Becoming an SNP councillor was a surreal experience – one which happened almost in a daze.
Partly, that was down to the quickness with which everything had happened – the unexpected announcement of a by-election, the rapid candidate selection process and the fast-paced election campaign. Mostly, however, it can be attributed to the fact that, having stayed up all through Thursday night for the Holyrood election count, I still hadn’t had any sleep by the time my own election was confirmed at around 12.30pm on the Friday.
I am now an SNP councillor for Anderston/City on Glasgow City Council. It still sounds very strange to say that – and even weirder to have council employees insist on calling me “Councillor Millar”.
But I am very grateful to the council staff and my SNP colleagues who have supported me in undertaking my new responsibilities, from attending full council sessions and sitting on scrutiny committees, to engaging with local organisations like community councils and assisting constituents with issues they face.
I am also incredibly grateful to the voters who put their faith in me and the SNP to represent them and drive forward progress in the local area.
Local government is not necessarily as high-profile as parliamentary politics, but it is where many of the most important decisions that impact on people’s day-to-day lives are made. It is a great honour to have been given the opportunity to help bring about change for the benefit of people and communities in Anderston/City and across Glasgow.
The SNP’s passion for tackling inequalities, boosting prosperity and empowering communities is at the heart of everything our councillors do – and these are the principles which will underpin the bold plans we’ll campaign on in next year’s council elections. So, too, must we strive to make our politics at all levels more representative of the varied groups and communities our politicians represent.
Particularly key to this is engaging young people. A majority of residents in the ward I represent in central Glasgow are under 30, and yet we know that young people are less likely to vote or engage with local democracy. As a result, young people’s views are too often not considered or deprioritised.
That urgently needs to change – and that means actively reaching out to youth groups, student communities, young workers and others to seek their priorities and ideas of how to change things for the better. That’s something I’ll aim to do frequently in my new role, and I am determined to help make the voices of young people heard.
We also need more young people getting actively involved in politics and becoming representatives themselves. I am currently (I believe) Scotland’s youngest councillor, but I hope next May many more young people put themselves forward for election to stand up for their communities and to provide fresh voices for our generation.
SNP Youth has an important role to play here, and I know that the youth wing’s National Executive Committee, as well as myself, would be more than happy to talk to any young SNP members thinking of putting themselves forward for the council elections, and to help advise on the process of standing to be an SNP candidate.
In order to truly engage young people in our democracy, it is absolutely vital that our representatives include those with actual experience of being a young person in modern Scotland. It is also important that we build on the SNP’s progress in increasing the representation of women and minority groups, and that we field a wide range of candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences next year.
Scotland’s councillors are in a unique position to effect change by fighting for better local services and improving people’s lives in tangible ways. In doing so, we must engage closely with the communities we represent, and aim to ensure that our representatives reflect our society as a whole.
While I’m still getting to grips with being a councillor, and I’m sure it will take me a while longer to properly settle in, I look forward to standing up for my ward and for young people across Glasgow.
I hope that at next year’s local government elections, the SNP can put forward a vibrant and representative range of candidates to serve all of Scotland’s communities – including many new young voices to speak up in council chambers across the country.