Cllr Neil Benny is the Deputy Leader of Stirling Council.
Stirling is Scotland’s only city that has an element of Conservative control. We have an SNP opposition and a Conservative / Labour coalition (Nine SNP, eight Labour, one Green Party, and four Conservatives). I am Deputy Leader of the Council as well as Finance Convenor – and Conservatives control Education and Public Safety Committees.
The Labour Party reached a high water mark in 2012, getting a higher percentage of the vote than they have since. The Conservatives overtook them at the Scottish Parliament elections last year and we are clearly ahead of them as the main unionist party. Ruth Davidson is fantastically popular across Scotland and in Stirling too.
The SNP locally have been popular, holding both Scottish Parliamentary seats that cover the area and the Westminster seat. Our SNP Councillors fill their days campaigning for separatism, rather than caring about things like schools, roads or regeneration. Stirling does not favour the SNP’s main agenda. 60 per cent of the people voted against independence.
So it looks like a good picture for Conservatives in Stirling. We have genuine hopes of taking control of the Council and to be the lead party in a new administration. I was only 15 years old when we last controlled Stirling Council and I believe it is an achievable goal today.
The big policy agenda for the next few years in Stirling has already been started on. Philip Hammond’s autumn statement contained a commitment to a city region deal for Stirling. It is Conservatives that made this commitment and a Conservative controlled Council would be best placed to deliver it.
The City Region deal has projects that will regenerate some of the poorest and physically run-down areas of Stirling. It also has new parks that will improve the quality of life and attract new visitors. The Digital District in our city centre will bring new businesses and jobs in the digital economy.
Beyond the City Region Deal we have great plans for a new focus on road investment and getting basic services delivered effectively. We want to deregulate to help our businesses and our high streets evolve. We need our social services to be funded adequately and deliver care for those who need it, especially in rural Stirling where it is difficult to find a care worker. We need internet connectivity and mobile phone signals to improve throughout our area. (Stirling Council is the same size as Luxemburg.)
We have a positive vision for a Council that focuses on services for today and keeps an eye on the future. We have a vision for a Stirling that is well served for citizens and businesses alike, and has a future with a diverse economy, strong public services and a great quality of life.
With Conservatives running the show in Stirling, we would have a great future ahead of us.