Thomas Kerr is a councillor for Shettleston in Glasgow.
Eight months ago, I was elected as the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Councillor for Shettleston. In some parts of my ward, I was the first Conservative representative since 1918. I stood because I felt a sense of duty and public service. Shettleston isn’t just a ward to me: it is my community, and my job is now to best represent the area that I grew up in. Across Scotland, there are now 276 elected Scottish Conservative councillors representing their local areas – that’s up a massive 164 seats from 2012.
I’m proud to represent a ward which is so diverse, Shettleston is a community which faces a number of challenges. However, it has so much potential. The area has faced years of neglect from both establishment parties in Scotland, and that is why I was elected.
It remains one of the most deprived areas in Scotland – so is no wonder that local people wanted something different, and a fresh start. Growing up in the area, I know that many of them feel let down and disappointed in politicians from all parties. With my background, it would have been easy to say b*gger it – I’m going to do nothing (and I don’t blame other people who have done precisely that). But the message I take to my ward is: while I understand the frustration, don’t give up hope. The SNP and Labour offer nothing for it: they’d rather it stayed as it is, but that is not my way, or our party’s way. Only we, the Conservatives, offer something different for Shettleston, and people are seeing that.
In Glasgow, we have an SNP minority administration forced by the electorate to rein in their egos and work across the council chamber with other parties. Labour ran Glasgow into the ground: for 40 years it had power in my city, and uncontrolled power leads to out of control leadership. Holding the SNP administration to account is our focus, and with new blood and new ideas we’re actively contributing to efforts to reform our local authority. While my job locally is to hold surgeries, listen to constituents and attend community events in the chambers, my job along with my seven colleagues is holding the SNP to account.
Our job in doing so is more important than ever. This is an administration which does not have Glasgow’s back – it has Nicola Sturgeon’s. No more was this true than a few weeks ago, when Derek Mackay, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, managed to miscalculate Glasgow’s budget by £5 million, and decreed that we would lose this additional money. And where was our council leader; was she fighting our corner? Or asking for this money back? No: instead she welcomed Mackay’s budget, saying “there is a great deal for Glasgow to welcome in this budget” – one which saw ordinary hard-working Glaswegians pay more tax for fewer services: the price of SNP Government.
While the administration’s loyalty is to the SNP, our loyalty is to Glasgow. That’s why Conservative Councillors on Glasgow City Council are continuing to hold this SNP administration to account, following in the footsteps of our MSP group in Holyrood. Our job as Conservatives is to show our local communities that we have their back and that we are fighting their corner – and I hope that Shettleston believes I am doing that for them.
Throughout Scotland, we now have councillors elected in places we never had before and representatives in every community – from Caithness and Sutherland to Motherwell and Wishaw we have superb local voices fighting for their communities. Throughout Scotland, our council groups are being made up of people from all different backgrounds, and no longer can we be seen as a party of and for elites We’re party which shows the diversity of Scotland. Under Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives are reflecting the diversity of Scotland like never before.
Our party has come a long way in Scotland under the leadership of both Ruth and Theresa May. Last June, in the rest of the UK, we didn’t get the result we wanted we did make huge gains. Look at Ben Bradley in Mansfield, or Trudy Harrison holding onto Copeland. Look at the picture nationally, and the share of the votes that changed. Look at the fact that we had the highest vote share since the mid-1980s, and gained an extra two million votes in just two years. Take my own seat in Glasgow East: we went from losing our deposit in 2010 to getting six per cent in 2015, and then 18.8 per cent in 2017. It’s easy for us to look at the negatives of the campaign but, under Theresa, we have seen huge progress and I have no doubt that as we see her shine more, as we unite more and as the country sees Jeremy Corbyn for what he is we will be on a road to recovery that is unstoppable.
So my message today as a 21 year old Shettleston Councillor is this: let’s unite and stand firm in our beliefs, because what we stand for is what the majority of this country also believes. If we can all unite behind Theresa as those of us in Scotland are united behind Ruth, then our party can be unstoppable. In Glasgow, we’ll continue to call out the hypocrisy of Labour and the broken promises of the SNP. I’ll finish with this: none months on I’m still as fired up and ready to go as I was last May – and it’s time our party got back in the ring and delivered a knockout blow to both Corbyn in Westminster and Sturgeon in Holyrood.