Meet the candidates hoping for your vote in next month’s council election
Susan Carstairs Scottish Labour, ward 11
I grew up in Edinburgh and worked for 20 years in London with refugees from Chile and other countries.
I’ve been in the Highland since 1992, working at the Arisaig Hotel from 1994 to 1997, and for the last 18 years on environmental issues in Lochaber and across the Highlands with Lochaber Environmental Group and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. Over the last 35 years, wealth has shifted from the public sector to the private and a shift from public control to free market control. Both these changes have damaged society and left us without funds to run our hospitals, transport, education and social care.
Scotland has partially resisted the trend for privatisation but local government is starved of funds to provide essential services. Highland Council has made strenuous efforts to do more with less but a new arrangement is needed to provide the resources needed.
The environment is a priority for me. We should develop a programme for sustainable land use across Lochaber involving farmers, landowners, businesses and residents. Protect our valuable peatland carbon, increase local food production, make maximum use of our renewable energy generation potential, raise recycling rates and the take up of composting, improve public transport and ensure our deer and other wildlife are managed sustainably.
Allan Henderson Independent, ward 11
Having had the pleasure of serving the Caol and Mallaig ward in Highland Council for the past 10 years, firstly as Provost of Lochaber and for the last two years as chairman of community services, I realise how important it is to be an experienced councillor.
As I go round canvassing and seeing the delights of Lochaber, it is also gratifying to be told at the door, you can keep the leaflet, I have already voted for you.
I am proud to claim I have been able to secure more funding for council controlled roads against a background of falling budgets.
I will continue to press for an A82 upgrade, not just on Loch Lomond side but all the way to Inverness.
Working closely with industry to fully achieve all the ambitious possibilities for Lochaber is a prime goal. Ferries, trains and buses, as well as roads infrastructure all play a big part in linking Lochaber.
There are wonderful opportunities to be grasped and, provided I am re- elected, I intend to continue to work selflessly along with my colleagues, to put Lochaber first and foremost.
If re- elected I intend to continue with a public presence and be available seven days.
William MacLachlan SNP, ward 11
Born at Torlundy, I am passionate about Lochaber, its people, history and culture. My mother was born at Lochailort, with historic ties to Arisaig, Mallaig and Caol.
I will strongly support efforts to retain the CAP payments and future government subsidies to farming and crofting communities.
I have 11 years’ experience as a clerk/constable to a large common grazing.
Exciting times for Lochaber. I will be extremely supportive of present and future developments to bring both economic and social benefits to all people in the area.
I will promote further in- depth discussions to the planned link road between Caol and Fort William.
The fishing industry, going through a worrying time, will have my support, regardless of Brexit, to gain a fair and equitable future.
Past experiences cover: six years as Highland Regional councillor, regular military service – Germany and Middle East, 12 years’ management posts in the hotel and catering trade, first responder service and several years a member of Lochaber’s community car scheme.
Liam Simmonds Independent, ward 11
I am 22 years old and I am a local person who is standing for the Caol and Mallaig ward.
As an Independent I have the experience of previously being elected twice as a community councillor for Caol. During my time as a community councillor, I have sat in on many meetings to listen to your local concerns. These include the new Gaelic school and Lochyside Development Plan and Caol Gala.
I come from a working- class background; not from wealth or privilege. My first job was working in a kitchen at Morrisons for £7.20 an hour.
I am an ardent Euro sceptic and I campaigned for the UK to leave the EU. If elected my main priorities are: Putting communities first Abolish Brown Tax Abolish councillors expenses saving £300,000 pa 30 per cent pay cut to all councillors saving £300,000 pa More disabled parking spaces More funding for affordable and accessible housing that suits everyone in our community
Saving our bus service from future cuts Better funding for mental health, disability support and dementia care.
Denis Rixon Liberal Democrat, ward 11
I have lived in Mallaig for more than 40 years where I was a school teacher and owned a small bookshop.
I am running as a Liberal Democrat because our party has always championed ‘localism’. We want to keep power close and accountable. We don’t favour centralisation or overmighty government. Priorities: Business – all politicians want to maximize social benefits. But to do this we need a strong local economy. Supporting small business is critical whether in fishing, crofting, retail, tourism or a service industry.
Housing – too many young people can’t even reach the bottom rung of the housing ladder. Old people, and those with special needs, may find their houses need to be adapted.
Our requirements change as we go through life. We could be much more proactive in searching out new architectural ideas and new design concepts – try googling ‘tiny house’ to see what I mean. I don’t want to push people into shoeboxes but can’t we provide more flexible solutions?
Transport and digital connectivity – in a rural area communications are critical for people, freight and digital data. Whether it’s bus connections, potholes, broadband or the ongoing ferry fiasco in Mallaig, this issue demands constant attention and investment.
Ben Thompson Independent, ward 11
Lochaber is being let down by local government in Scotland. Our concerns and priorities are not listened to. Our community councils feel ignored.
Since first becoming a councillor two-and- half-years ago, it has become ever more clear to me that we need control of Lochaber issues here – where local folk are heard and listened to by local decision makers. I believe political and financial control locally will lead to better public services and a proper engagement with community demands. My top priorities are:
1 The return of budgets and decision making from Inverness councillors to Lochaber communities.
2 Protect our education and social care services against government cutbacks.
3 Safer, improved streets and roads, including wider, faster adoption of 20mph limits in residential areas.
4 Establish Common Good Fund(s) for Lochaber so we can start to enjoy the same sort of amenities as Inverness.
5 Build quality housing determined by local needs, not what government targets tell us to build, so our young families can rent or buy decent homes.
If elected I will be a full-time councillor, readily available to anyone across my ward.
As a true independent, the needs of my constituents will always be my first priority.
Andrew Baxter Independent, ward 21
Since before my election in 2012, I’ve been a determined community campaigner willing to stand up for our area.
As an independent councillor, I am accountable to residents, not to a political party. This means giving Lochaber a stronger voice in Inverness, where so many matters affecting our everyday lives are decided.
On numerous occasions in Inverness, I’ve made other out- of-touch politicians sit up and take notice of our needs on the West Coast. I was at the forefront of highlighting the unfair fares on the Corran Ferry, possibly the most expensive water crossing in the UK. Now the council recognises a long-term solution is needed.
Years of perseverance forced the council to rethink its winter gritting policy, meaning our roads can be gritted earlier than before. I’ve taken up the concerns of council tenants faced with escalating electricity bills, because of outdated and inefficient storage heaters, forcing the council to reassess houses and install new systems.
My main pledge is to continue this record of action; fighting our corner and getting the best deal for Lochaber residents.
Lochaber still needs a strong voice fighting our corner and that’s my priority if re- elected on May 4.
Blair Allan SNP, ward 21
If elected, I will do my upmost to help make Fort William and Ardnamurchan an even better area in which to live and work.
I have spent all my working life in social housing and have been chief executive of Lochaber Housing Association since 2004, so you would expect me to have a keen interest in ensuring we prioritise affordable housing opportunities. I have also developed an understanding and passion about the wider issues that confront rural communities. I know, too, what impact austerity has had on many people, including our most vulnerable. So, I understand the importance of local services in helping to support communities to confront these hard times and to thrive. I am also proud to stand for election as a representative of the Scottish National Party, which has achieved so much nationally and locally through policies including free prescriptions, free student tuition, the council tax freeze and alleviating the financial burden imposed by the bedroom tax. I want to help address the issues local people care about, such as improving the A82, the funding of Fort William’s secondary link road and the availability of quality residential and nursing care.
I hope the people of Fort William and Ardnamurchan will continue to support a party that cares about people and is committed to minimising social injustice.
Sally Semple, Scottish Labour, ward 21
I’ve lived and worked across the world but Morvern has been my home since the 1960s.
I went to school in Lochaline and Glasgow, and trained in architecture and engineering. I have worked on the design and construction of housing, care homes and schools across the Highlands and Islands. I’m currently researching a PhD on residential energy use and am based in my family home on Loch Drumbuie.
It was an honour to be selected as the Scottish Labour candidate for Fort William and Ardnamurchan and I’m hoping to represent the people of Lochaber at Highland Council.
The Scottish Government’s cuts to Highland Council mean that savings of £20 million have to be found in the year ahead and this threatens our infrastructure and services – from schools and bus services to road repairs and new housing – across Lochaber.
The investment plans for the Fort William smelter, the development of the Belford Hospital and the expansion of West Highland College are all great news for Lochaber but these developments – and all of us – need reliable transport, better roads and decent affordable housing.
I want to ensure Lochaber’s services are protected from these cuts so our communities can flourish and grow.
Joanne Matheson Independent, ward 21
I hope to persuade people to put their party political opinions to one side and select the candidates they believe will achieve the most for our area.
I chose to stand as an Independent to have the freedom to represent the views and concerns of our area without being told how to vote. Remote rural communities attract visitors and thereby support our economy through tourism. Suitable, sympathetic and sustainable development should be undertaken to create jobs, protect the landscape and improve the lives of residents. Highland Council delivers services according to its own priorities, largely decided behind closed doors. We need to increase open and honest two-way dialogue and ensure decision makers are held to account. We understand budgets are shrinking but we demand greater understanding of how finances are assigned and greater involvement in decision making. We need to work towards ensuring everyone is enabled to fully participate in the life they wish for themselves. I’ve lived in Acharacle for 13 years, since moving here with my Scottish husband and eight-year- old daughter, with twins on the way. Our youngest two daughters now attend Lochaber High School. I’m a community councillor and treasurer of Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival and I was instrumental in re-launching Made in Lochaber.
Niall McLean SNP, ward 21
I was born in Fort William in 1978 and attended school in the Highlands before going to college in Glasgow at 16.
After college I travelled round the world then returned to Ballachulish where I started a business providing Geotechnical and rope access services around the UK and Ireland. I have subsequently started other businesses in many fields. I have grown my businesses to be multi-national, steering them to success in a financially troubling time. I realise the importance of small and medium-sized business operating in our area and I would fight for maximum support for business. I have an understanding of our community and improvements needed to support the developing situation in our stunning and potentially very prosperous part of the world. I understand the importance of retaining young people in our community and looking out for the elderly. I consider business and the conservation of our natural and cultural environment key to our ongoing success. I strongly believe in the policies of the Scottish National Party. I strongly believe in community and respect.
If elected I plan to use problem solving and management skills built through my business experience to fight for the people of our ward. I will always put the community in our ward above all else.
Trevor Escott Liberal Deomocrat, ward 21
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that the challenges posed by Brexit and the division of opinion caused by a second independence referendum will be at the top of the agenda.
Liberal Democrats are crystal clear in our answer. We say no to a hard-brexit and no to independence.
We are the only party committed to Scotland’s place in the UK, and the UK’s place in Europe.
However, Liberal Democrats will not lose sight of local issues.
As a former GP and former chairman of Men’s Health Highland, I know how important it is that Highland Council integrates health and social care and supports our doctors and nurses to provide the best possible care.
That can only be provided with proper central funding. Liberal Democrats will therefore continue to fight to end SNP Government underfunding of NHS Highland.
A vote for the Liberal Democrats is also a vote to improve local transport and fix our roads, to increase broadband speeds and mobile phone coverage, for a transformational investment in education and much needed action to tackle shocking levels of fuel poverty faced by over half of Highland homes.
This is our consistent offer at this election and beyond.