Edinburgh by-election victor says talking to refugee women in Iraq made her want to be councillor
New Edinburgh councillor will be hailed at party conference
Edinburgh's newest councillor has described how talking to refugee women in Iraq made her want to stand for election in the Capital.
Liberal Democrat Fiona Bennett won the Corstorphine/Murrayfield by-election with a 56 per cent share of the vote, to take the seat vacated by the resignation of SNP councillor and former Lord Provost Frank Ross. Her total of first-preference votes – 4,577 – was the biggest number of votes the Lib Dems have received in any council by-election in Scotland.
And the result means the Lib Dems have now overtaken Labour to become the second largest party on the council. The 13-strong Lib Dem group will meet early next week to decide how to maximise their influence and may even consider bidding to oust the minority Labour administration.
Ms Bennett is a former mental health nurse, who now works for Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain, but she has also volunteered with a global NGO which supports minority communities facing persecution by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq. She said: "That resulted in me going out and spending time with refugees and internally displaced people in Northern Iraq and having lots of conversations with them – and this was all because I had contacted my MP at the time.
"There were conversations with women there about why I was there – and when I told them I had contacted my MP, they couldn't believe we had access to the people who make decisions in our lives. I spoke about local councils and the fact that if we did have broken roads and pavements we had these people we could go to that represented us – and the women cried. They were really emotional and in awe of what a privilege it is to represent the people and how fortunate we are to be able to contact these people. So at the time I knew I wanted to come back and work for an MP or an MSP, so I applied for a job with Wendy, who is my current boss – I have been one of her senior case workers for the last three years and it went from there. She has been incredibly supportive and she encouraged me to do this.”
Ms Bennett's victory is set to be hailed at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Dundee on Saturday, when she is due to appear on stage and address delegates just before the keynote speech by party leader and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I am delighted to see Fiona Bennett storm to victory. Improving the lives of her community and the people around her is what Fiona is all about and she will now do that to great effect from the city chambers of our nation’s capital. Fiona ran a campaign forged in the finest traditions of our party and by so doing she, and her team, delivered the biggest local authority by-election victory in our history.”