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Councillor Sally Cogley: 'The biggest challenge we face is addressing poverty'

Councillor Sally Cogley of The Rubbish Party sits on East Ayrshire Council

Councillor Sally Cogley: 'The biggest challenge we face is addressing poverty'

Describe the area you represent in one sentence.
East Ayrshire is a beautiful, undiscovered part of Scotland with a pretty coastline and rolling hills and should be a tourist destination, but it gets missed. That’s a work in progress. 

How long have you lived there?
Since 1995. I was born and brought up in South Wales and went to school in Jim Callaghan’s constituency. My husband and I lived in rural Lancashire when we were first married and then an ancient building in East Ayrshire was brought to our attention and we bought it and moved to Galston. We still haven’t quite earned the status of being locals, but I’m working on that. We love living here.

Tell us something we don’t know about your local area.
There’s a game called handba’ which was invented in Galston. It was played by miners once they finished their shifts and they played against each other in teams of three, hitting the ba’ against a wall of Barr Castle. We did a reenactment with local children playing the game for the TV series Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers, hosted by Paul Murton. It was brilliant.

Who is the best-known person from your local area?
Probably Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin and was born in Darvel, or Robert Stirling, who invented the Stirling engine and moved to Galston in 1924. This is an old industrial area. 

What challenges are unique to your particular part of the country?
I don’t think there’s anything specifically unique to my ward, but I do think we face some huge challenges. The biggest we face is addressing poverty, and there are increasing numbers of children being brought up in poverty. There are pockets of extreme poverty and families who haven’t known employment for four or five generations. Breaking that cycle, to me, is one of the most important things we should be doing. 

What made you stand for election?
I had been involved with the community council for years and I started organising annual community litter picks in Galston that would get about 100 people each time to collect litter, which was great and a massive feelgood thing that would generate hundreds of bags of waste. But immediately after, litter would start appearing on the roadsides again. I got fed up hearing myself saying “something should be done about it” and thought one way I could do something about it was to become a councillor myself. I thought I didn’t want to stand for a political party, I wanted to do what I wanted to do and set out my own stall, so that’s what I did. I got reelected so I must be doing something correctly.

Litter and flytipping is the second environmental emergency we face in the world and it could be addressed simply with the correct regulatory framework and support. We have to have policies to engage people, to educate and then to enforce. That for me was always the big thing. Then as a councillor you get involved in so many other things. I love trying to do stuff that will make our communities better and it is a job where there is always a lot to do, which I enjoy.

What’s the one thing Holyrood politicians could do that would be of greatest benefit to the area you represent?
Fund local authorities properly. That’s quite simple. And if I could make a change to local politics, I think it would be far better if we were all independent because then we’d be representing local issues and it wouldn’t be cluttered with national politics.

What’s the best bit about living where you do?
I love the sense of community. Within the Irvine Valley there are three towns, each of which has a different feel. Each is very specific and each has a very strong sense of community and I love being a part of that. I love living in Scotland more broadly. With the beautiful countryside, it’s a great place to live.

Is there a particular word you love using that only people in your part of the country would recognise?
Blether. It’s a chat, it’s a catch-up – I just love it. It feels so nice when you say it.

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?
Just north of Oban is stunningly beautiful. The coastline is the most magnificent and the mountains are wonderful.

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