Bins, potholes and cost of living crisis among main concerns for Glasgow voters at polling stations

Glasgow residents went to the polls on Thursday to vote on who they want to represent them over the next five years, after an election campaign which saw campaigners clash over everything from bins and buses to libraries and grass cutting – and with every party claiming they offered the best future for the city.

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With so much at stake it was a surprisingly quiet at many polling stations early in the day, as a steady trickle of voters headed out under grey skies to have their say.

Voters could enter polling stations across the city from 7am until they shut at 10pm and party activists were out in force to secure support for their candidates.

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And as with elsewhere in the country it was expected the postal vote would be higher than ever, after so many people registered during the pandemic.

Many campaigners had hoped that polling would pick up into the evening, although a late downpour may have discouraged voters from turning out.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon poses for the media outside the Broomhouse Community Hall polling station, Glasgow, as voters went to the polls.

The SNP took control of Glasgow City Council in 2017, ending Labour’s 37-year rule in the city, but did not have a majority administration. This year, only the SNP and Labour are standing enough candidates to take a majority, with 50 and 43 respectively, as 43 councillors would be needed on the 85-seat council.

The SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was one person to cast her vote in Glasgow, and posted pictures of herself at various polling stations where she met up with local candidates to help push them over the finish line.

At polling stations, Glaswegians said bins, the state of the city’s roads and the cost of living crisis were on their minds as they went in to cast their votes.

Outside Mount Florida Primary School in the Langside ward, where the SNP’s Susan Aitken, the council leader for the last five years, is standing, one party activist said there had been a “steady” stream of voters by mid-morning.

After placing her vote, local resident Irene McLean said she wanted to see the council “more or less carry on doing what they’re doing just now” but she believed more could be done to clean up the city.

“I think the bins, the cleaning of the streets, that’s really bad, and the cutting of the grass,” she said. “They’re just using covid as an excuse, it’s just absolutely disgusting.”

Asked what the key issue was for her, another woman said: “All the holes in the road, everybody is fed up. And what they’re going to do with the rubbish, we will wait with bated breath to see what happens.

Her friend added: “Pavements and roads – the potholes in the roads and the pavements are very bad.”

A spokesman for Glasgow SNP said the party had “fought a positive campaign based on a solid five-year record of addressing poverty and social challenges”.

“Be it record attainment for school leavers, providing more free school meals and 1140 free nursery hours years ahead of schedule, through to the commitment we’ve secured on an entire new transport system for Glasgow, we have much to be proud of.

“Despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, the SNP City Government has done all in our powers to fend off the worst excesses of Tory austerity and turn around Glasgow after decades of Labour misrule.

“There are tough times ahead and we hope the people of Glasgow can place their trust in us to continue with our ambitious programme for Glasgow and its people.”

A 30-year-old man who said he had chosen to vote for the green party admitted national issues surrounding the Prime Minister and the Conservative party had impacted his decision. “It’s hard to disassociate from national things at the moment,” he said. “That’s really what’s dictating how I feel.

“I always vote tactically to be fair,:” he added. “If I was in a seat where the Tories were likely to get in, I would vote for whoever was challenging the best.”

He added that locally, the environment, transport and better street cleaning were key issues.

A Labour activist, handing out flyers to voters in Langside before they entered the polling station, said the party had received a good response during the campaign. Residents have been particularly concerned about the cost of living crisis, she added.

And in the Linn ward there was a warm reception for local Labour leader Malcolm Cunning, who is hoping to win a third term in office.

Mr Cunning, who submitted his vote via post, turned out to welcome voters at St Fillan’s Primary School on Thursday morning and said he was feeling confident about his party’s chances and that people had been very receptive to Labour on the campaign trail.

He said: “I have felt more positive about this election campaign than I have felt since before 2015. There is change afoot and I am confident that we are going to make some significant gains tomorrow – how much we will not know until tomorrow but I am quite confident.

“We have spoken to thousands of people across the city and I must have spoken to at least 3500 people in my own ward. People are far more receptive to Labour and are caring more about local politics.

“Folk have been chatting to us on doors and despite the party broadcasts people want to talk about local issues. I think people will vote based on the issues important to them.

“In February people wanted to talk about partygate then the Russian invasion of Ukraine but we are now finding the things most important are the ones closer to home. It is nice to keep it local.”

In Toryglen, residents were placing their votes at St Brigid’s Primary School. John McGeachy said potholes were a problem in the area and people need “a wee bit more help with our energy bills and utilities”.

“I’d like to see Boris gone too,” he added.

A woman said anybody who claimed the local streets were clean “must be walking about with their eyes shut”.

“At one point they used to come and sweep things up but they don’t. All the bins are overflowing, somebody’s not doing their job.”

At the Budhill Family learning centre in Shettleston campaigners were handing out last minute leaflets to voters who hadn’t yet decided what way they were going to vote.

Conservative leader Thomas Kerr arrived early to cast his vote, turning in a car brimming with union jack flags which one observed said was a “brave” move in the East End of Glasgow.

Mr Kerr described the campaign trail as “exhausting”, but said he was feeling really upbeat about tomorrow’s results, despite fears the problems faced by Conservative PM Boris Johnson over partygate and the cost of living crisis may hit their vote.

In Glasgow he expects local issues to dominate, with concerns about fly tipping, overflowing bins and reversal of the three weekly bin collections a key focus of the Conservative campaign, and one which they believe has struck a chord with voters.

Mr Kerr said: “I attended the polling station in Mount Vernon this morning. There were loads of smiley faces and people thanking me for the work I have put in for the past five years across the Shettleston ward.

“The polls have not been as busy as they normally would but I think a lot of people have been using their postal vote. There is a steady drip of people coming but it is not as busy as I thought it would be.

“I have spoken to a number of people who say they are angry with the SNP administration over the last five years and that they are tactically voting to remove them from power.

“They are scunnered about the state of the city and want the next council to fix roads, potholes, bin collections and fly tipping. People are angry that they are paying more in council tax for very little in return.”

Glasgow Greens co-convener Jon Molyneux is hoping to be re-elected in Pollokshields. Outside Pollokshields Primary School, he was approached by a voter who wanted to let him know he had secured his first preference on the ballot paper.

Molyneux said he was “really pleased” with the response his party has received this year. “We’ve run our biggest ever campaign in Glasgow. More activists than ever, more door-knocking than ever and the response is great.

“Yesterday [Wednesday] seeing national opinion polls that would put Greens getting our highest ever result, we’re feeling good. Hopefully we can translate that to more seats on the council.”

The Greens candidate said the cost of living crisis is “the biggest thing that is affecting everybody”. “It really is getting into all parts of the community.”

Day-to-day services, such as parks, the streets and waste, have also come up on the doors. “Obviously the Greens bring a different perspective on those issues than other parties,” Molyneux said. “We are far more focused on actual solutions, the long-term solutions that will fix problems rather than just the sticking plasters.”

The Glasgow count starts at 9am at the Emirates Arena with the final results expected before 5pm.