By David Carnduff
HITTING the campaign trail can be thirsty work for a politician.
So it’s understandable that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson headed for the pub while out and about in East Renfrewshire in a bid to win votes ahead of next month’s council elections.
And to be fair to Ms Davidson, she actually ended up pouring the pints, rather than downing them herself, as she spoke with customers about what they see as the big issues as they prepare to go to the ballot box.
She also took time out for an exclusive interview with the Barrhead News, in which she revealed she is confident her party’s candidates are on course for success in East Renfrewshire.
Ms Davidson believes the Tory vote will be boosted by former SNP supporters switching allegiances.
She said: “We know that the support is there. It’s not just people who voted ‘no’ in the referendum.
“People who had previously voted SNP because they thought they were a better option than Labour are saying to us ‘what have the Scottish Government done - the schools are worse, the councils are worse, the roads are worse and Nicola Sturgeon wants to drag us back to a referendum that no-one wants’.
“We are being quite ambitious in this part of the world. We have put up 10 candidates across the constituency.”
During her day of campaigning in East Renfrewshire, Ms Davidson met Conservative supporters, spoke to residents, visited shops and local businesses and popped into an Islamic community centre in Giffnock.
There was also time to pull a pint or two at the Orchard Park Hotel, also in Giffnock, and speak with the locals.
She highlighted East Renfrewshire’s council tax increase as one of the issues people had raised with her.
Ms Davidson said: “There are a number of houses in this part of the country that fall into the E and F bands because it’s a very desirable area to grow a family.
“These are not big mansions we are talking about but people are seeing their bills go up by 18 per cent.
“I know this hasn’t been a Conservative-run council but I do feel for the administration here because they have had less to work with and that’s been down to the SNP government.”
Ms Davidson was accompanied by Eastwood MSP Jackson Carlaw and Councillor Gordon Wallace, of East Renfrewshire Conservatives Association, who is standing for re-election on May 4.
Cllr Wallace said many people are worried about infrastructure at a time when new housing is being planned.
He highlighted concerns over a proposed development at Braidbar Quarry, in Giffnock.
Mr Wallace added: “We have schools that are absolutely full. It takes about 10 minutes to get through Giffnock in a car, never mind waiting for all these houses to be built and all the traffic that comes with it.
“We are absolutely overloaded and the frustration is that the majority of people who come to live in Giffnock come for a specific reason and that’s the health and wellbeing that we have around here.”
Meanwhile, Mr Carlaw believes the issue of Scottish independence has a part to play in the council elections.
He said: “I have been struck by how many people, particularly traditional Labour voters who lent their support to the SNP last time around, are annoyed that the referendum question has come up again.”
Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide who holds power on East Renfrewshire Council - and Ms Davidson is hopeful the Conservatives can win the argument.
She said: “We have a fantastic team here. We have a lot of people like Gordon Wallace and Jim Swift who have been in the council for a number of years, with a good, solid track record.
“We also have new candidates coming forward from the sort of backgrounds that can make a huge difference.”