POLITICS: SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS IN DUMBARTON CONSTITUENCY ON MAY 6

NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY

SEVEN candidates will take part in the election for the Dumbarton constituency seat in the Scottish Parliament election on May 6.

They are:

Jackie Baillie (Scottish Labour Party)

Maurice Corry Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Andy Foxall Scottish Liberal Democrats

Toni Giugliano (Scottish National Party (SNP))

James Morrison (Independent)

Andrew Joseph Muir (Independent)

Jonathan Rainey (Scottish Libertarian Party)

Polling stations across the constituency will be open from 7am until 10pm on Thursday, May 6.

However, only two of the candidates should bother getting out of their beds to take part, Labour’s Jackie Baillie and Tony Giugliano, who will represent the SNP.

Conservative, Maurice Corry, may consider it worth shaving that morning even if that’s just for the mainly pro Ministry of Defence-related votes he will attract in the Helensburgh area, but the rest of them can forget it. Victory is not a possibility.

May will not be a merry month for any of them, although the Independent Andrew Muir deserves support for his ongoing mental health campaign, a subject that has only just become fashionable for other politicians because of its vote-winning potential and the impact it has had on people, young and old, during the pandemic.

That will not happen though if Andrew is treated so off-handedly and appallingly as he has been by the SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire whenever he turns up at council meetings to petition them about mental health issues. He gets short-shrift from them.

Mental health is predictably one of issues dealt with on Andrew’s campaign literature but so too is public spending on consultants and the pay of council executives such as Chief Executive Joyce White at “poorly performing” West Dunbartonshire Council where she pulls down around £150, 000 in salary and pension contributions. Ms White must think she has died and woken up in the Wiemar Republic.

Jackie Baillie concentrates on child poverty as does Toni Giugliano who has the cheek to mention hungry children and food banks even though his party, the SNP, have been in power for the past 14 years and should have solved these problems long before now.

Tory Maurice Corry also jumps on the poverty band wagon – “We all have a duty to ensure that no child grows up in poverty,” says this Son of Margaret Thatcher.

Andy Foxhall, the Liberal Democrat, is an obvious “blow in” who knows little or nothing about Dumbarton or the people in it, although his party has some commendable policies.

Party leader Willie Rennie said: “We are still waiting on the SNP delivering promises they made in 2007. They have a one-track mind for independence that prevents them getting anything else done. 

“On attainment, Nicola Sturgeon said it was her defining mission but years later she hasn’t made a dent. Class sizes, council tax, superfast broadband, delayed discharge – promise after promise broken. This pattern repeats over and over again. And it will be even worse if the SNP get a majority. 

“It’s time to try something new. We will invest in mental health, education and green jobs and put the recovery first.”

Worry not about the Regional List come May 6 since Jonathan McColl of the SNP and Caroline McAllister of Alba are most unlikely to make any impact there.

The deadline for registering to vote in the election is midnight on Monday, April 19, but the last date to apply for a postal vote or a proxy vote has now passed.

The sought after Dumbarton seat, which includes Helensburgh, Vale of Leven and the Lochside, is currently in the hands of Labour’s Jackie Baillie who has been a member of the Holyrood parliament since its new beginning in 1999.

There are just 109 votes between Jackie Baillie and the SNP who will be represented on this occasion by Toni Guigliano, a battle-hardened SNP and gay rights campaigner who has fought and lost a number of elections previously, mainly in the East of Scotland and principally in Edinburgh.

Guigliano claims to be a “mental health worker” but Labour supporters are embarked on a newspaper letters page campaign to call him out by revealing his real designation as a public relations professional who, they maintain, is no more than an SNP carpet-bagger in Dumbarton, where he claims to live but doesn’t really.

A previous SNP candidate in Dumbarton, the one-time STV weatherman Lloyd Quinan, made similar claims when he was economical with the truth about his residency, and who caught the first train from Dumbarton East back to Edinburgh immediately after suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of the Labour Party.

Lloyd’s only real Dumbarton connection was the occasional pint with his buddies in the Stag’s Head.

That was when Labour was the dominant party in Scotland, but the SNP has been in power at Holyrood for the last 14 years.

In an interview this week, the new Scottish Labour Party leader Anas Sarwar surprisingly conceded he is “not yet” a candidate for First Minister of Scotland.

Sarwar said he does not believe he can “turn around the decline of the Labour Party in Scotland for the last 20 years” before the May 6 Holyrood election.

He took over the leadership of the party north of the border just weeks ago, saying at the time it was at just 14% in the polls.

He said he is “not naive about the scale of the challenge” he faces in attempting to restore the party’s fortunes.

Labour was once the dominant party in Scotland but the SNP has been in power at Holyrood for the last 14 years.

Support for Sarwar’s party declined in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum, during which it worked with the Tories in the Better Together campaign.

Labour is now fighting to overtake the Tories and become the main opposition party at Holyrood. The Conservatives became the second-largest party in 2016.

Sarwar insisted Scotland deserves an opposition that is “not a cheap game-playing opposition like we have had from the Conservatives”.

But when asked if he is a contender to become first minister in next month’s poll, he said: “Not yet.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he added: “I would love to be a contender for first minister, if people choose to vote on May 6 for me to be first minister I would be very, very proud – but I am also a realist.

“And I am not naive about the scale of the challenge.

“Three days before I became leader we were at 14% in the polls, we’re making progress on that over the last five weeks, we still have three weeks to go until the election.”

Jackie Baillie, Nicola Sturgeon, Toni Giugliano and Anas Sarwar.

But he said that when Scots cast their ballots, they are also “voting for an opposition” as well as electing the next government.

Sarwar said he wants to stop the SNP winning an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament “so they aren’t blindsided by their weakness on the constitution” with a second independence referendum, and can instead be “focused” on the coronavirus recovery.

He added: “Let’s have an opposition that is not a cheap game-playing opposition like we have had from the Conservatives.

“Let’s have an opposition that is going to pull Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP towards the people’s priorities.

“I am being honest and saying I don’t think I can turn around the decline of the Labour Party in Scotland for the last 20 years, I don’t think I can turn that decline around in the 10 weeks from the moment I became leader to the election.”

Hoping she can stop the rot however is Jackie Baillie, Labour’s highest profile, most experienced and probably best MSP.

The SNP have declared Dumbarton as Scotland’s most marginal seat as it seeks a pro-independence majority at Holyrood in May.

Channel 4 Scotland correspondent Ciaran Jenkins commented that Dumbarton is being “fiercely contested,” by the SNP, although you could have fooled me on that one.

The SNP council appear to have let their national colleagues down by taking on the role of Scotland’s worst local authority.

The town should have looked beautiful on a sunny spring afternoon when the TV cameras turned up.

Instead it looked like the disaster area we have come to know over the years with the River Leven mirroring Pearl Harbour, dotted with the wrecks of old boats that the electorate have complained vigorously about for decades.

As ever with TV, it’s hard to remember what those people interviewed actually said, especially when pictures of your local area keep coming up and the people in the room watching with you keep pointing out all the familiar faces and places. That happens in every house.

Tony Giugliano never landed a blow on Jackie Baillie, although I was surprised by her admission that Nicola Sturgeon had shown leadership during the pandemic.

Praising your opponent, no matter how little, is not something politicians are known for doing in the middle of an election.

Did that open the door even by a tiny margin for Tony Guigliano to reduce that gap between himself and Jackie? We’ll find out soon enough.

A more likely scenario is that the arrival of Alex Salmond’s ALBA party and George Galloway’s Unity mob – well, one of them anyway –  will upset the apple cart and make it impossible for anyone to predict the outcome of this election.

Independent Andrew Muir and his wife, Claire, locked out of discussions about mental health.

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