SNP candidate pledges to continue to stand up for East Dunbartonshire if re-elected

John Nicolson hopes to be re-elected as East Dunbartonshire's MP
John Nicolson hopes to be re-elected as East Dunbartonshire's MP

The SNP’s General Election candidate John Nicolson says he is proud of his achievements as East Dunbartonshire’s MP for the past two years.

Since he was elected in May 2015, he says he and his team have handled more than 4,000 cases for local constituents.

And he has pledged to continue to stand up for East Dunbartonshire and for Scotland if he is re-elected on June 8.

Mr Nicolson ousted LibDem Jo Swinson two years ago with a narrow majority of 2,167.

His official election campaign is on Saturday night (May 20) at the Fort Theatre in Bishopbriggs. Guest speakers include top Scots comedian Elaine C Smith and Alyn Smith MEP.

Speaking to the Herald at his house in Bearsden this week, the former BBC journalist said: “Good MPs always put constituency work at the heart of all they do.

“I wanted to do what my predecessors hadn’t — open a constituency office facing onto the street.

“So we restored an old derelict shop in Kirkintilloch with big glass windows and everyone knew where to get in touch with me. People have been coming in every single day of the week to see us.

“Because of that, we have handled more than 4,000 constituency cases within two years”.

Stand out cases for him include persuading an insurance company to fly an elderly Bishopbriggs man home by air ambulance with his wife after he was the victim of a hit-and-run in Spain. He also accompanied a disabled constituent from Milngavie, whose benefits had been stopped, to her appeal at the Department of Work and Pensions, which they won. And he got a vehicle with wheelchair access and its driver reinstated to enable a young local girl with severe autism to go to school.

Mr Nicolson said: “Often when people come to see you they are at the end of their tether. You are their last port of call and they want your help.

“You can’t always help but it’s hugely rewarding when you can.”

According to the candidate, the two most pressing issues locally are the imminent closure of St Joseph’s Primary School in Milngavie and the shared space in Kirkintilloch.

He said the decision to close St Joseph’s should be reversed and he hopes the newly elected East Dunbartonshire Council, where the SNP has the largest group of councillors, will find a way to do this.

He said: “I would like to see the SNP councillors take the lead to explore all options to see whether St Joseph’s can be kept open.

“I hope it’s not too late.

“It was the LibDems and the Tory councillors in cahoots who decided to close the school. The SNP wanted to keep it open.”

Of the controversial shared space in Kirkintilloch, he said: “It is clearly not working. The previous council administration was told it wouldn’t work.

“The underground cables are still there. Let’s get the traffic lights back up.”

Mr Nicolson dismissed claims on social media that he was not often in the constituency area as “dirty politics”.

He said: “During the past two years I have been having a surgery for constituents pretty much every week. From Monday to Thursday I am in the House of Commons. I come up to East Dunbartonshire on a Friday and engage with concerts, school visits and other events, sometimes on a Saturday too. Then I hold a surgery on a Saturday and head back down to London on Sunday night.

“I also try to spread the surgeries around and hold them from Westerton to Auchinairn.”

He added: “I am on Twitter constantly so people can see what I have been doing”.

The SNP candidate said pensions was a “huge issue for East Dunbartonshire.”

Mr Nicolson said: “The SNP repeatedly asked Theresa May to honour David Cameron’s promise that the triple lock remain for pensions. She refused to do so. So pensioners are going to be poorer.”

He added: “East Dunbartonshire also has one of the biggest groups of Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) in the country. I think it’s scandalous that women were given no warning by the Conservatives that the retirement age was going to change.

“We accept that women are going to have to work longer but they have had no time to make the necessary preparations.

“I have stood up for them and presented their petition down at Westminster”.

He claimed the Tories and LibDems were one and the same thing.

He said: The previous Tory/LibDem Coalition at Westminster introduced the bedroom tax. It increased austerity. It hit pensioners hard.

“My predecessor in East Dunbartonshire was the Minister responsible for privatising Royal Mail in the coalition. So of course all my opponents want to talk about is the constitution. They don’t want to talk about their own record.”

He warned that Brexit would be “disastrous for Scotland, for jobs and investment” and reckons Theresa May is on course for a “100-seat majority” after the General Election.

He said: “Large majorities are bad for government. They make for inflexible government. We need a large group of SNP MPs at Westminster to stand up, in my case for East Dunbartonshire, and the SNP as a whole for Scotland”.

He said: “You just have to look at the PM’s face at PM Questions. She is not scared of Jeremy Corbyn but she looks across at the SNP benches and she is scared because she knows we have done the research, know the subject matter and the SNP trip her up time and again.”

He added: “I also think people have no idea what is going to hit them with Brexit. Mrs May is refusing to answer questions about Brexit and we must ensure the Tories are scrutinised every day.

“Mrs May and her Brexiteers truly are living in la-la land.

“Take one issue in this constituency for example — farmers. Scotland’s agriculture and food and drink industry is famous all over the world.

“If Mrs May gets a free trade deal with America, their food, we know their manufacturers have low animal welfare standards and massive use of chemical additives.

“Our farmers will face two choices — either to compete or go under. If they compete and drop standards, our food won’t be allowed into the European Union.

“So our farmers are going to be between a rock and a hard place. What Brexit Minister has thought about this? They haven’t thought about the detail”.

As the SNP’s spokesperson on Culture, Media and Sport in the House of Commons, Mr Nicolson is often on TV.

He said: “I am glad I have been able to raise the profile of East Dunbartonshire on television. It’s important to spread the message about what a fabulous area it is.

“It’s very important as an MP to use every vehicle you can to get your message across.

“But it’s not just about the good things. It’s the problems too. One of the cruellest things this Government is doing is cutting disability benefits.

“Once, at Prime Minister’s Question Time, David Cameron said disability changes were working out just fine.

“I raised the issue about my disabled constituent and asked him if he had ever been to a DWP appeal. I got no answer”.

Mr Nicolson is also proud of the Private Members Bill “The Turing Bill” he wanted to introduce to pardon older gay men of crimes no longer on the statute book.

He said: “Shamefully, the Tories talked it out at Westminster.

“However, it is going to be passed by the Scottish Government.”