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On May 5, Argyll and Bute will join communities across Scotland in electing councillors to represent their local areas for the next five years in the Scottish local government elections.
Three candidates will be elected to represent each of Mid Argyll ward (nine candidates) and Kintyre and the Islands ward (six candidates).
The Argyllshire Advertiser asked all nine candidates for the Mid Argyll ward the same five questions.
Here are those questions and the answers provided by Ross Weir.
Ross Weir (Independence for Scotland Party)
A fundamental issue faced by Argyll and Bute for many years has been depopulation. If elected, what steps would you like to see taken to grow the population and foster sustainable communities in your ward?
RW: Depopulation is caused by several key factors; employment, transport, communication links – however a significant factor in Argyll and Bute is housing. There are large quantities of existing housing used for Airbnb-type accommodation and second homes. Properties used in this way generate little income for the local population, create empty communities, increase the cost of housing and remove properties from the rental market. I will push for the maximum control for this type of use to encourage housing stock back into the community and promote the genuine tourist trade that generate jobs such as hotels, B&B and camping.
What steps should Argyll and Bute Council be taking to help address the climate crisis while encouraging sustainable economic growth?
RW: For Argyll and Bute to have sustainable economic growth while addressing the climate crisis we need to reassess our transport links. The failed UK-wide policies of focusing on road transport over rail and shipping has left Argyll and Bute with tenuous road links. Use of ships is far less damaging environmentally and is actively encouraged in northern Europe which is similar geographically. We look at shipping through the prism of tourism and ferries and overlook the advantages that other modern ships and port use would provide. The Timberlink has been a success and I would look to build on that.
Argyll and Bute Council has proposed a new model of school leadership involving the creation of ‘school clusters’ with an executive head overseeing each cluster and fewer head teachers. Would you support or reject the proposal? Should this matter be decided by a council committee or the full council?
RW: Firstly, I believe this decision should only be made with the full council because of its importance to our children. Regarding the proposal, I think it should be rejected, I have many years of experience of remote management from being in the Merchant Navy and it is never as effective as hands-on management. I believe this is just the thin edge of a cost-cutting wedge at our children’s expense. Lastly, we need to have an honest discussion regarding the way this proposal has been presented and how the views of parents, teachers and head teachers are incorporated.
What should Argyll and Bute Council’s main priorities be within the Mid Argyll ward area?
RW: Local government faces unprecedented challenges – including spending cuts, economic uncertainty, the fuel and cost of living crisis, youth unemployment, housing needs and an aging population – which require a new way of thinking.
We need to remove barriers to development and business, promoting growth to help people deal with these times. We also need to improve engagement and co-operation so that the council and population are working together sharing ideas. Finally, we need a secure food supply chain including looking at ways to promote local food producers and resolving the access issues surrounding A83 Rest and be Thankful.
If elected, how do you plan to gauge the opinions and requirements of people within your ward throughout your term of office?
RW: To gauge public opinion, they first need to know and understand how the council is working for them. I will push for webcasting of council and committee meetings to make this an open and transparent process and increasing accessibility. I intend to have an open-door policy with the community, to attend community council meetings and other groups. I am a very approachable person and firm believer in the power of communication, as an engineer I understand how information is key to problem solving. I am very interested in local issues and development ideas and believe in taking a collaborative and inclusive approach to decision making.