Local Elections 2017: Meet the 35 new councillors at City Chambers

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MORE than half the councillors elected in Edinburgh are new to the City Chambers.

Thirty-five out of the 63 places on the council will be filled by fresh faces.

The Lib Dems celebrate their election at Meadowbank. Kevin Lang and his sister Louise Young at the count. Picture; Neil Hanna

The Lib Dems celebrate their election at Meadowbank. Kevin Lang and his sister Louise Young at the count. Picture; Neil Hanna

The newcomers include a woman with first-hand experience of homelessness, a former editor and the author of the only English-language tourist guide to Albania.

Susan Rae, pictured below right, Green councillor for Leith Walk, moved to Edinburgh from the Borders to look for work and was temping when the 2008 crash came along. She lost her job and had to spend six months living in a succession of homeless hostels.

“It was very difficult,” she recalls. “The conditions were appalling – but the way that they treated the people was worse. If you weren’t in by 10pm they locked you out, and your rooms can be searched at any time. You’re not allowed visitors, you’ve got no cooking facilities.

“People often associate homelessness with people who are unemployed or have issues, but a lot of ordinary working people got caught up in all that.”

Susan Rae

Susan Rae

She was eventually offered a council flat just off Leith Walk, but says when she opened the door for the first time it was “like something from Trainspotting – needles everywhere”. While clearing up she was pricked by a needle and had to go for an HIV test.

She worked as a project administrator for Edinburgh TUC for seven years and then briefly for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, but has out of a job for nearly a year and reliant on Universal Credit – which has given her further direct experience of the difficulties many people face.

“It is a very brutal system, very badly designed, nobody talks to anyone else and they will sanction you at every available opportunity.”

Councillor Rae, who still lives in the same flat, hopes to use her experience to help the council address issues of poverty and housing.

Gillian Gloyer 'Lib-Dem candidate for Meadowbank in 2017 Council Elections

Gillian Gloyer 'Lib-Dem candidate for Meadowbank in 2017 Council Elections

But she knows there will be many other problems on her agenda too. “I got my first bin complaint within 15 minutes of being elected,” she says.

Gillian Gloyer, below, new Lib Dem councillor for Corstorphine/Murrayfield, is a professional election observer and has helped supervise elections in Bosnia, Latin America and Africa.

She has also worked in Chile and lived for four years in Albania and wrote the only English-language tourist guide book to the country, which is now in its fifth edition. She returned to Edinburgh in 2002.

Several other new councillors have overseas experience.

Ashley Graczyk  (Scottish Conservative and Unionist) is elected.''Picture;'' Neil Hanna

Ashley Graczyk (Scottish Conservative and Unionist) is elected.''Picture;'' Neil Hanna

The SNP’s Ian Campbell, councillor in Craigentinny/Duddingston, founded and directed a charity whose work included helping children with HIV/AIDS in Russia, starting a homecare initiative for Holocaust survivors in Ukraine and founding a Hungarian Foundation for ethnic minority groups.

Portobello/Craigmillar Tory councillor Callum Laidlaw travelled the world with his work in corporate communications, but he returned to Edinburgh in 2014 to help campaign against independence and stood in Falkirk East in last year’s Holyrood election.

And Amy McNeese-Mechan, SNP councillor in Leith Walk, studied at Edinburgh University and worked for the Japanese foreign ministry in Chicago and ministry of education in Osaka before returning to Scotland.

The SNP’s Alison Dickie had to resign her post as a P7 teacher at East Craigs Primary School after she was elected in Southside/Newington.

She moved to Edinburgh 12 years ago and is married to the senior pastor of Granton Baptist Church, the Rev Ian Dickie.

She used to be a senior official at the Scottish Parliament, working with the presiding officer, but got frustrated by the need to remain above the political fray, so trained as a teacher and became active in the SNP.

Alex Staniforth is the Green candidate for Craigentinny-Duddingston in May's council elections.

Alex Staniforth is the Green candidate for Craigentinny-Duddingston in May's council elections.

She was tipped to become an MSP when she stood in Edinburgh Central in last year’s Holyrood elections, but lost out to the Tories’ Ruth Davidson.

She says she looks forward to “getting stuck in” to issues important in her ward, like high rents and student accommodation.

Tory Ashley Graczyk, right, elected in Sighthill/Gorgie, was brought up in Broomhouse. She is deaf, founded her own community education charity and has been a community councillor.

Mary Campbell, Green councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar, grew up in Portobello and works for film festival company CMI. She has two children, five and two, and has been active in the community buy-out of the former church in Bellfield Street.

George Gordon, one of two new SNP councillors in Forth, describes himself as a “fifth generation Grantonian”. He has been a community activist for 35 years and got involved in politics through anti-nuclear and anti-poll tax campaigns. He was particularly delighted to be elected because five years ago he missed out by just 43 votes.

He says a top priority is getting a bigger voice for the community on key issues in the area.

Also elected in Forth was the SNP’s Ellie Bird, a young campaigner who works part-time for MP Tommy Sheppard.

Conservative Graeme Bruce, elected in Pentland Hills, works in IT and has been involved in community organisations like the Balerno Children’s Gala. He cycled 500 miles from Balerno High School to Paris to raise money for a Smartboard for an English classroom and 1,000 miles in 12 days around all 42 Scottish football clubs to raise money for a 2G pitch at the school.

Fellow Tory Susan Webber, also elected in Pentland Hills, runs her own health business and volunteers as a local, regional and national hockey umpire.

Hal Osler, who won a seat for the Lib Dems in Inverleith, moved to Edinburgh from London 20 years ago after marrying her Scots husband. She had worked in market research and product analysis, but took time off when her two children were small and got involved in voluntary work, then joined Stockbridge community council.

“I stood for the city council because I wanted to look at things from the other side and see how you can get communities involved and give them a voice.”

Tory John McLellan, right, who won in Craigentinny/Duddingston, is a former editor of Evening News and also had spells in charge of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. Later he was communications director for the Scottish Conservatives.

Neil Ross, who won a seat for the Lib Dems in Morningside, is an elder and former scout leader at Greenbank Parish Church. He came to Edinburgh to go to university in 1977 and stayed. He joined the Liberals around the same time but had never stood for election before. He says after 30 years working in tax accountancy he was ready for something else.

Max Mitchell, a Tory elected in Inverleith, has worked for a local property company, a Fringe venue and taught English in a French high school. Currently he works in a cafe in the city centre.

Morningside Labour councillor Mandy Watt works for Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre and the Zero Tolerance charitable trust and has campaigned against spending cuts.

Green City Centre councillor Claire Miller has been a community councillor for New Town and Broughton and volunteers for groups such as the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust.

Phil Doggart, Conservative in Colinton/Fairmilhead, has lived in Edinburgh for 27 years and works as an actuary.

Scott Arthur, top right, elected for Labour in Colinton/Fairmilehead, is a university lecturer and church elder who was heavily involved in the 2014 Better Together campaign in the area.

Mark Brown, 43, who won a seat for the Tories in Drumbrae/Gyle, works in financial services and has stood for the council, Holyrood and Westminster in the past.

Tory Jim Campbell, elected in Forth ward, has lived in the area for nearly 50 years and works for John Lewis.

Alex Staniforth, below, Green councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston, is a local actor, writer and historian who has secured extra funding for Edinburgh-based grass-roots arts projects.

Andrew Johnston, who won a seat in Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart for the Tories, works for MEP Ian Duncan and was previously in broadcasting.

All four councillors in Liberton/Gilmerton, are new, though Lab­our’s Lezley Cameron was on the council before and served as economic development leader. The SNP’s Derek Howie, was a social worker for 31 years and fought the by-election in the ward in 2013. He is registered blind and will be accompanied at the City Chambers by guide dog Lloyd. Fellow Nationalist Lesley Macinnes lives in Gilmerton and is former manager of an international organisation. Tory Stephanie Smith stood twice before in the ward and is now also standing in Edinburgh South at the general election.

SNP Portobello/Craigmillar councillor Kate Campbell works for MP Tommy Sheppard

Tory Graham Hutchison, elected in Almond, lives in Kirkliston and works in financial services. He is a church elder and stood against Nicola Sturgeon in last year’s Holyrood elections.

Claire Bridgman, SNP councillor for Drumbrae/Gyle, was born and brought up in the ward and attended Craigmount High School. She now runs her own career management business, helping people made redundant.

Lib Dem Kevin Lang, elected in Almond, used to work for Edinburgh West MP John Barrett and stood for Westminster in Edinburgh North and Leith in 2010. He now works for the Law Society – just across the road from his sister Louise Young, who works at Scottish Widows and was also elected in Almond for the party.

She was previously councillor for Leith Walk, 2001-12, and now lives in Kirkliston.


Scott Arthur (Scottish Labour Party) and his election agent celebrate''''Picture;' Neil Hanna

Scott Arthur (Scottish Labour Party) and his election agent celebrate''''Picture;' Neil Hanna

Former Evening News editor; John McLellan Pic Neil Hanna

Former Evening News editor; John McLellan Pic Neil Hanna