Chris McEleny: Challenge for Robertson is to get "historic control of councils" at 2017 local elections

Former SNP depute leader candidate Chris McEleny speaks to CommonSpace following the election of Angus Robertson as depute leader of the party  

THE FIRST big challenge for the new SNP depute leader is to get “historical control of councils” across Scotland at next year’s local authority elections, according to former depute leadership candidate Chris McEleny.

The Inverclyde councillor spoke to CommonSpace following Thursday’s leadership election result, where he got 3.38 per cent of the vote after standing against Angus Robertson MP, who secured the position, Alyn Smith MEP and Tommy Sheppard MP.

Despite just a 34 per cent turnout of SNP members voting in the election, the Gourock councillor feels that there is an appetite for “community politics” from within the party as a result of his campaign to become Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy.

McEleny said: “It is not about winning control just to win elections if we don’t then deliver for local communities.

“I think that is the opportunity - we have to become the first political party in history to win control and then give it away. “

“We will have a commitment in our manifesto to involve local communities in the participation in actually setting the budget, setting the decisions, being part of those decisions on how their communities work.” Chris McEleny

McEleny added: “We will have a commitment in our manifesto to involve local communities in the participation in actually setting the budget, setting the decisions, being part of those decisions on how their communities work.

“I think that going forward, that is a new politics in Scotland which will lay the foundations we will build upon so that communities work together for a better, fairer Scotland.”

McEleny stated that new depute leader Angus Robertson would have to take on some of the ideas that he raised during the campaign to become Stewart Hosie’s replacement, such as involving councillors more in the decision-making process by having a team of both councillors and parliamentarians working together for communities in Scotland.

Angus Robertson told the conference that the depute leadership election was about who can best work with Nicola Sturgeon, and that should “involve grassroots members, councillors and parliamentarians into the most effective force to deliver independence for Scotland”.

“I think that going forward that is a new politics in Scotland which will lay the foundations we will build upon so that communities work together for a better, fairer Scotland.” Chris McEleny 

Meanwhile, the SNP group leader in Inverclyde said that the Community Empowerment Act is going the “greatest transformational enabling Acts in Scottish politics”.

McEleny feels that he is in the unique position as a councillor to help deliver the policy to local communities across the country.

McEleny said: “I think that coming from local government, I am in that unique place to be that link between the strands of government.

“Because going forward, it is not about tiers in government; it is about spheres of government.”

“Because going forward, it is not about tiers in government; it is about spheres of government.” Chris McEleny

The Community Empowerment Act received Royal Assent in 2015, and will help to empower local community groups to take ownership of local buildings and land.

Extending the community right to buy and making it simpler for communities to take ownership of public land and building is part of the legislation.   

McEleny went on say that there is more to community empowerment than just taking ownership of land and buildings.

He said: “It is about giving away the control of the decision-making process.

“I feel confident that they have been given tools that they need to actually to get on with the job of building communities from the bottom up.” Chris McEleny

“It is about giving away the resources to community councils, parent councils, and TARA’s (Tenants and Residents Associations).

“All of these community groups are working every single day.

“I feel confident that they have been given tools that they need to actually to get on with the job of building communities from the bottom up.”

Picture courtesy of the BBC

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