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Meet the Midlothian West Candidates

On Thursday 10 September the Midlothian West ward will head to the polls to elect a new councillor to replace Owen Thompson (SNP), who stood down following his election to the UK Parliament earlier this year.

Six candidates will stand in the ward which spans from Greenlaw Mains, Penicuik, north to the city bypass and east to Roswell. The communities of Glencorse, Belwood, Damhead, Loanhead, Bilson, Roslin, Auchendinny and Roswell are included with this.

Five of these six candidates have agreed to explain to you just why, they reckon, you should mark them as your first preference on polling day.

Key issues being campaigned on include the A701 realignment, new housing developments and further infrastructure problems. Support for local businesses and families in need are also at the heart of the election.

In the interests of partiality, all candidates were asked to submit 500 words for inclusion in this article. These statements have not been edited by us. The independent candidate was unreachable. In alphabetical order, here are the candidates’ “why me?” statements:

Jane Davidson (Scottish Liberal Democrats)

Midlothian is a fantastic place to live with so much in its favour; I’m standing for the council because I believe it can be so much better. Whilst sustainable development which benefits local people and the local economy are welcome, current plans to tear up Midlothian’s countryside engulfing our distinct communities’ work against some of the things that make Midlothian great. Building housing and planning proper access to new estates are a priority but not at the cost of the greenbelt. I believe that improvements to existing routes and thinking about where we are building could be the answer rather than automatically going for the easy option of a new road.

Likewise putting barriers in place to the plans being proposed by numerous local groups, the council should proactively work with those groups, Midlothian is at its best when the public, private and community sectors work together rather than against each other. Often local groups can deliver services better and cheaper than public sector organisations.

It makes sense to improve communications and work closer with local business’s to increase opportunities for both the younger members of the community and the long term unemployed. We have heard a lot about new apprenticeships recently but if we are to achieve the numbers that has been talked about we need to at real partnership working with businesses and the local further education college.

My other priorities if elected would be moving towards better planning for our growing communities; especially looking at the current education provision and catchment areas. Our youth work provision has been drastically reduced over the past 10 years and we need to look at this and encourage youth work. This would have a positive affect and would encourage young people to be involved in their local communities activities.

I would also wish to look at the current plans for building homes to ensure the social housing provision would include appropriate housing to meet the needs of our older and disabled community members as well as the urgent requirement for family housing.

Midlothian is a beautiful place to walk and cycle and we need to encourage these both for visitors but also as a means for residents to have healthier lifestyles. Accordingly I will be campaigning for increased cycling infrastructure and better signage for footpaths.

Our villages are growing and therefore we need to look at the access and speed limits. I will campaign for safer speed limits and proper consultation about roads.

Daya Feldwick (Scottish Green Party)

Living in Loanhead for the past 16 years with my family, and employed as a community worker and home help, I have learned about the issues affecting vulnerable people and voluntary groups in Midlothian. Since graduating in Community Education I have been working at a community garden project in Loanhead. I have also participated in numerous community planning processes and consultations where people’s contributions were completely ignored.

I’m standing in this election because our communities are under huge pressure from development, especially along the A701 corridor. The current allocation of land for housing is more than twice the actual need and the Council is not listening to the pleas to protect our distinctive communities from overdevelopment and coalescence. Too often I have witnessed our elected representatives putting the business’ and developers’ interests before those of local communities and the environment.

At Damhead the community’s aspirations of the agreed Neighbourhood Action Plan are completely undermined by the proposed development. An unnecessary new road, massive film studios and an expanding Retail Park would destroy good quality agricultural land, working farms and a shrinking Green Belt. Building a new A701 is not a sustainable transport solution either. New roads only create more traffic. Improved public transport and better cycling provision do more to encourage people to leave their cars behind.

The plans for expanding Straiton Retail Park are also against the National Planning Policy which gives priority to retail in town centres. Greens say that instead of building on the Green Belt and agricultural land, resources should go into regenerating town centres and supporting local businesses. Our fields should be used for growing food locally, reducing our carbon emissions and creating sustainable jobs. If we build on them now they will be lost forever.

On top of this the South East Scotland Strategic Plan puts more pressure on Midlothian to build private housing with insufficient social housing provision. Because Midlothian already has a vast oversupply of land for private housing, my priority as your representative will be to ensure that we meet our social housing needs, protect our communities and eliminate unnecessary private housing development.

Greens are not against development, but only in appropriate locations where everything has been considered. That’s why we have a local plan. However the Council keeps granting the planning applications for proposals which are not in the Midlothian Local Development Plan such as Cauldhall opencast mine which will create pollution and bring heavy traffic to rural areas; houses at Fordel away from public transport; a hotel at Caulderstones in Pentland Regional Park causing a loss of nearly a thousand mature trees.

Community planning processes are not working and too many council decisions are being made behind closed doors. Greens want to change that. By standing in this election I’m trying to achieve greater representation for communities.

Midlothian needs more Green Councillors to challenge the major parties; another SNP or Labour Councillor won’t make a difference – the only way to change priorities and to ensure wider representation on the Council is to VOTE GREEN!

Ian Miller (Scottish Labour and Co-Operative Party)

The by election on 10th September is an opportunity for the people of Midlothian West to make clear that local government is about local issues.

Since the SNP took control of Midlothian Council over 3 years ago they have failed to focus their attention on Midlothian.

They have targeted the vulnerable for cuts, they have allowed Midlothian Council house building to slow to a crawl. The Council School building programme has stalled and they plan to cut council funded front line police officers by 50%.

A Labour controlled council would protect the vulnerable, kick start the Council house building programme, make sure that the school refurbishment /replacement programme moves ahead and will restore the cuts in the number of police officers on the streets of Midlothian.

A win in this by election could see Labour back in control of the council allowing us to move the focus back on local issues.

Kelly Parry (Scottish National Party [SNP])

I’m asking residents of Midlothian West to give me their 1st vote on September 10th because I believe I have the right skills and experience to be the Councillor Midlothian West needs. I’ve lived in Midlothian all my life; I went to school here, I’ve worked here and brought up my son here. This has given me an insight and genuine understanding to the everyday lives of people, and most importantly the recognition that we need hard working councillors that can both listen and relate to residents.

I’ve already been involved in campaigns across Midlothian, taking a leading role in the campaign against bedroom tax in Midlothian and nationally. I have also had key roles in anti racism campaigns, marriage equality, trade unionism and was the President of Edinburgh College Students Association representing over 25,000 students.

Over the course of this campaign I’ve been working hard to speak to as many residents as I possibly can. My campaign team and I have been out across the word almost every night solidly and it’s been a pleasure to speak to so many of you directly. I think it’s a key part of your Councillors role to be accessible and to make sure our communities views can be best represented in Midlothian Council.

My priorities as a councillor will be to continue the good work that the SNP led council is already carrying out and use these successes to improve the lives of people across Midlothian regardless of their background. I want Midlothian to be an excellent place to grow up, learn in, work in and live in.

Projects already started in the area focusing on  building new schools in Loanhead, Roslin and Bilston and the Council House building across the region are ones to be proud of and they will hugely benefit the community. I  also aspire to be an engaging councillor and help create a council that lets residents have a greater say in how council resources are used in their communities.

My promise to Midlothian West residents is to:

  • Support the communities in Midlothian West to develop and maintain public services, securing the transfer of some public assets to community ownership or management, and ensuring our communities can access the services they need.
  • To be accessible and available to respond to queries you have to best represent the residents of Midlothian West.
  • To address inequality by working with communities and partners across Midlothian to ensure that public services are accessible and focus on crucial gaps in outcome such as child poverty by taking preventative and effective approaches.
  • To work with local businesses, schools and education partners to ensure that young people have access to positive destinations.

Pauline Winchester (Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party)

Midlothian is a great place to live but together we can make it better. I believe that my work for the NHS, initially as a Paediatric Intensive Care Nurse and latterly in the Litigation Department, as well as a mother and grandmother, gives me extensive knowledge to help make a difference in our community.

I moved to Midlothian in 2002 when my partner was in his final two years of his 22 years service in the Royal Scots.  I had previously lived all over the world as well as in England and Wales as my father had moved around whilst serving with the British Army. My partner and I moved to Rosewell in 2007 and have made this our home.

The British Forces do a wonderful job to a high standard, and it is important, with having an army barracks in our Ward, that they are given as much support and help to make Midlothian their home for as long as they stay here.

From talking to residents I believe that we’re all looking for improvement to our core services such as pavements, roads, speed limits, dog fouling, education, high speed broadband and it is important to keep a good balance between new housing projects and our beautiful scenery.

I will campaign for better upkeep of our roads and pavements. In particular we need a better pothole maintenance program and to target irresponsible dog owners who allow their animals to foul the pavements.

I will campaign to make high speed broadband available to all. Having a high-speed connection is not just important for recreational use, or for schoolchildren doing their homework, but it is vital for small businesses locally to be able to operate as well as those working from home.

I believe that local high streets should be some of our biggest assets here and their success remains key to the local economy. I will work hard to ensure we keep our high streets vibrant and encourage more businesses in to our town centres.

We have seen new housing projects in the Ward, with a few more to come. It is important that whilst new homes are needed, we need to remember that we should also maintain the beautiful scenery here in Midlothian.

It is important that people vote in the by-election, and I believe the time is right to elect someone with a fresh perspective on the issues that affect our community as well as to represent the views of all the residents. I hope you will put your trust in me to do that on Thursday 10th September by voting me as your number 1 choice.

Your ballot paper will also include Ian Miller (Scottish Labour and Co-Operative Party) and David Dickson Tedford (Independent).

Your nearest polling station is likely a school but for a full list, click here to visit Midlothian Council’s website.

Full coverage of the results will brought to you on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.