Councillor Heather Anderson: 'Dundee is 24 square miles of perfection'
Describe the area you represent in one sentence.
Dundee is on a south-facing slope, it’s the sunniest place in Scotland, it’s 24 square miles of perfection, and Coldside is right at the heart of it. When you look across the bridge and see the Law, that’s my ward. It’s bursting at the seams with astonishing people doing amazing stuff.
How long have you lived there?
I was born in Dundee and left as a young person, and I have spent 20-odd years trying to get back. I have been a councillor in the Scottish Borders but made myself get back to Dundee for the 2022 election.
Tell us something we didn’t know about your local area.
A man called James Chalmers invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1837. He ran a bookshop and printers in the middle of the town, and he was driven to speed up the mail between Dundee and London because he wanted it to make it easier to do trade.
Who is the best-known person from your area?
Some people would say it’s Billy MacKenzie of The Associates, other people would say Mary Slessor, but I have to say the mighty Brian Cox.
Who played Broughty Ferry burger magnate Bob Servant, which is another local connection...
That’s all a bit close to the bone for me. I ran a burger van for years on our farm in the Borders. It had a shop and a cafe and a food truck and butchery. I have many memories of serving in the burger van.
What challenges are unique to your part of the country?
Dundee has constantly had to reinvent itself. It was the centre of the jute trade. That disappeared, and we survived by big American organisations like NCR and Timex coming in, and now we have had to reinvent ourselves again. We are a Unesco City of Design, the home of Grand Theft Auto and the V&A. We are doing all this amazing stuff around medical science and scientific research. But there’s a legacy from all those years of churn. Dundee has eight wards and six of them have the highest levels of social deprivation. There’s a lot of poverty and poor health so these are the challenges we have to face. What we have always got is that phenomenal resilience in our communities.
What made you stand for election?
When you’re a councillor you have a licence to talk to everybody, so you meet this phenomenal cross section in your community. I’m passionate about the casework and trying to get stuff sorted for folk. I wanted to stand in Dundee because it felt like coming home. Coldside was my mum’s ward so it’s great to be back.
What’s the one thing Holyrood politicians could do that would be of the greatest benefit to the area you represent?
It would be great if they could reopen the Levelling Up Fund and make sure we could get some money this time. But seriously, I think it’s listening – working directly with councils and listening to their ideas. I’m looking at whether we can kickstart the horticultural sector by investing in glasshouse production in Dundee. When you have ideas like that it’s about making sure you can go and talk and say ‘look, can you help us get this started?’
What’s the best bit about living where you do?
Dundee is absolutely a 20-minute neighbourhood. Unfortunately, most of it is up and down hills but you can walk everywhere, which is amazing, and 42 per cent of Dundee is green public space.
Is there a particular word you love using that only people in your part of the country recognise?
The first thing that we have to tell the nurses when they’re training is the difference between “affy no weel” and “no affy weel”. If you’re no affy weel, you’re a bit poorly, but if you’re affy no weel you’re seriously ill. That’s an important one.
If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?
I was going to say Broughty Ferry but that’s cheating because it’s still in Dundee. Although it must be under GCHQ surveillance because the entire powerbase of the SNP lives there, so that might put me off.