Stuart McLuckie is our candidate for Bannockburn Ward
Stuart is a 2020 graduate from the University of Stirling, achieving a 1st Class degree in BA Business Law. He currently lives in Plean and has experience in freelance writing and public sector administration. Stuart wants to invest in Stirling’s youth and encourage growth & restoration in Bannockburn’s town centre and villages.
These past few years have been extremely challenging for Scotland’s youth. Between lockdown, social distancing and the resultant economic shocks that have hit Stirling, it is of no surprise that many young people, myself included, have felt increasingly isolated, disenfranchised and a sense that our future has been ripped away from us.
It does not have to be this way.
The upcoming local elections on 5th May 2022 can be the perfect opportunity for councils throughout Scotland to restore hope and optimism within our young people. I hope to outline just some of the policies the Stirling Conservatives will implement to reinvest in our future generations who are currently finding it so difficult to take their first steps into a forever changed world.
Toddlers and Children: Early Years Care, Primary Education and Spaces to Explore
The pandemic turned early years care and primary school education completely on its head. Parents found themselves juggling online teaching alongside working and parenting from home, with children missing out on key periods of socialisation, play and learning. It is more necessary than ever before to get early years provision right to give both hard-working parents and their children some well-deserved support!
REFORMING NURSERY PROVISION
The Stirling Conservatives will immediately review the eligible period in which children receive their nursery education. In Stirling, this provision currently kicks in for a child at the next academic term after they turn 3 years old. This is unfair, as this means that some children may receive less early years care simply due to a bureaucratic timetable. We would remedy this by adopting Glasgow’s provision rules, where nursery care immediately begins when a child turns 3. This will drastically improve access to early years care, giving parents some much needed breathing room to fully provide for their families!
BETTER PRIMARY EDUCATION
My own experiences in primary school (2001 - 2008) have taught me that these crucial years can either propel a child’s success or compound their failures when they reach high school. The Stirling Conservatives want to make sure that primary school pupils receive the best possible education and have wider support networks for them to explore their passions and improve their learning. We will seek to rigorously improve performance at schools that are following behind and instate free 1-1 tuition for the pupils who most need it. For too long, good education has only been accessible if parents have enough money and come from the right postcode. Our plans for primary schools will ensure that ALL areas of Stirling have access to high quality teaching and bespoke learning for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
MAKING PLAY SAFE AGAIN
The Stirling Conservatives would also seek to restore many of Stirling’s outdoor play areas and community centres. No parent ever wants to bring their child to a rusted, outdoor play area or take their child to a rundown community centre for clubs and hobby groups if they can help it. We pledge to tidy up our play parks and jig up our community centres to make play and hobby time safer again!
Teenagers: Secondary Education, Building a Brighter Future and More Pathways To Work
Being a teenager can either be an exciting or troubling time for many. During my time at high school (2008 - 2013), I felt that I was offered very little direction in exploring future opportunities, had no awareness of community projects or groups which could have helped me grow and found very little support for when I was going through rough times.
If there were just a few safety nets for me growing up, I could have performed better in classes, maintained better mental health and obtained the skills and experiences necessary to get summer jobs and find a suitable career path much sooner. The Stirling Conservatives want to make sure that teens growing up in Stirling have access to support I never had and will never have to face the things that set me back.
SECONDARY SCHOOL SUPPORT NETWORKS
High school can be a very high-stress environment for many pupils, which can negatively impact their mental health, underperform at school, self-harm or engage in antisocial and criminal behaviour.
The Stirling Conservatives believe that prevention is better than the cure for these problems, which is why we intend to cooperate with charities and teachers to construct an early-intervention support structure. This will help teenagers who are at risk of educational failure or potentially slipping into the criminal justice system later in life. This support network will be comprehensive and multi-layered, allowing them to fully identify the problems in their life and be given the tools and help necessary to tackle them in a positive and constructive manner.
MOULDING THE CITIZENS OF A BETTER TOMORROW
Nowadays, I have noticed that more young people are taking an active interest in many of the hot-topic issues which our country faces today. The declaration of a climate emergency, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and other major issues have already motivated many of Stirling’s young people to take direct action themselves and become part of the solution.
However, it can be difficult to discover the best ways to take positive action, especially when many community groups and local charities who directly deal with some of these issues do not get enough exposure or volunteers.
The Stirling Conservatives will implement plans to help high school pupils engage more with local charities, heritage trusts, environmental preservation groups and other community organisations. We believe that this will not only help teenagers grow and gain new skills, but will also highlight that contributing in their local areas can still have a massive impact and encourage them to adopt a greater sense of belonging and responsibility within their communities.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO SUCCESS
When I was at school, subjects like woodworking, home economics and sports were considered “skive” classes, simply because they weren’t as academically rigorous as other subjects. However, many vital job vacancies in today’s economy actually require the skill sets these subjects pass on to pupils. I want to play my part in getting rid of the stigma pupils face when choosing more practical subjects and bring more opportunities to explore future careers in these fields.
To do this, the Stirling Conservatives will urge high schools to invite local businesses and tradesmen for talks at assemblies, promote apprenticeship programmes and hold future careers fairs for pupils to understand that there is more to success than just going into further education.
That being said, our party will still commit the same degree of attention and commitment to highly academic students. We will also encourage them to consider high-skills apprenticeships and promote scholarship programmes, particularly focussing on gifted students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
We aim to work with Stirling University, Forth Valley College, the third sector, private providers and the JobCentre to make sure teens of all aptitudes and aspirations can achieve the best possible success when they leave school.
Young Adults: Making Stirling a City for the Future
Stirling is currently experiencing a youth retention crisis. With increasing house prices, unbearable living costs and a general lack of long-term career prospects in Stirling, it is no wonder that the only young people who consistently stick around are the student population. Today's young people in Stirling have to move to cheaper areas such as Falkirk, Lanarkshire and Clackmannanshire just to affordably rent a place to live.
Stirling must retain its young and professional population; they contribute significantly to the Council’s budget and without them, many other services within the Council begin to wither and collapse due to underinvestment and budget cuts.
For the past 5 years, the Labour/SNP administration put all of Stirling’s eggs into the tourism and retail baskets, both of which were devastated during lockdown. These are also sectors which cannot fully support the high-skilled and youth population. With over 15 years of collective SNP/Labour domination within Stirling Council, it is clear that no other party except the Stirling Conservatives are serious about resolving these issues once and for all.
A NEW AGE FOR STIRLING’S ECONOMY
The young people of Stirling need more than just tourism and retail to stick around in Stirling. We seriously lack diversification in many professional, technological and manufacturing sectors. Because of this, many young people have to instead move and work near Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen to have any chance of beginning their careers. There is absolutely no reason Stirling can’t be the powerhouse of Mid-Scotland and compete on the same level as Scotland’s other major cities for investment and jobs.
The Stirling Conservatives pledge to completely re-evaluate Stirling Council’s current economic strategy to ensure that we attract a wider range of investment from businesses in other sectors. This will subsequently create high paying and long-term jobs for university graduates, school leavers and newly-qualified apprentices alike.
ADDRESSING STIRLING’S AFFORDABLE HOUSING SHORTAGE
For years, many young people have been convinced that voting Labour and the SNP was the solution against rising house prices and for creating more social housing. Between the joint Labour/SNP administration in Stirling and an SNP/Green coalition in the Scottish Government, they have all had enough power and time to resolve these issues and have completely failed.
A Conservative-led Stirling Council will address the housing problem by aggregating data on private rents and house prices in Stirling (which the Labour/SNP administration have not even bothered doing). This will be the first step in properly designing a comprehensive and up-to-date housing strategy going forward. Our general goals will be to increase the number and improve the quality of council housing, primarily serving the needs of local young people and families from lower income backgrounds.
We will also use our influence to demand that new private housing developments will increase the number of genuinely affordable housing for first-time buyers. On top of this, we will also use community feedback to demand that developers include specific plans to provide built-to-last infrastructure, which would reasonably support the growing populations within our city, town and village centres. This will not only give young people more opportunities to own their own home, but the provision of more local infrastructure will grant them better access to reliable transport links and provide more local job prospects.
REDUCING THE IMPACT OF THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS
It is not enough for young people to afford to move into a new home; they must also have enough money to actually live in it. The current Labour/SNP administration in Stirling have spent the past 5 years charging fees for originally free Council services and actively cutting Council services, all the while hiking Stirling’s Council Tax rates. This is unacceptable, unsustainable and is another form of austerity that they have imposed on the young people of Stirling. It is this austerity that the Stirling Conservatives have actively fought against since day 1 and we will seek to abolish it upon winning the administration of Stirling Council.
The Stirling Conservatives’ pledge to hold Council Tax bills down as long as possible and ensure that any increases in Council Tax will properly accommodate the current costs of living, as opposed to the scattergun tax-and-cut approach of current Labour/SNP policy. With help from our partners in the third sector, we also want to provide additional financial support structures to help young residents cope with rising financial pressures and give them the ability to better weather the current economic crisis.
AWARDING YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS AND RESKILLING
The Stirling Conservatives are the party of enterprise and are extremely proud when we see Scotland’s young people creating new businesses, providing innovative products or honing new skills to aid them in future careers.
We want to support young people with ambition by introducing more competitive business rates, which will encourage a vast revival of many of our town and village centres. We also want to sponsor and support reskilling programmes for many young people who have been left behind by a rapidly changing labour market. We must end the stigma and anxiety surrounding reskilling and ensure that our ambitious young people will receive the best support possible from Stirling Council.
Give the Stirling Conservatives your Support on 5th May 2022!
If you thoroughly agree with our ambitious plans for Stirling’s youth, as well as our other policies outlined within our manifesto, please consider putting a “1” next to your Stirling Conservative candidate.
It is apparent that the stale and ageing policies from legacy politicians within the SNP and Labour have failed over the past 15 years.
Vote 1 instead for a more fresh, vibrant and youthful alternative in the form of the Stirling Conservatives on 05/05/2022!