Credit: Glasgow University Union Debating

GUU Debating held hustings for local MSP candidates

By Margaret Hartness, Giselle Inglis and Luisa Barclay

Candidates discussed gender-based violence, more support for students and changes to the healthcare system post-Covid.

GUU Debating hosted a hustings on Wednesday 28 April which saw local candidates for the upcoming Scottish parliamentary election questioned by students. Issues of gender-based violence, tenancy and Covid-19 recovery were raised, and the all-important question of Scotttish Independence was again brought to the forefront. 

Kaukab Stewart – Scottish National Party candidate for Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow region.

Kaukab Stewart believes the best way forward is continuing with the strong leadership of Scotland shown by Nicola Sturgeon during the trying times of the pandemic. If elected, Stewart would be the first woman of colour in Holyrood, a statistic she observed as “shocking” for 2021. Stewart’s overall argument was based on the need for change to happen; the election in May is crucial for democracy in Scotland, with voters using their power to decide what kind of country Scotland will be post-pandemic.

Quick to put forward the SNP manifesto, Stewart made important points following questions on gender-based violence and tenancy rights. This includes the 20% spending increase for mental health to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic fall-out, providing education for counselling services. 

The SNP pledge to commit to building 100,000 more affordable homes to relieve the social rental market. Stewart says the SNP will present a Housing Bill in the next parliament to bring the “rent cap” into law, protecting tenants’ rights. However, it was unclear whether this rent cap would only be implemented in certain area zones, or as a blanket law.

Stewart’s key moment during the hustings was her approach to the question of a second independence referendum, a topic referred to as the “elephant of the Zoom call”. 

Her main argument was in support of a second independence referendum following a re-election of the SNP as the government of Scotland. Having fought for independence for over a quarter of a century, Kaukab Stewart stated that the priority of the SNP was focusing on managing the recovery following the pandemic, and she believes it would be in the Scottish people’s best interests to choose their future when it is safe to do so. She expressed her excitement about an independent nation that can be a part of Europe and escape “Tory Brexit politics”.

Demonstrating her passion for the opportunities the Glasgow Kelvin area faces with the COP26 conference approaching, Stewart stated that it creates the possibility for “further legacy projects”. She described Scotland’s potential to use its innovation in engineering for the eventual transfer to hydrogen power. Nevertheless, Stewart asserted that any real action to save the planet was not possible unless Scotland is an independent nation with a voice on the world stage.

Pam Duncan-Glancy – Scottish Labour candidate for Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow region.

Opening with a passionate speech on the impact the pandemic has had on students, Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “The way that you have been treated in the past year is unacceptable”. She outlined her desire to improve student life after the pandemic, focusing on policies such as rent control for students, a focus on positive destinations for university graduates, further funding for student associations, and further support payments for students from low income backgrounds. Duncan-Glancy emphasised her reluctance to return to a normality that was “unequal and insecure for many” and stressed her belief in creating a “fairer, more equal society”.

Duncan-Glancy highlighted that her experiences as a disabled woman had shaped and developed a number of her policies, particularly her housing policy. Duncan-Glancy wishes to see an “end to landlord dictatorship” in Glasgow Kelvin, reiterating her desire to crack down on unscrupulous landlords. To do this, Duncan-Glancy aims to encourage cooperative modes of renting and homeownership in the area, implement stricter landlord registers and build more future-proof, accessible, and sustainable homes. She was quick to link housing to the issue of the environment and stressed the importance of ensuring that all existing homes are energy efficient, promising funding grants for low and middle income households in order to achieve this. Duncan-Glancy promises to facilitate partnership between organisations for disbaled peoples and housing associations, in order to facilitate the construction of more accessible homes for all.

Duncan-Glancy paid particular attention to the issue of health care, highlighting her belief that the recovery of the NHS is one of the biggest issues society faces in a post-pandemic world. Duncan-Glancy’s primary aims are to see GP surgeries “back on track and protected” as soon as possible, and to encourage more young people to study medicine and medicine-adjacent courses. She proposes a focus on widening access to medical courses at universities in order to boost the numbers of doctors and nurses. Duncan-Glancy described long waiting lists for access to mental health services as “one of biggest tragedies I’ve seen” and suggested access to a mental health worker in each GP surgery and A&E department as a solution to the mental health crisis. Duncan-Glancy also stressed the need for access to campus based counselling for students and the ability for students to access GP surgeries at both their home and university addresses.

Duncan-Glancy agreed with Green candidate Patrick Harvie on the issue of the hate crime bill, criticising the Conservative Party’s suggested policy of implementing plain clothes police officers in pubs and clubs as a solution to violence against women, a policy she described as “disheartening”. Duncan-Glancy agreed with the notion of amending the hate crime bill to include misogyny. Furthermore, Duncan-Glancy supports the removal of the “not proven” verdict as she believes it often leads to reluctance to report certain crimes. She believes the solution to gender-based violence should be one based on preventing crime and proposes safer walking routes and a “gendered approach” to public transport which would increase safety and affordability for women travelling late at night. She also proposes the creation of specific courts for domestic abuse and sexual assault cases. Duncan-Glancy ended by voicing her support for transgender women, alongside Patrick Harvie.

Duncan-Glancy believes that it is not possible to have “climate justice without social justice” and emphasised that climate change is an issue which “knows no borders”. She wants to see a workforce which deviates towards restoring Scotalnd’s natural landscape and focuses heavily on the need to push the workforce towards other roles within the green energy sector, suggesting skills training grants for environmentally friendly jobs as a way to encourage this. Once again, she paid close attention to the issue of housing, focusing on the policy of starting a national housing agency to ensure that vacant and derelict land is used for public good, unused land may be acquired for social housing under this policy. Duncan-Glancy stressed the importance of the upcoming COP conference as a key opportunity to push for a greener Scotland.

On the question of independence, Duncan-Glancy re-iterated her belief in recovery for the NHS and the education system in the wake of the pandemic and her focus on the climate crisis. She believes that there simply isn’t room for a discussion on a second independence in the face of unprecedented climate change and believes in a “recovery only” approach to politics. She also pledged to work with other parties across the political spectrum and said that she sees agreement across all parties across a variety of issues.

Duncan-Glancy ended with a particularly powerful closing remark, emphasising her desire to “fight the corner for Glasgow Kelvin” and deliver a fairer society for all in Scotland.

Patrick Harvie – Scottish Green party candidate for Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow Region. MSP for Glasgow Region since 2003 and Co-leader of Scottish Greens since 2008.

Opening with the strain and suffering of Covid-19 like the other participants, Harvie chose his remarks to emphasise the understated brokenness of the economy before the pandemic, with Scotland being “ripped out” of the EU against its will. He went on to combine this with an environmental approach, raising the collapse of the environment and turning around the climate emergency, believing Scotland can stop missing its climate target through the public funding of housing, energy, and jobs. Thereafter, advocating this future through Scotland being able “to make the big choices” as a small northern country looking to re-join the EU, not within “Boris Johnson’s Brexit Britain”.

On student high rents and tenancy issues, Harvie drew on his own experience as a student of being harassed out of a flat, and only avoiding homelessness thanks to his family. Launching an attack, he expressed eviction from private landlords as an important reason for homelessness, going on to criticise the existing rent controls system and the unavailability of social housing and owner occupation, making the “abusive, exploitative” private housing sector the only option. Harvie’s solutions included adapting a EU model of land for housing allocated on social need rather than profit, and tenant union shifting power to the people. At times, Harvie directed attacks to the SNP and Liberal Democrats, the former wanting to tweak renting zones than change the private sector, while holding the latter responsible for high rent exploitation.

Addressing healthcare access, he expressed it should be feasible for home GPs and University GPs to be in contact with one another, allowing for patient consent to data sharing. Crucial to Harvie’s answers on the growing health and mental health crises, was the need to be looking at the causes and well-being pressures of the crises, from food to the welfare system, than expecting an underfunded NHS to fix it all.

Answering on sexual violence and tackling it, Harvie took a praise and criticise approach, but did not detail what would be done. He praised venues and hospitality challenging management and standards on gender-based violence, thereafter expressing his pleasure at the abolishment of the three verdict system in Scotland (guilty, not guilty, not proven), which requires higher existences of proof for crimes of sexual violence. Then concluding his answer that sexual harassment would be the next step in the following session of the Scottish parliament.

Harvie took issue with one of Aibinu’s answers to the Hate Crime Bill, specifically the need to address misogynist hate, but the way the bill addressed it was creating a legal defence for perpetrators. His further rebuttal attacked the Conservative’s approach to the bill, by working with religious organisations that want to undermine abortion, sex education, and were transphobic.

An important topic for the Greens, Harvie hit out at the hypocrisy of parties spending money on new road highways while saying they want to address climate change. Harvie focused on redirecting the economy from oil and gas to eco approaches, revoking fossil fuel industry tax breaks, and emphasising the need to give land back to nature. Concluding that an ever-growing economy is not possible with finite resources.

As the candidates were asked about independence, Harvie articulated the Greens support for another referendum post-Covid-19, stating it would not take long to formulate a new bill. Harvie was passionate in rejecting the notion we have to choose our recovery response, reiterating his belief in Scotland as a small northern EU country rather than within Johnson’s Brexit Britain. To support his argument, he stated the Smith Commission said nothing should prevent the people of Scotland choosing independence.

Harvie’s closing remarks acted as an appeal for a future which depends on Scottish Greens, claiming they are more interested in positive ideas than ministerial power.

Harvie agreed if elected to the Scottish parliament to commit to working with all other parties to face issues facing Glasgow and Scotland.

David McKenzie – Scottish Liberal Democrats candidate for Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow region.

David MacKenzie’s opening statement described his platform as one which will place recovery first during the next parliamentary term and described the pandemic as “one of the biggest crises that I will see in my lifetime”. Mackenzie describes himself as a “liberal and a social democrat” and his platform as one which will give “more power to the people to make changes that will last a lifetime”. Mackenzie placed heavy emphasis on the climate crisis, the economy, healthcare, and stressed the need to focus on those issues above all.

On housing, Mackenzie stressed the fundamental shortage of housing in Scotland and focused on the need to build more housing, particularly social housing. Mackenzie clashed with Patrick Harvie and Pam Douglas-Glancy on the idea of implementing rent controls in Glasgow Kelvin, citing Berlin, San Francisco, and New York City as examples of places where rent controls have led to gentrification. Instead, Mackenzie proposes further devolution to local authorities, allowing them to make their own decisions on whether or not to implement rent controls. Mackenzie agreed with Douglas-Glancy and Harvie on a crackdown on unscrupulous landlords, and highlighted the need for further legal protections for renters, citing Austria and Denmark as examples of this policy’s success.

On mental health, Mackenzie stressed the importance of mental healthcare and emphasised that a change in attitudes towards mental health is needed as “society has not wanted to talk about people’s relationship with mental health”. Mackenzie stated the need to examine the link between drug abuse and mental health issues, and the need to implement funding and policies which focus on those who suffer from long term mental illness and long term chronic illness. Mackenzie spoke of his background in the technology sector and of his desire to see more investment in technology systems in healthcare, something which he argues will improve the ways in which the NHS operates overall.

On climate change, Mackenzie stressed the importance of “radical change now”. Like Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy, he focused heavily on better funding for public transport and on providing more jobs in the green energy sector for oil and gas workers. He emphasised the need to “get people out of cars and into public transport”, if that is not possible, he wants to see more electric cars on the streets. Mackenzie also stressed the need for more energy efficient homes and for better funding towards those homes. The environment, he says, should be the primary focus of the new parliament.

Mackenzie agreed with the SNP, Labour and Greens on the issue of the hate crime bill, arguing that misogyny and harassment should both be added to the bill. Mackenzie underlined the ongoing debate around gender-based violence, stating that “we need to get tougher” on the issue. He argues that “everything is stacked against women” when they report crimes against them and supports setting up a commission to investigate crimes against women in Scotland. Mackenzie described the need for further emphasis on student safety on campus and supported “safe and available” public transport for all. Mackenzie supports the removal of the “not proven” verdict and believes that violence towards women needs to be actively challenged over the course of the next parliament.

On independence, Mackenzie presented an approach which had not been suggested by any other candidates, proposing a “third way” between full independence and remaining within the U.K. Mackenzie stressed his belief in a federal approach, which would follow a similar model to the systems of government seen in the United States and Germany, which would allow greater levels of autonomy for all four nations of the United Kingdom. Mackenzie also supports the creation of a full, written and codified constitution under this model. However, Mackenzie, like the other unionist candidates, believes that pandemic recovery should be prioritised above all else during the next parliamentary term, and that this “third way” should only be implemented “when the timing is right”.

Mackenzie gave a strong closing statement which focused on tackling the high child poverty rates and the high pollution levels in the area through placing power “in the hands of the people” in Glasgow Kelvin.

Ade Aibinu – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party candidate for Anniesland and Glasgow Region. Currently Glasgow City Councillor for Victoria Park and member of the Young Pharmacologists Advisory Group. 

Ade Aibinu began his opening remarks by addressing the loss of jobs, livelihoods, and lives in the backdrop of the pandemic. He emphasised the SNP and Greens drive for an independence referendum would be divisive, and now is not the time with focus belonging to jobs, the NHS, the economy, and the mental health backlog. Furthermore, he noted the Conservatives plan to fund 3,000 additional teachers, invest in a Covid-19 catch-up fund, and invest in the NHS.

His answers to the issue of high rents and tenancy issues for students was underpinned by having a local authority which holds landlords to task, mentioning legislation enacted by Westminster where landlords cannot evict tenants during the pandemic. Instead of rent controls, he instead expressed the need for property students can stay in and keep a competitive market. Disputing what he called Harvie’s depiction of landlords as evil and profit-driven, he reiterated accountability of landlords requires the right structures, additionally articulating the need to strengthen social housing, which is the responsibility of Glasgow city council.

In terms of student healthcare access and policies to support the growing mental health crisis, he agreed with Harvie (a pattern of agreement and dispute) home GPs and the University GPs should be in contact with one another, with the student’s consent, which should also similarly be seen with the integration of communication between NHS services. Specifically towards mental health Aibinu stated, “10% of the NHS budget will be going to mental health services”, and the need to encourage young people to realise “it’s ok not to be ok”.

Aibinu took issue with the Hate Crime Bill not including “sex” as protected characteristic, saying it should be scrapped as it is not fit for purpose. His later rebuttal to Harvie over including “sex” stated it is “not rocket science” to include it in the protection of women, when analogies like ‘gender-based’ mean sex-based violence in English. Instead to address sexual violence he would see a local policing act, with police engaging in the community to address issues and educate. He also supports scrapping the “not proven” verdict in Scottish courts. As a local councillor, he would have streets with better lighting and smart systems in place to notify when lighting is not working.

Aibinu returned to his structure-based approach regarding the environment. Working with the private sector on electric cars for lasting change, structures to make them a viable option in society, creating strategic relationships with big emission countries like the United States and China. Sparring with Harvie, he argued ending jobs in oil and gas would harm communities, and what is needed is to create new jobs for a green recovery.

On independence, Aibinu opposed holding another independence referendum, citing latest polling that the country remains split, and stressed the recklessness of the SNP and Greens to hold another referendum. To support this, and change the focus, Aibinu emphasised through the SNP’s years in power they still have not convinced the country nor tackled Scotland’s drugs deaths statistics being the worst in Europe.

Aibinu’s closing remarks capped with the bold vision of the Conservatives, which the SNP lacks, to improve educational attainment, productivity and victims of crime justice, confirming again, “We are 100% opposed to a second referendum”, and the SNP and Greens putting the country through division.

Aibinu agreed, if elected to the Scottish parliament, to commit to working with all other parties to face issues facing Glasgow and Scotland.


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