North Lanarkshire Council’s new SNP administration is highlighting “a number of firsts” among the new authority assembly as they promise change after taking office last week.
With the party taking control of the council chamber for the first time, the handover of power has been seen Bellshill councillor Jordan Linden installed as leader – becoming the first LGBTQIA person to hold the post as well as being Scotland’s youngest council leader at the age of 26 .
Three of the top four roles in the authority are held by women – Coatbridge South councillor Tracy Carragher is the first female depute leader in North Lanarkshire’s history, while provost and depute Agnes Magowan and Anne Thomas are only the second women to hold each of those posts , following on from previous postholder Jean Jones.
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Newly-elected Labor member Ayeshah Khan, who represents Motherwell North, has also become the first female Black, Minority, Ethnic councilor to take office at North Lanarkshire.
She is one of 34 new councilors – nearly half of the 77-strong assembly – to have been elected at the local government poll earlier this month.
Councillor Linden said: “Our new administration represents a number of firsts – the first time the council has been run by the SNP, the first time it’s been led by a gay person, most of the key roles are held by women and the first BME female councilor.”
The new leader said: “I think this sends out a clear message to people that we see North Lanarkshire as a place of inclusivity, tolerance and openness and that’s at the heart of my administration.
“I want people to know that if they call North Lanarkshire their home, then it is just that, a place that is welcoming and inclusive – for all.”
Councillor Linden said he and his team are “immensely privileged” to be forming the new administration, telling Lanarkshire Live: “The opportunity to serve local people is what we got into politics for, and that trust has been placed in us to deliver.”
He said of the council’s first-ever change of control: “North Lanarkshire wasn’t one of the councils which went to the SNP at the last election and was seen as that last bastion of Labor administration – today that’s no longer, and that’s incredibly important.
“Now we’re meeting with the chief executive to agree to a program of work that will see our manifesto start to be implemented across North Lanarkshire, moving on the program of reviews outlined like environmental assets and outdoor education.
“Key to our agenda will be placing communities and local people at the heart of the political agenda and ensuring they have a genuine say on the issues that matter to them.”
Councillor Linden added: “Just as we’ll work with communities on the challenges that lie ahead, so too are we prepared to work right across the council in the spirit of collaboration.
“There are a number of big-ticket issues where there’s broad consensus because it’s the right thing to do for North Lanarkshire, like our community investment fund – so we have an obligation to make sure we work together to continue that path of delivering all those big ambitions to really transform people’s lives.”
Speaking at the recent historic council meeting, he told fellow elected members: “We have an impressive manifesto and want to focus on education, sustainable economy and increasing engagement. We understand the challenges ahead and the cost of living is at the forefront of people’s minds.”
Depute leader Tracy Carragher said: “This genuinely feels like such a historic moment – I couldn’t be prouder and I’m ready to get in there and implement all our pledges because that’s what the people want, so I’m champing at the bit to get change.
“We’re not going to be the stereotypical way it’s been in the past. We listened to people and that’s how our manifesto came about – everything we’ve brought forward is because our constituents have told us that’s what they want, and we’re here to represent them.
“This really is a historic new chapter and I truly believe it’s the right thing for North Lanarkshire; we’re going to work in conjunction with the Scottish Government and it will be 100 per cent about what’s best for the people here. I’m honored to work with such a wonderful team, where that change is very visible, to bring that about.”
Provost Magowan, a former deputy head at Coltness High, told Lanarkshire Live of her new role: “It will take me a long while to believe that this honor has been bestowed on me; it’s a special moment and I hope to do the people of North Lanarkshire proud.
“I’ve lived here for 68 years and love the area, it’s a wonderful place to live and I genuinely want to work for the community, be visible and to advertise North Lanarkshire as it’s an amazing place to stay.”
Depute provost Thomas is a former detective inspector who is new to the role of councillor, and said: “It’s a wee bit of a learning curve for me, but I have a lot of experience – I’m a doer, I’m a worker and I’m looking forward to giving the people of North Lanarkshire the change they voted for.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.