Following the elections the people of Stirling have given Stirling Council no clear line of control. With 8 SNP Councillors, 7 Scottish Conservative Councillors, 6 Labour Councillors, 1 Green and 1 Independent, there is no clear way through for someone to take charge.
In my mind, though, the domineering ways of a Council Leader who commands a majority where everything is decided in the shadowy world of group meetings closed to the public was poor. It is in the past now and in the past it must remain.
A new way of working is needed, where we can discuss issues openly, democratically and in full view of the people of Stirling.
Imagine for a second if the waste collection policy had been openly discussed from its inception. If the people had been told that the Council was considering this, if early stages of the policy had been scrutinised at committee. Would it have happened? Frankly, no; because the fact is that by having open questions and debate the obvious holes in the policy would have been spotted. Reasonable politicians, acting reasonably, would never have agreed to such a retrograde policy.
And it is the spirit of reasonableness that we need to harness here in Stirling.
The concept of Local Councils as a forum for debate, discussion and decisions to be reached in an open and honest way is why I wanted to be a Councillor in the first place. I wrote my admittedly poor dissertation on the subject at University and joined Stirling Council at the tender age of 25. The youthful naivety of hoping that decisions could be reached cooperatively and through the building of consensus has never left me.
The numbers on Stirling Council are an opportunity. They are an opportunity to undertake a new way of working, to realise the vision of a Council that takes into account all opinion, even those that I disagree with.
Today Stirling Council made it’s appointments. I am very proud to have nominated and seen elected the first Scottish Conservative & Unionist Provost since Stirling Council was founded in 1996. Douglas Dodds is an accomplished man who will represent Stirling well and I trust his instincts entirely to chair the Council meetings and to be the public face of our City and District.
This is a landmark moment for our party and for Stirling.
I was also proud to vote for Chris Kane as leader of Stirling Council. He is someone I have known for many years and I would never doubt his commitment to Stirling and it’s people. He is a Labour Councillor, but also was the best person to do the job given the numbers on the Council.
Our agreement to support them allowed Scottish Conservatives to take key positions at the Council, especially the chairmanship of the Planning panel, which I will do and the Convenorship of the Public Safety committee which Bryan Flannagan will do.
The main point, however, is that for the Labour administration to work they will need to build a consensus across the chamber. They will need to justify themselves both to the other councillors and to the people of Stirling. They have a great deal of work to do to justify the confidence that has been shown in them and will have to work constructively to get anything done.
The numbers mean that this is the best option. No more coalitions. Just Councillors who are willing to leave the politics at the door and solve the problems that the people of Stirling have sent us here to solve.
We have made no policy commitments to the Labour Party and they have made no policy commitments to them. We will be working to get our manifesto commitments through, not least on the issue of waste collection which was a major part of our campaign. We will be open minded on everything else and on the commitments that others have made. That is no concession to us as we have always had that mindset in the past.
Needless to say this is being portrayed by the SNP in their own vituperative way. The SNP leader, smarting from not being appointed as Council leader, has accused both Chris Kane and I of all sorts, not least forming a new coalition. Nothing could be further from the truth. The door is open for him to walk through and take his rightful place as part of a new way of doing things. SNP leader, Scott Farmer, is someone I have known for many years and have a great deal of respect for.
Nothing more is called for than openness to each other’s ideas. Scottish Conservative Councillors will be Scottish Conservatives and we will pursue our agenda. I expect everyone else will act in the same way. But we can and we must do so without rancour and with an open mind. The people of Stirling expect this and we must deliver.