A MORE diverse council and a greater focus on improving sustainable travel are what the SNP group say could come about in East Dunbartonshire if voters back them next month.

The area may have returned two female MSPs in Rona Mackay and Marie McNair last year while Amy Callaghan secured the East Dunbartonshire seat in the House of Commons in 2019.

But for the past five years, the council has been male-dominated with just six women representing communities compared to 16 men.

SNP deputy group leader Gillian Renwick said that could all change if the people of Milngavie, Bearsden, Bishopbriggs, Lenzie and Kirkintilloch give their backing to the party on May 5.

The group have put out a diverse clan of eight candidates across the council’s seven wards including women, some younger hopefuls and some who live with disabilities.

READ MORE: Have we covered your local area in our council election profiles?

Councillor Renwick, who herself is hoping to retain her seat in Lenzie and Kirkintilloch South, said it would be a positive step forward to have some different, progressive voices in the chamber.

She told The National: “We feel we’re far more diverse this time round. A couple of our candidates have disabilities, and some identify differently in terms of LGBTQ and it just makes the group a bit more interesting I think.

“I’ve been a councillor for 15 years and at some meetings I’m the only woman there.

“We’ve had a strong female leader in the past and at one point we had a female Provost and if you think about it all our MPs and MSPs recently have all been women and yet we have a very male-dominated council.

“We’ve got two or three younger people standing this time round.

“We’d just love to get some different points of view in there. Sometimes you walk into the council chamber and it feels like things have already been decided and it’s sometimes a bit of a debate for show.

“I’d much rather we could have younger, female voices in the chamber. It needs to be a lot more collegiate because it has felt too tribal at times in the past five years and that’s not what people get into council politics for.”

It has been a politically turbulent and, at times, emotional term for elected members in the area with a change in administration and the tragic death of a Provost.

The SNP group started out controlling the council when they returned the most seats in 2017 but by the end of that year the Tories and Liberal Democrats had joined together to form their own coalition and took over the reins.

READ MORE: East Dunbartonshire council co-leader backtracks over claims he doesn't need a Covid vaccine

The sudden death of Conservative Provost Alan Brown also shook up the chamber in a different way last year, with LibDem Gary Pews taking the gold chain in his place.

Councillor Renwick admitted at times it has been a struggle to get agreement across the board on certain proposals, such as securing a new Lenzie Academy building.

And with East Dunbartonshire being a major commuter area for Glasgow, one idea which has been discussed of late involves developing a cycle link between Lenzie and Bishopbriggs to make it easier for cyclists to get to and from the city.

Councillor Renwick said her group have tried to push the initiative forward but have so far struggled to get enough support. If they can get more councillors, she’s hopeful their influence will bring more greener travel to a region full of nature.

She added: “We have plugged at sustainable travel recently. There is a possibility to connect Lenzie up with Bishopbriggs.

“We’ve got rail links and there are some bus links but we wanted to do a cycle link that would run along the Glasgow to Edinburgh railway line.

“Cyclists are some of the strongest lobbyists that we’ve had and they have a real issue. People have been cycling more during the pandemic and to be able to make it a bit more sustainable they would need a route so they could get from Lenzie safely into Glasgow and the Lenzie to Bishopbriggs bit is missing.

The National: Cyclists should take pedestrians into consideration, says our letter writer. Pic: Pixabay

“We’ve tried the last couple of budgets to get something included in the capital budget but it’s just not been accepted so that’s definitely something we’re looking at.

“If we had more councillors that may help, it’s all about having the votes. I’ve always said I love a good idea for East Dunbartonshire no matter who brings it up but we’ve had a difficult time trying to get that outlook in the other direction.

“For example, Lenzie Academy is the biggest school in the area that hasn’t had a new building. Boclair [Academy] is getting a rebuild and it’s only in the last year we’ve managed to get the council admin to agree to doing a feasibility study for Lenzie.

“It would be difficult to build it on the site it’s on because there have been so many houses built in Lenzie, which is why we need a new school, so it’s just where to put it. We’re looking at somewhere that might include Lenzie Library which has been at risk for a few years.”

No group is aiming for an overall majority across the 22 seats up for grabs at the election, but it’s looking likely a coalition would probably be formed between two parties.

All signs would suggest the Tories will be up for working with the LibDems again, and the SNP have said they are also open to negotiations to work with other groups, most likely Labour.

The Greens are also vying for first seats on the council and given it’s the first election since they formed a partnership with the SNP at Holyrood, all eyes are on how they fare.

Councillor Renwick was the first to admit that while East Dunbartonshire is so often seen as a leafy, well-to-do district, it is not without its problems and parties need to work together for the good of the area.

She said: “East Dunbartonshire is one of these places people think is very affluent and everything is great and there are no issues and we do of course have areas of real luxury but we do also have areas where there is real poverty as well.

“We are one of two feeder areas for Glasgow. East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire feed people into the city centre for jobs and college. There have been some efforts to try and keep people in jobs in East Dunbartonshire but the council is by far the biggest employer. I think that’s good for council services but I think more work could be done to create more jobs in the area.

“I think there are lots of things we could work together on to make East Dunbartonshire a better place.

“We are aiming to get all eight of our candidates elected and that would make us a very strong group but we would be interested in looking at a coalition with someone. We’re open to negotiation but Labour is the most obvious group [to partner with] I think.

“It would be good if we could get a couple of Greens in. The candidate for this ward [Lenzie and Kirkintilloch South], Carolynn Scrimgeour, is very strong. Scott Ferguson is also so well known in Bearsden South as well. He really plugs away there and it would be interesting to see if he could upset the apple cart there.”