Jo Swinson’s back to fight for her former East Dunbartonshire seat

Jo Swinson is going to try to win her former seat back.
Jo Swinson is going to try to win her former seat back.

Roads, housing and education will be the priorities for prospective East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson if she wins back her seat.

The Lib Dem candidate says these are the big challenges for the area - that schools need more funding, that potholes are an issue that need to be addressed, and that there isn’t enough local housing.

Jo Swinson was East Dunbartonshire’s MP for ten years from 2005 to 2015 when she lost her seat to the SNP’s John Nicolson.

Now she says she is ready to come back and win in East Dunbartonshire, which is one of the most marginal seats in Scotland.

She said: “It was a really close result last time and I loved working as a local MP for my home area, a community that I love and where I’d grown up. I would love to do that again.

“That is coupled with a deep concern about the direction of the country.

“There are real challenges ahead such as the Brexit negotiations and the uncertainty of another independence referendum.

“I’m determined to do what I can to fight against another independence referendum and get the country back on the right track.”

Ms Swinson says her heart sank when Nicola Sturgeon made the call for another referendum and it’s been a key motivating factor for her to stand again.

She says she “wasn’t prepared to sit back and let it happen” because she has many concerns - not just how it will affect Scotland’s economy but because it’s such a divisive issue.

Ms Swinson explained: “It creates such a lot of uncertainty.

“In the run up to the last referendum I spoke to countless business owners who had orders placed on hold until the outcome was known.

“I also spoke to a woman who had a brick thrown through her window when she displayed a ‘No Thanks’ poster.

“People have stopped talking to friends and family over this - it has really polarised opinions and it’s only three years since the last one.

“Many people tell me they don’t know if they could go through that again.”

Ms Swinson says that she realises that people are still angry with the Liberal Democrats for going into a coalition with the Conservatives and for breaking some manifesto commitments, such as on student tuition fees.

And she admits that voting to raise tuition fees was a mistake.

She said: “Everyone makes mistakes. We were trying to create a policy within a set of restrictions when we should have challenged the constraints and gone to the treasury to find the money.

“I take responsibility for that mistake and it has taught me to trust my instincts more in the future.”

On more local issues the former junior minister thinks there needs to be a re-think about the ‘shared space’ scheme in Kirkintilloch, which was introduced by East Dunbartonshire Council.

This involved removing pedestrian traffic lights and crossings along the length of Cowgate.

Campaigners have been fighting against it for the last two years because of safety fears, especially for people with sight problems.

Ms Swinson said: “I’m sure it’s well intentioned but it’s a problem when the local community isn’t consulted properly.

“People need to feel safe when they walk around but it’s clear that some groups of pedestrians are anxious about the space. There’s also uncertainty from drivers.”

While Ms Swinson is in favour of cycle paths to encourage people to use their bikes she thinks the next phase of the Bears Way needed to be taken back to the drawing board. Councillors voted against it and it’s currently on hold.

And she also believes that some sections of the first phase are potentially dangerous.

She said: “There were too many question marks over how the next phase would function. It was confusing and unsafe and that needs to be part of the wider discussion with the community.

“The council needs to look at innovative ways to make this work - for example some towns have cycle paths that deviate from the main road onto other roads or paths.

“It has to be done well and with consultation with the community - that’s a crucial part of democracy.”

She also has sympathies with the parents who contacted her two years ago about the council’s controversial plans to close St Joseph’s Primary School in Milngavie and create a new merged Catholic primary school in Bearsden.

She said; “I was very involved in listening to parents concerns and trying to find an alternative that would work.

“Many parents felt very strongly about it and I would have liked to have explored the possibility of a combined facility in Milngavie and whether that would have been viable within the council’s budget.”

The election takes place on Thursday, June 8.