With less than a day to go until the polls open for the Scottish elections 2021, the Stirling Observer has been putting a series of questions to the candidates seeking election to Holyrood.
Four candidates are vying to replace retiring SNP MSP Bruce Crawford in the Stirling constituency, who stood down after 18 years in the Scottish Parliament.
The candidates were given the opportunity to present their views on some of the biggest issues affecting Stirling residents locally, nationally and globally in a bid to win your vote.
The four candidates are:-
- Chris Kane (Labour)
- Fayzan Rehman (Lib Dem)
- Dean Lockhart (Conservative)
- Evelyn Tweed (SNP)
Here we will show the questions put to the candidates by the Stirling Observer and their responses to each question.
What ideas will you bring to the table for Covid-recovery, particularly for retail/business and what suggestions do you have for the regeneration of Stirling city centre following the loss of some major retailers?
“The Stirling of my teenage years, with trips to ‘Our Price’ for CDs or ‘Woolworths’ for the pick-and-mix before a trip to the Allanpark cinema, has changed dramatically.
“Changing shopping habits have had a profound impact on our high streets and not always for the best.
“A vote for Labour is a vote for a stimulus plan where we will give every adult (16+) a £75 prepaid card to spend in person on our high streets. We’ll promote the ‘Great Scottish Staycation’; tourists pay for two nights, Labour subsidises a third which will keep people in Stirling for longer and spending more money.
“Labour will introduce reduced business rates on non-grocery bricks-and-mortar shops and a taskforce to examine business rates and ensure the digital economy makes a fair contribution to local services.
“However, this isn’t one government alone; if we want a vibrant city centre, we have to support businesses with ‘shop local’ whenever we can.”
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats will reform business rates to take the burden off high street retailers, who are unfairly disadvantaged compared to online retailers who have lower premises costs.
“We support a land value element for this new tax to avoid penalising businesses who improve their properties, for example by installing renewables or developing measures to keep their customers safe from the virus. This will help high streets develop into community hubs, with a good shopping and social experience, and allow them to compete with online. The new system will raise more from underused sites and land “banked” by developers.
“We will review the rates relief system to give more support to shops on local high streets which have low turnover but a high rateable value.
“We will give local authorities control of the level of tax and reliefs in their area to foster new partnerships between councils and local business.”
“The over-riding priority for the Scottish Parliament over the next five years must be to rebuild our communities, businesses, and local economies.
“Scottish Conservatives want at least 25 per cent reduction in business rates in 2022-23 and a tapered scheme for smaller businesses. This will encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to retain their presence on their high streets. We would grant more powers to councils to exempt areas from rates completely, redevelop derelict sites and scrap parking charges in town centre locations. We must do everything possible to allow high street shops to compete fairly with huge online companies.
“I have consistently worked with Stirling’s high street businesses to promote the needs of retailers and find innovative solutions to make our town centre an attractive place to live, work and visit. This is now even more important in the wake of the pandemic and the loss of major retailers such as Debenhams.”
“The Covid pandemic has hit almost every part of our lives. According to official statistics, there has been a sharp rise in the local area of people on some form of unemployment support over the course of the past year. A lot of work needs to be done at all levels of government to ensure our communities recover from the impact the pandemic has had.
“The City Region Deal is a strong starting point, and we need to build on that work to attract investment and jobs to our area. An SNP government will also invest £500 million in creating new jobs across the country, and to re-skill people.
“We’ve also committed to freezing lower rates of income tax, so people keep more of the money they earn which will help stimulate economic recovery.
“We will also do everything we can to strengthen and maintain our relationship with other EU countries, despite being faced with a Brexit we didn’t want or choose.”
Experts have predicted a surge of mental health issues. What can be done to support frontline workers now experiencing mental health issues? Also Forth Valley has the worst rate for CAMHS patients seen within 18-week guidelines (37.4 per cent against a national average of 73 per cent and 90 per cent guideline) and 1,031 still waiting for support. How would you tackle the mounting waiting list in children’s mental health?
“Labour will improve access to support with a new referral and triage service, and ensure every GP practice a dedicated mental health worker.
“We’ll support people back to school by offering a mental health assessment to every pupil.
“Labour will increase the mental health budget from 8 per cent to 11 per cent of NHS funding.
“We will establish a mental health A&E in Forth Valley, integrated with suicide prevention and substance misuse services to support people in crisis.
“Labour will support a fair pay rise for NHS staff and we will work with the Trade Unions to put in place a long-term pay deal, fixing historic underfunding and low pay.
“Trussell Trust figures show that since 2014, the number of food parcels they’ve given to children in Scotland has risen from 36,526 to 77,123 a year – a staggering 111 per cent rise which undoubtedly impacts mental and physical health.
“Both UK and SNP Government policy is failing too many children and must urgently change.”
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats recognise the mental health crisis and our manifesto has substantial and detailed policies for action.
“We will recruit more mental health professionals to work in communities, hospitals and schools. We will set up new diagnosis and treatment centres to remove the backlog. We will double the number of specialist psychiatrists and counsellors in training for young people.
“Reforming how children and young people access mental health services, we will end waits of a year and longer for treatment. We will abolish so-called rejected referrals, with safety nets and ladders so that families are never sent back to the start of the process.
“Supporting a preventative approach, counsellors will be made available for every school.
“With an immediate term-time expansion of outdoor learning and increased provision of residential outdoor education to engage children, this will boost mental health, through experiences that can prove life changing.”
“The full impact on mental health of the pandemic is still unknown. People were already waiting too long for support before the pandemic. The SNP is already responsible for the longest ever waiting times for children to access mental health support.
“The Scottish Conservatives believe early intervention is vital.
“We want 10 per cent of all health funding dedicated to mental health. We would establish community ‘triage centres’ to deliver services quickly and ensure there are specific strategies in place for self-harm and suicide prevention. For NHS and social care staff, we would fully fund specialist services to provide specialist support.
“The waiting times locally in Forth Valley for young people are the worst in Scotland. I have had to campaign on this issue for far too long. I have repeatedly called for emergency funding from the SNP to expand services locally.
“I fully support the plans produced by the Mental Health Foundation and SAMH.”
“NHS Forth Valley have done an amazing job during the pandemic to keep Stirling safe, and it’s only right that support is offered to frontline staff who’ve kept us safe.
“In July 2020, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a new 24/7 national helpline to support health and social care workers – and £2.5 million has been committed to provide access to additional specialist support over the next two years.
“The mental health of children and young people remains a top local priority. By March this year, 500 more mental health professionals have been recruited into national service since 2018. And the SNP will dedicate 10% of the frontline NHS budget to mental health services by the end of the next parliament.
“If re-elected, the SNP will work on a National Transitions Strategy to improve mental health outcomes for young people during transition to adulthood.
“NHS Forth Valley are making progress on CAMHS waiting times, but this work must be central to local remobilisation plans as we emerge from Covid-19.”
How would you support rural areas to benefit from tourism demand while balancing management of issues such as parking and litter?
“Labour will strengthen the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to ensure that fly tipping, dirty camping and livestock worrying are forcefully discouraged.
“We’ll invest in rural bus networks and electric buses to offer sustainable transport choices.
“The National Park has not had the same damaging cuts to its budget as local authorities and so can collect more non-domestic litter and provide more toilets. Labour would ensure a fair funding settlement for councils and get funding direct to communities to tackle local problems.
“In Balmaha recently with Labour by-election candidate and former Provost, Colin O’Brien, we saw local businesses taking advantage of the influx of visitors by building a new restaurant and an overflow car park to complement the council operated facilities.
“There are plenty of excellent examples of why we need to listen to rural communities and let local people tell politicians what is needed, not the other way around.”
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats recognise that Scottish tourism has had a difficult pandemic.
“Too many businesses were not eligible for support schemes until very late, if at all.
“Enacting a substantial programme of capital works in tourist areas, we will provide better car parking, electric charging points and signage to manage tourist numbers better. We will aim to create and publicise a network of public toilets with waste and rubbish disposal points across Scotland.
“Creating thousands of new jobs, we will develop rural public services, building more diverse and growing communities.
“We will increase the range of jobs and careers available to people in rural areas. We will encourage colleges to become rural enterprise hubs, meeting local skills needs and supporting innovative new businesses.
“We will continue superfast broadband roll-out.
“We will increase support for the NHS to increase the number of skilled professionals living in rural communities.”
“The UK Government has saved over one million jobs in Scotland because of the world’s most comprehensive furlough scheme. Many thousands of them are in local tourism and hospitality firms, helping them make it through the pandemic. Now they are ready to re-open and rebuild.
“It is now for the Scottish government to ensure that the rural and tourist sectors are supported in their efforts to rebuild.
“That is why I oppose SNP plans to over-regulate our small accommodation providers and the introduction of a tourist tax.
“We need to manage the increase in domestic tourism carefully. I have called for a comprehensive visitor management strategy, properly funded, that would provide better services to support our tourist and rural economies.
“We need more toilets, better enforcement capacity, local shuttle buses to reduce car congestion and more police officers to deal with those that do not follow the rules.”
“Over the course of the pandemic, Stirling Council has worked closely with National Park authorities and local communities to help ease the pressures that tourism can bring.
“International and domestic tourism play vital roles in supporting Stirling’s rural communities, and proper management is key to ensure the benefits are felt widely.
“As your MSP, I’d work with local authorities and stakeholders to ensure existing regulations around parking and dirty camping are enforced, and rural communities have a voice in future tourism infrastructure investment.
“If re-elected, the SNP Scottish Government will maintain investment of £6.2 million per year in the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, backing this up with a further investment of £1 million in a Seasonal Ranger scheme.
“It’s important we capitalise on the strength of our rural tourism offer to boost recovery from Covid-19, in a sustainable way that ensures our natural beauty and rural communities remain welcoming for future visitors to experience and enjoy.”
With drug deaths in Scotland, and in Stirling, on the rise what needs to change in order to tackle that increase and substance abuse issues in general as well as the consequences on society, individuals and families at local level?
“The drugs deaths crisis in Scotland is not only a human tragedy but a national disgrace. There have been too many excuses and fourteen years of failure from the SNP Government, with drug treatment funding lower now than it was a decade ago.
“An approach is needed that supports the use of public health interventions such as safe consumption facilities to prevent overdoses and save lives. The resources of the police and criminal justice system must also be focused on preventing the supply of drugs in Scotland’s communities and ensuring vulnerable drug users are not exposed to unnecessary court action.
“Given the scale of the crisis, there is also a need to deliver improvements in treatment options and the availability of same-day treatment for those who need help with substance misuse. This is a crisis rooted in poverty and inequality; if we cannot tackle basic social injustices, what does that say about us as a nation? If you want urgent and decisive action, you must vote for it on Thursday by casting both votes for Scottish Labour. “
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats will reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution.
“We will take radical steps to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces. We will establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach for drug offences.
“Our plan is for people caught in possession of drugs for personal use to be diverted into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment. This will build on the agreement brokered by Liberal Democrats in the last week of the last parliamentary session.
“Protecting and enhancing drug and alcohol partnership budgets, we will adopt the principle that families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol. We will help people keep their homes and tenancies while they undergo treatment and rehabilitation.”
“Drug deaths in Scotland are tragically the worst in Europe and at an all-time high. This is devastating for the families involved and a shocking failure by the SNP to address this massive problem. They have been in power for 14 years and have full powers in this area.
“Earlier this month, Nicola Sturgeon personally admitted that she had taken her ‘eye off the ball’’ on this tragic loss of life. That is an appalling admission.
“The Scottish Conservatives are proposing a package of comprehensive measures to address the drug death crisis and substance abuse.
“We want to see the right to access residential rehabilitation services enshrined in law to ensure everyone in need can no longer be denied treatment. This would include producing national standards and referral guidance to increase the accessibility of rehabilitation programmes and a dedicated national fund to fix the current broken system.”
“Each death from harmful substances is a senseless loss of life, leaving behind a broken-hearted family and friend network. Whilst the Stirling area is in no way the worst affected, any number of deaths is too many and my heart goes out to those who grieve the loss of someone taken before their time.
“We need to learn the lessons of the past few decades. The criminalising war on drug use hasn’t worked. Having spoken with officials on this matter, I know that many of those who have sadly died have been long term users who just needed some help and support instead of the threat of arrest or prosecution. Safe consumption rooms is one of many possible options we should explore to help support drug users, instead of vilifying them.
“If re-elected, an SNP government will invest £250 million over the next five years to tackle the country’s drugs death emergency. This will be aimed at tackling drug usage as a public health issue on a community based level.”
Tell us why you have the right qualities to be the next constituency MSP for Stirling?
“I understand what’s important across this constituency because I live here, I work here, I was born here and I’m raising my family here. I have a track record of delivering resources and creating opportunities for communities and I’m ready to do more as your MSP across the constituency.
“The Labour movement has always addressed the problems in front of us with the tools available at the time we are called to act. As we emerge from Covid-19, we need a National Recovery. From the first day I walk into parliament I’ll get to work fixing real problems, not reworking the old, tired and divisive arguments that have defined our politics for far too long.
“I promise to be an MSP who’ll work hard for everybody. But I need your help to get there. If you want to prioritise a national recovery and elect an MSP who will be a champion for all of Stirling’s communities, you must cast your constituency vote for Chris Kane and your party vote for Scottish Labour.”
“We must put recovery first. The pandemic has torn through our lives. Thousands of people have died or suffered serious illness. Young people have lost out on education and career opportunities. People have waited longer for hospital treatment. Businesses are struggling to pay their bills. We owe it to the nation to put recovery first.
“As your MSP I will put those divisive independence arguments behind us and focus on the real issues that matter to residents.
“We will help education bounce back, enabling children reach their full potential. We will tackle the physical and mental health crises, with extra resources to catch up and reduce waiting times. We will give urgent support to high streets and hospitality businesses in their hour of need. We will give new training grants to help people change career. We will take ambitious steps to tackle the climate emergency. If you think we should put recovery first, cast both your votes for Scottish Liberal Democrats.”
“People should expect their elected representatives to have wider experience. There are far too many ‘career politicians’ who have not had a job outside of politics. Being Dad to two teenagers also ensures both feet stay firmly on the ground.
“Before being elected as an MSP in 2016, I worked in business for over 20 years around the world. I used this experience as a member of the Economy and Finance Committee and as chair of the Parliamentary United States group helping to promote business, trade and education connections.
“I am passionate about Scotland having world-class public services. I want to see our education standards restored and NHS waiting times cut after 14 years of decline under the SNP. We also need far better local transport solutions. An end to the constant division we now have in Scotland is vital so we can concentrate on our economy, services and environment.”
“This pandemic has shone a light on where we need to be better as a society. Again, we’re finding that those who are suffering the most are those who have the least to lose. Having represented the Trossachs and Teith ward on Stirling Council since 2017, I’ve worked closely with disadvantaged families and individuals in our communities and have a deep understanding of the challenges they face.
“Before entering into elected politics, I worked in housing. I am passionate about ensuring that people have good quality homes to live in. To me, that’s a basic human right. That’s why I’ve spent the past 4 years as Housing Convener on the Council, overseeing hundreds of affordable homes being build across the Stirling area.
“I have a close working relationship with many in the local business community. I’m here to support the success of businesses across Stirling, and this will be important as we grow our way out of the economic hardship the pandemic has created. Jobs creation sits at the top of my list of things to do for Stirling. I have the experience and the drive for the area to help make that happen.”