Sun 27 Nov, 2016

This September, I had the honour to be selected as the Green local council candidate for Southside Central in Glasgow.

The autumn months have been my chance to get my bearings before the local election campaign properly kicks off in the New Year. Learning about the area I’m standing to represent, and getting to know the people who live there, are probably the most important tasks for me over the coming months. 

The flipside of this is getting to grips with the political and bureaucratic processes that take place inside the walls of the Glasgow City Chambers. In my day job, I am a chronic pain physiotherapist with the NHS, so my work may seem far removed from the hard and fast world of politics. My days are spent trying to find practical solutions to the needs of my patients rather than debating ideas and policies with rival parties.

Seeing the effect of political decisions on people’s health is what made me want to run for council and to be a part of the debates and decisions that take place at local government level. This means that I need to get to grips with the structure, dynamics, procedures and tricks of council politics as fast as possible.

Back in October, I went along to the ‘full council’ meeting at the City Chambers to properly kick-off my learning process and to see what the issues on the table were. As this is the one meeting that all councillors attend, I thought it would be where all the action happens; a place for heated debate and decision-making. 

The big question seemed to be transport, with councillors debating the proposal to use Glasgow City Deal funding to construct a direct rail link to Glasgow airport. The project has been in the pipeline for years, and has caused friction with concerns over rising costs in particular. 

Our Green councillors used the opportunity to get the Crossrail scheme back on the agenda by submitting an amendment to the airport link proposal. This was an amendment that proposes to use Glasgow City Deal money to connect Glasgow across both sides of the river by rail. 

If carried out, the scheme would make it much easier and quicker for Southsiders in particular to connect to the rest of the city and the country. It’s a practical, affordable proposal which could make travel much easier for many. While a quick link to the airport may bring some benefits, improving links within the city for everyday commuters should be higher up on the list of priorities.

The transport motion passed and the remainder of the three-hour full council session was spent commending various campaigns for their good work. Councillors praised the MacMillan´s excellent work to improve the cancer journey in Glasgow, and discussed ways of supporting the brilliant TIE campaign for LGBT+ inclusive education as well as the Who Cares Scotland ‘Thousand Voices’ campaign for care experienced young people. 

While it was nice to see cross-party support for such good initiatives, the time spent on these motions meant that only four of ten proposed motions were heard. Motions on key issues such as community justice and the attainment gap, as well as a cycling motion by Green councillor Kieran Wild had to be pushed aside. I left slightly confused as to how it had taken three hours to pass four motions that the councillors all agreed on. What happens when there is disagreement?

I then found out that in a smaller executive committee meeting in the morning, the Labour councillors had voted to privatise the council’s IT service: anathema to any Green. 
Call me naïve, but it seems wrong that this incredibly important decision was taken by a small number, when our communities have elected nearly 80 councillors to look after their interests. 

Green politics to me is about working for a truly democratic, equal and inclusive society, where politicians aren’t afraid to make radical changes where they’re needed. The Green MSPs are already pushing the Scottish Government out of its comfort zone by working for council tax reform and radical local democracy. I hope that we can take the same bold approach at council level, and deliver a system that really works for the people and the commong good. 

Cass Macgregor is an NHS physiotherapist and the Scottish Green Party candidate for Glasgow's Southside Central ward in the local authority election in 2017. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for more updates from the campaign trail. 


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