As 2021 draws to a close I want to reflect on some of my defining experiences as a ward councillor these past four-and-a-half years in our wonderful but often challenging city

I was elected to serve the people of the Canal Ward in 2017. It’s an area I grew up in and know very well. But perhaps not as much as I believed I did. You are exposed to things often hidden from view, or worse still, ignored by many when you are there to represent the community. The levels of poverty I witnessed across my communities and the challenges that vulnerable families face was a little overwhelming.   

Glasgow Times:

During the summer months that year, I made it a priority to get to know the ward better, attending a lot of community events and visiting grassroots groups. Poverty can be hidden but it can also be there in plain sight - in the faces of the children, their clothing, even down to how they carry themselves.  Some mums asked me about the availability of food parcels and financial support as feeding their children during the school holiday periods was a real struggle. Many families relied on free school meals during term time, but providing access to food for their children during the long summer months, something so many of us just take for granted was a problem

Meeting families at these events for the first time as a councillor reminded me of my own childhood in the 1970s when poverty was much more visible and families struggled to feed their own children.  To be in a similar place in 2017 was striking. Why were the problems of the 1970s still rife in our communities so many years on? The explanations for generational poverty are complex and run deep. So many within our communities were left behind when heavy industries shut up. A decade of Tory austerity and ideological attacks on the poorest heaped on the misery to a new generation. But part of the answer also lies is in the decades of neglect of the people in the north of Glasgow, and indeed across the city, and the abandonment of neighbourhoods by those in charge of our city. The people of North Glasgow bore the brunt of poor decisions by Labour City Councils right up until recently.  They took the votes for granted and didn’t even have a plan to respond when Thatcher ripped Scotland apart in the 1980s. It is the very reason why I decided to become a councillor. 

Back again in 2017 I spoke with a local football coach who told me that children were sometimes smaller and thinner on their return to football training after the summer holidays compared to those from more affluent areas.  This simply isn’t right, and while I’m here as a councillor I will do all I can to help bring forward changes needed to address this. 

To that end, in our very first budget, the SNP administration prioritised tackling child poverty and delivered the city-wide holiday food programme, combating the ill effects suffered by too many due to the lack of nutritional food over the summer months. There was such a clear and obvious need you’ve to ask why, after decades in power, Labour never addressed it and the SNP did from the off.  We followed this up with the extension of free school meals for Primary 4 in Glasgow, something now being rolled out nationally. And we have lead the way and increased school clothing grants.

There is more to do and I intend to keep doing it.  As we continue to address the rising poverty levels brought on by Universal Credit, Bedroom Tax, Covid and the decisions of a cruel UK Conservative Government more interested in parties and Peppa Pig stories than our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, I will do all in my power for the people of the Canal Ward. They are my key priority as a councillor.

But there is of course the bigger picture. The Scottish Government is forced to use our very limited finances to mitigate the disastrous policies of Boris and his millionaire Tory cronies.  Scotland needs to prosper, to set its own agendas, to raise its own revenues rather than hand over wages in return for pocket money. We’re operating with one hand behind our backs while the other clears up the messes created by the Tories and Glasgow Labour.

I’m immensely proud of Canal Ward residents - My constituents in Canal Ward have shown their true resilience during these very difficult years, looking out for one another and showing tremendous community spirit. But they shouldn’t have to prove this time and time again!  Give my community the keys of Number 10 and I can guarantee there would be drastic changes in a heartbeat.