East Dunbartonshire’s new Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Jo Swinson, today made her first speech in the Chamber of the House of Commons.
After paying tribute to her predecessors, particularly Tony Worthington and John Lyons, and also to the beauty of the constituency, Jo then set out her priorities as the new Member for East Dunbartonshire.
Jo’s highest priority will be to retain and protect the vibrant community spirit of the area, by ensuring that local services are not neglected.
Speaking in the Chamber, Jo said:
“The retention and protection of that vibrant community spirit in the area I serve will be a high priority for me. Central to strong communities are good local services, which is why I have been very concerned at the recent closures of Post Offices in local areas such as Bearsden, Westerton and Auchinairn.”
In a broader context, Jo also set out her commitment to strive to combat the apathy which plagues politics and the political process by ensuring that she addresses the issues that really concern people- locally, nationally and internationally.
Speaking in the Chamber, Jo said:
“People want to know the reasons why millions are dying from treatable diseases in Africa. They want the world to stop sleepwalking into future environmental disaster.
Britain’s leadership of the G8 later this year will be a key test for many people who are still prepared to give politics a chance.”
Jo also thanked the voters of East Dunbartonshire for electing her as the first Liberal Democrat MP for the area, and also as the youngest member of the House of Commons. Jo joked that she is only just older than the West Highland Way which celebrates its 25th anniversary next month!
On concluding her maiden speech, Jo said:
“I am thrilled and honoured that the voters of East Dunbartonshire have chosen to give me a chance as their elected representative. I am to determined to represent all of my constituents tirelessly whatever their politics, and even if they don’t happen to be Speaker of this House.”
Full text of speech:
Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech.
It is a great privilege for me to represent East Dunbartonshire, where I was raised and have lived for most of my life. It is a seat which has many distinguished constituents, not least the Speaker of this very House.
I am looking forward to getting to grips with my constituents’ enquiries and problems. Mr Speaker, has welcomed new Members to this House, helpfully offering advice and a listening ear.
I am in the fortunate position of being able to reciprocate this offer.
Be it Anti-social neighbours
Harassment at work
Difficulty with a landlord…
Through Hansard, I’d like to say to Mr Speaker, my door is always open.
East Dunbartonshire stands out among constituencies for electing women in their twenties. The previous young woman to represent East Dunbartonshire was Margaret Bain in 1974. Her maiden speech was described by William Hamilton, then Member for Central Fife, as “a rare treat highly charged with non-controversial subjects”.
Perfect, I thought, no doubt it will be a helpful guide to me. However you can imagine my surprise when reading the speech I discovered Mrs Bain’s call for the Secretary of State for Scotland to resign. The Rt Hon. Member for Edinburgh South West may be pleased to know that I plan to be less controversial today.
The current boundaries of the constituency contain much of the previous Strathkelvin & Bearsden, and part of the old Clydebank & Milngavie.
Tony Worthington, who stood down at the recent election, gave long service to the community of Milngavie. In particular I would like to pay tribute to his hard work in the area of international development.
John Lyons was also active in promoting international issues. As the Member for Strathkelvin & Bearsden he kick-started a campaign locally for East Dunbartonshire to pursue Fairtrade status. I know John will be pleased that his efforts on this are paying off, and a steering group is now working towards making East Dunbartonshire a Fairtrade zone by 2006.
Both these former Labour Members should also be congratulated on their principled stance in opposition to the Iraq war. This ability to put conscience and constituency views before that of the party is valued by members of the public, even if it is less popular with the Whips.
Having mentioned Labour and SNP former representatives of my constituency I should point out that the Conservatives too have held this seat with Sir Michael Hirst in the 1980s. And in the Scottish Parliament the Independent, Dr Jean Turner, represents Strathkelvin & Bearsden.
So really it was about time they elected a Liberal Democrat. I am delighted to be the first Liberal Democrat to represent East Dunbartonshire, and also the first Lib Dem member in West Central Scotland since Roy Jenkins in Glasgow Hillhead.
East Dunbartonshire sits to the north of Glasgow, stretching from the city boundaries to the foot of the beautiful Campsie Fells. I may be accused of bias, but I believe that it is a fantastic place to live. The distinct areas which make up East Dunbartonshire retain a strong sense of community spirit.
Situated just 20 minutes from the bustling cosmopolitan city centre of Glasgow, and a similarly short distance from the lush beauty of Loch Lomond, it really does enjoy the best of both worlds.
Hence it is a lovely place to visit, and I would encourage my fellow Honourable Members to do so. Though maybe not with the purpose that several of the Rt Hon Members from the benches opposite had when they visited earlier this year.
People have been visiting for centuries. In 141 AD the Romans arrived and found the place so pleasing they saw no need to go further north. Indeed they built the Antonine Wall through the constituency with forts in Bearsden, Cadder and Kirkintilloch. Bearsden was even treated to a Roman Bathhouse.
The retention and protection of that vibrant community spirit in the area I serve will be a high priority for me. Central to strong communities are good local services, which I why I have been very concerned at the recent closures of Post Offices in local areas such as Bearsden, Westerton and Auchinairn.
In Bishopbriggs the main Post Office has been under threat, though I am now optimistic that thanks to the support of thousands of local people the facility will be kept within the town centre. Post Offices often act as hubs for the community, and a trip to the Post Office is more than just about making a transaction. Such social contact forms part of the glue that binds communities together.
Economic regeneration can also support communities. Kirkintilloch, part of which is in my constituency, is looking forward to a multi-million pound regeneration project which will deliver a state-of-the-art leisure centre by 2007, along with an arts & culture centre, health centre and better access to the countryside. A new marina on the Forth & Clyde Canal will help to cement Kirkintilloch’s status as the canal capital of Scotland.
My home town, Milngavie, attracts visitors from all over the world, keen to embark on a challenging and dramatic long distance walk. The West Highland Way begins in Milngavie and ends 95 miles further on in Fort William, in the constituency of my Rt Honourable Friend for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.
I was delighted to welcome him last month to the start of the West Highland Way, where we spoke with members of one of the many active local community groups, the Bearsden & Milngavie Ramblers. Next month the 25th anniversary of the West Highland Way is being celebrated.
It’s almost as old as I am.
While I may, just, be older than the West Highland Way, I follow my Honourable Friend the member for Brent East in being the youngest member of this House.
I’m delighted that among the new faces in the House there are several young MPs. It is a strength that the elected Members span a spectrum of 55 years in age. I believe that a more representative House can help to make politics more relevant to the electorate we serve.
Many people feel disconnected from politics, and nowhere is this more apparent than among young people. Addressing this will take more than baseball caps and text messages.
I would argue that there is not a general disinterest in politics, but a lack of faith in the political process and us politicians, to address the issues they care about.
People want to know the reasons why millions are dying from treatable diseases in Africa. They want the world to stop sleepwalking into future environmental disaster.
Britain’s leadership of the G8 later this year will be a key test for many people who are still prepared to give politics a chance.
I am thrilled and honoured that the voters of East Dunbartonshire have chosen to give me a chance as their elected representative. I am to determined to represent all of my constituents tirelessly whatever their politics, and even if they don’t happen to be Speaker of this House.