Ruth Simpson, who had been a Glasgow City Councillor for Calton and a Labour Party member for more than 40 years, was standing as an Independent candidate in the 2012 city council elections.
She was one of the long-established Labour Councillors in Glasgow who was de-selected and not allowed to stand again. ‘I thought at the time the way things were done was not democratic,’ she said as she handed out flyers at polling stations for Ward 11- Hillhead where she was one of 13 candidates.
‘I read about my de-selection in the Herald. And my feedback form from my interview pre-dated the interview. My former Labour colleagues have all been good, it is just the Party machinery which is wrong. I thought about it and was tempted to go quietly into the night but after supporting the Party through the budget and listening to the debate in the Labour Group afterwards, I decided not to let things go. I felt the Party had left me.’
Not tempted to join any other party – ‘ I’ve been a Labour Party member since I chaired the Labour Club at University ‘ – she decided at the last possible minute to stand as an Independent candidate.
‘Hyndland people have been very nice and they know me,’ she said. Her family rallied round with her daughter and grandson among the team of supporters handing out leaflets to voters at local polling stations.
Environmental issues of bins, roads and clean streets were top of people’s lists on her campaign trail. Buses were also a big issue: ‘De-regulation is the only answer. But what is happening with the loss of routes is dreadful.’ Ruth also has strong views on education and how it has to be improved to enable young people to attain their true potential.
‘I thought going Independent would be like losing a limb. But it’s not been like that,’ she said cheerfully. ‘If I’m elected, my constituents know I’ll work hard for them all, as they can see from my track record. If I’m not elected – well – I’d have more time to spend with my grandsons.’
Of the 21 people retiring as Councillors from Glasgow City Council, around ten attended a poignant farewell earlier this week. Hosted by Lord Provost Bob Winter, who is, himself, standing down, it brought closure to many of the participants.
Said Jean McFadden who represented Garscadden-Scotstounhill and has served the city for 41 years: ‘Everyone felt it was a really nice touch to honour those of us leaving. Each person was presented with a personalised plaque which has the city’s coat of arms and the dates they’ve served. I have similar plaques from Glasgow Corporation but this is the only one which has my name on it.’
She has no plans to retired. Among her many ongoing activities she is an official examiner for work submitted by honours law students at Strathclyde University; she will get back to studying Advanced Italian for herself; she will mentor girls in a secondary school to help them achieve their potential; and she might go for an HGV licence!
‘I’ve always fancied driving one of those heavy goods vehicles round a tight corner!’ she said quite seriously. These are all outwith her commitments serving on the Legal Services Clinic and the Scottish Planning and Environment Law’s editorial board among others. She has also set herself to correct fundamental errors in some newspaper archives about who did what and when in the revival of Glasgow. ‘I just want to put the record straight. I was council leader from 1979 to 1986. That is when the team decided to change the direction of the city to move it into the creative industries and the financial sector. The minutes are there so I want the facts to be known.’
One of her future students will be former Drumchapel- Anniesland Councillor Matt Kerr, who leaves the Council to read law at Strathclyde University. He was selected after the resignation of Steven Purcell. He also attended the Lord Provost’s farewell event and said it was a very pleasant occasion.
Councillor Alex Glass who represented Greater Pollok for 13 years, told this website: ‘The evening and the presentation of the plaques was a good way to close off my time as a Councillor.’ Latterly he had been business manager for the city, overseeing many of the negotiations which kept Glasgow’s coffers from being emptied. One of the ways he saved the city money was to recommend cutting the fresh flowers budget. ‘That saved £50,000,’ he said. ‘ Stopping newspapers for every Councillor saved another £30,000 and at least that was saved on print bills when we cut back on paperwork.’ Aged only 52, he said this will be the first time in his life he’s been made redundant and he has, so far, no job offer. ‘I’ve work to do at home which I’ve long promised to complete for my wife,’ he said with a smile. ‘So I’ll do that and wait and see what happens. Everything is in the hands of fate,’ he commented philosophically.
Latterly a Bailie, Councillor Catherine McMaster has served Glasgow North East for several terms and said: ‘The event was not an obituary! It was really important to have something to say you’ve been here. Our training records were also included for every Councillor was expected to have extensive training in many areas of the work we do. That is the kind of record that was ignored by the Labour Party and dismissed in our interviews with them,’ she said pointedly. She was one of the Labour Councillors who did not take it kindly that she was de-selected by the party. She admitted she was still angry with the party for deciding she was ‘past the sell by date’ – ‘that is pure ageism,’ she commented. Her plan is to re-commence her private practice as a psychotherapist. ‘I’ll update my accreditation first,’ she added. The leading thinker behind the celebration of Glasgow’s medieval history, which has excited much attention and creative talent, she plans to continue to use her history knowledge within her local community in Easterhouse where Provan Hall Trust operates a building considered to pre-date the Provand’s Lordship on High Street. She said that her community had been generous in their appreciation of her work for them. ‘It has been a great privilege to serve this community. I’ll leave the new team to get on with the job and hope they will work to ‘let Glasgow flourish.’ But that will depend on how many voters turn out on Thursday.’