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Photo: Martin alongside SNP team West Dunbartonshire.

In my first column since the local elections, I’d like to start by congratulating all of West Dunbartonshire’s new and re-elected local representatives. Having been a councillor twice in my life before becoming a Member of Parliament, I can honestly say it is a tremendous privilege and important job representing our communities in local government.

West Dunbartonshire Council is now a Tory-free zone, which is very welcome news given the contempt Boris Johnson’s government has shown our communities. The Conservatives took a drubbing in Scotland, but unfortunately here in West Dunbartonshire the collapse of the Tory vote primarily benefited the British Labour party in taking control of the local council administration.

For the SNP, we increased our share of the vote in West Dunbartonshire despite a number of our most experienced local councillors retiring or standing down. I wish each of our outgoing councillors well, and thank them for all their hard work over the years. We now have a fantastic new team of SNP councillors energised and determined to continue working tirelessly for our communities across Dumbarton, the Vale and Clydebank.

Nationwide, it was an historic election victory for the SNP – achieving our highest ever vote share in a council election, gaining more seats than any other party, and seeing a record number of pro-independence councillors elected.

Scotland has once again emphatically rejected the Tories, sending a clear message to Westminster that we’ve had enough of their disregard for the hardship facing households just now. The Tory cost-of-living crisis is worsening by the day, exacerbated by Brexit – but Boris Johnson’s government is too consumed by sleaze and scandal to do anything about it.

The Tories haven’t won an election in Scotland in 70 years, yet the Labour party would still prefer the powers needed to tackle the cost-of-living crisis to be in the hands of Boris Johnson rather than the people of Scotland. And it seems Scottish Labour haven’t learnt anything from 2014 as they once again work hand-in-glove with their ‘Better Together’ partners – doing dodgy backroom deals with the Tories in council chambers across the country.

Scotland is paying a heavy price for Westminster rule and it’s clearer than ever that Labour and the Tories are two sides of the same coin. It’s only with the full powers of independence that Scotland can choose to take a different path, and Scotland must have that choice.

If the ‘Better Together’ parties think they can stand in the way of the SNP’s clear mandate for an independence referendum, they can expect to continue fighting it out with each other for second place at the ballot box.

This article was written for publication in the Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter.

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