate a second referendum out of it?

We would work with a Labour government on an issue by issue basis. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but there is common ground to be found. One thing is absolutely certain, the SNP will not put Boris Johnson back into 10 Downing Street. Of course, respect for Scotland’s right to choose our own future will be at the heart of any arrangement we have with a minority government in Westminster.

Scotland has a national deficit of 7% but EU membership requires this to be below 3%. Do you think this will be a significant barrier in joining the EU after independence?

No. Many would dispute how such a figure is arrived at within the context of public spending in Scotland whilst in the UK. It is true to say that Scotland’s public finances are massively impacted by bad decisions made in Westminster. Scotland has an incredibly strong economy, with a wealth of resources. We have been a key player in the European Union under our current membership arrangements through the UK, I can’t foresee us having any difficulty in securing our membership of the EU as an independent country. 

How would you prepare Stirling for future potential flooding?

By communicating properly with all relevant bodies, whether they are public organisations or private businesses. We need to take a range of approaches across the Stirling area in order to address flooding locally. For example, the Council and Scottish Government have been working together to find a solution to the flooding situation in Aberfoyle. Meanwhile, flash floods from freak rainstorms, like those experienced earlier this year, caused havoc and damage to property in the City of Stirling. We need to figure out how to limit this damage in future as climate change is set to bring even more adverse weather. 

Scotland has the worst drug addiction problem in Europe. How do you intend to address this?

Everyone needs to up their game. The Scottish Government has established an alcohol and drug strategy that works with a range of public services to try to tackle the damaging effects of drugs. However, control over drugs legislation is a matter reserved to the Westminster parliament, and current laws simply criminalising drug users are clearly having little impact on addressing the overall issue. It’s time that we adopted a public health approach towards personal consumption of drugs. That way, services such as the NHS, social services and the police can offer proper support to people who use drugs which could save lives. 

What can you do for students in Stirling?

Students are worried about what leaving university or college means for them. Right now, the political debate is centred on Brexit, and the opportunities that leaving the EU could take away from our young people. First and foremost, I will fight to stop Brexit. I’ve played my part in stopping the exit from the EU four times already, and now I want to take that fight to the House of Commons. 

I will always champion free education as a fundamental right here in Scotland. The SNP in Government scrapped tuition fees, and voting SNP in this election will help to protect free access to some of the world’s top universities which we have right here in Scotland. 

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