As we move on towards the end of another year as ever here at Stirling SNP it is time to reflect on the year that was.
It has been a year of mixed fortunes with some significant gains but also losses and we should not shy away from examining them. We have picked out some highlights and lowlights of our year here but if you want to see ALL this year’s news just scroll through these 2017 posts.
Our campaigning with the 2017 council elections had already started when the SNP Council group highlighted the failure of the existing Tory/Labour Stirling Council administration to meet the budget they set themselves at the same time as pushing through cuts to social care in the order of £700K. In the Westminster Parliament, SNP MP Steven Paterson raised the question of transparency surrounding nuclear weapons reliability and safety when it was revealed in the US that a Trident missile test had failed off the coast of Florida and was only learned about in the UK when a report appeared on CNN. Steven also accused the UK Government of political cowardice and contradicting the promise made during the 2014 Independence Referendum when it was stated that the UK was a family of nations with an equal say….clearly not the case any longer with Brexit taking place against Scotland’s wishes. Continuing to stand up for Scotland’s interests the SNP group in Westminster notably opposed the hard Brexit plans of the UK Government while Labour shamefully abstained.
Organised by our friends at Stirling University, SUSNA, the constituency was pleased to receive a visit by Alex Salmond who came to talk about Europe at the University. It was an entertaining and enlightening talk by the former SNP party leader and First Minister, in front of a packed “house”. At the branch we had a talk by Paul Daly of Amnesty International and their role in lobbying both the Scottish and UK Governments. In February to the relief of all the Tory/Labour plan to privatise Stirling Council’s sports services were halted following intense lobbying and negotiation by the Stirling SNP group and supported by much public anger to the proposals. We also welcomed the rejection of an appeal to the Scottish Government for planning approval to recommence quarrying on Gillies Hill A campaign strongly supported by Steven Paterson MP, Bruce Crawford MSP and the entire SNP Council Group .
With the Council elections looming we announced our candidates for the Stirling and Bannockburn wards and it was notable that we put up a gender-balanced list of candidates. We also pointed out how important it was to register to vote for elections and if you are not going to be around during an election or think you can make it on the day, to make sure your views count with a postal vote. This would turn out to be sage advice come the GE of 2017.
At the March branch meeting we had the company of Ann Hall who came to seek branch support for a resolution at conference called A Scottish Model of Legislation for Prostitution. Our MP and MSP also continued to press for Scotland’s voice to be heard in decisions about its future in view of Brexit. At Conference our very own Morag Fulton made her maiden speech and what a great job she did as she commenced her campaign for election to Stirling Council. In April we also launched our Council Manifesto and highlighted our Manifesto for Youth. We also learned of Theresa May’s decision to call a snap General Election to get “Strong and Stable” leadership towards Brexit. The Branch was by now in full campaign mode with both a council and General Election to fight. The 4th of May seen the Council elections and as a result of the STV ( Single Transferrable Vote) system Stirling SNP ended up with 9 councillors, some of them our new female candidates in particular from City of Stirling Branch we have Susan McGill, and Alison Laurie, joining Jim Thomson, and Scott Farmer who is now Council Leader in a council led by the SNP and supported by the Labour group. Sadly though we lost Gerry McLaughlan from the group, but the council groups loss was to be our gain as Gerry became Branch Convener in September.
Soon after the Council elections some digging on Twitter by an observant follower of local politics revealed the ugly (uglier?) side of Tory politics when a number of racist, offensive and abusive tweets made by two recently elected Stirling Councillors, Alastair Majury and Robert Davies were circulated. There have been countless paragraphs wasted on this pair since, with Davies standing down from the Tories and now sitting as an Independent on the Council while Majury was welcomed back to the warmth of the Tory bosom.
It is interesting to note that just before the election we highlighted the campaign by SNP MP’s generally and Steven Paterson included on the subject of VAT payments by emergency services. This would come up again later in the year.
With no pause for breath we were then onto the UK General Campaign and despite a 10,000 vote majority at the last GE we knew locally that we had a fight on our hands with the Unionist vote coalescing around Tory candidates here as in other Scottish Constituencies, with them campaigning on the Union and opposition to Independence instead of actual meaningful policies here in Scotland. As a result, as we are all aware, this opened the door to 13 Tory Candidates taking seats from SNP MP’s and the rather bizarre result that Scotland, which in the last 30 years or so has largely rid itself of Tories, suddenly was keeping the Tories in power south of the border. Without these 13 seats, the minority Tories would have been unable to form a Government supported by the DUP! Here in Stirling we lost our MP, Steven Paterson by a difference of less than 150 votes to Tory Stephen Kerr. It was not so much a case of our voters turning elsewhere, the foul weather on election day keeping many supporters in, and dare we say perhaps a little complacency as well as political weariness in the electorate that with a previous large majority “it would be OK on the day”. However this was to ignore the large Tory turn out made by the use of Postal voting which is much favoured as a means to getting their older vote out. In 2018 and on we need to be persuading more of our voters to use Postal voting to ensure we maximise our turnout.
Despite this loss we have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. We had an uplifting visit to the Branch in July from well know commentator Paul Kavanagh also known by the moniker “Wee Ginger Dug”. Our MSP Bruce Crawford has kept Scotland’s interests view at Holyrood supporting the view that was also raised by Steven Paterson in Westminster, that the tourism industry that is so strong in Stirling be given some VAT relief along with the Emergency Service VAT issue. In July we also highlighted the emerging problems being seen with the rollout of Universal Credit in the area. Our councillors and MSP have continued to campaign on issues as diverse as tourism, agriculture, Brexit, the Stirling Region City Deal, the Babcock and RBS closure announcements and many other local issues such as Fracking.
Sadly we lost one of our local activists Pam Jackson in September after a battle of many months against Cancer. Before she passed away Pam opened a fund to raise money for children in Rwanda and Congo. The appeal is ongoing and you can still donate. Pam was very interested in overseas development and support and went out to the Greek Islands during the peak of the refugee crisis to assist with helping people escaping the war in Syria.
In October we had a talk at branch by Cameron Archibald on the pitfalls of GERS which was very interesting and raised a lot of debate.
In October too we had a revamp of our branch website, and at the same time Steven Paterson became a regular contributor with his weekly comment column which has become very popular with our followers and keeps a close eye on happenings at Westminster and what our local Tory MP Stephen Kerr is doing, or more appropriately isn’t doing for Scotland.
In October the London School of Economics showed the real pain that will be felt by a hard Brexit, at least someone is doing the research, more than the UK Government! Our campaign against the rollout problems of Universal Credit continued and we held a successful march and rally in Stirling. The SNP is not itself opposed to UC but the way the transition is administered for users needs to be improved drastically to prevent the real hardship felt by many who can be cut off from any income for lengthy periods.
We also seen the Tory party crow about their U-turn on VAT for the Emergency services, something that was long overdue and had been raised by SNP MPs in Westminster over 100 times yet never by them in Parliament. Somehow we are to believe this is a result of the 13 Tory MPs from Scotland who said nothing and in many cases openly voiced opposition to the SNP campaign. We have yet to see the return of the £140 Million paid by Scottish Police and Fire and Rescue.
Locally we welcomed the topping out of Stirling’s new Care Village at the former site of Stirling Infirmary, Scottish Government funding towards Superfast Broadband rollout and further talks on the Stirling Region City Deal.
Looking forward to 2018, we have more great speakers in the pipeline for Branch meetings which start back on the 10th January. Keep an eye on our Calendar function for upcoming events both directly and indirectly related to the branch and local campaigns. If you have anything of this nature you want to be publicised get in touch with the comms team here at City of Stirling SNP and subscribe to our posts.
All that remains now is to wish all our followers a very Happy New Year when it comes, thanks to all our branch activists and supporters for all your hard work in the last year, while we have no scheduled elections this year we must always be ready for local bye-elections at council level and at UK level the possible collapse of the minority Tory administration .
Please keep a look out for the old and infirm during this period of cold weather.
All the best from the City of Stirling SNP!