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by Kirsteen Paterson
10 April 2024
Stirling councillor Paul Henke: 'At heart I’ve always been a Conservative, even in Wales'

Councillor Paul Henke

Stirling councillor Paul Henke: 'At heart I’ve always been a Conservative, even in Wales'

Describe the area you represent in one sentence.
It’s a beautiful rural area with fresh air and lovely walks. 

How long have you lived there? 
Twenty-five years. We moved to Balfron from Kincardine Bridge for the high school for our kids because it had a good reputation.

Tell us something we wouldn’t know about your local area.
It’s pretty famous in terms of its great history, but there’s a legend about the place which very few people do know about. There used to be, so legend has it, a place of sacrifice at the top of the village called the Ibert and while the men were there they heard screams from the village below, and the children of the village were taken by wolves. That gave the place its name ‘bail’a’bhroin’, meaning the town of mourning. It’s a legend so I doubt it’s true but there’s nothing like a good myth.

Who is the best-known person from your area? 
Apart from me, it’s Alexander Greek Thomson, the architect.

What challenges are unique to your part of the country?
There are two: social housing and the state of the roads. There isn’t anything being built out here and we are having people born in the area leave home and move away for housing. It annoys me immensely. Our arteries for commerce, because they shut the railways, are our roads and they are vitally important, but they are in a dreadful state. I know that is the case nationally but it’s something that the Scottish Government should, instead of boasting about investing millions here and millions there, just fix properly. The number of people complaining to me about potholes on the A811 and the A81 is quite startling.

What made you stand for election?
At heart I’ve always been a Conservative, even in Wales. I was brought up in South Wales and my father, who was a miner, was a Polish immigrant. He was a Conservative as well. Once I was a member of Ukip and I took a case against them and I won – that’s all documented [Henke won a court challenge against a 100-year membership ban imposed by Ukip for his criticism of former Ukip Scotland leader David Coburn] – and once we had Brexit sorted, I renewed my membership with the Conservative Party.

I have always been quite interested in civic responsibility. I spent six years as the president of the PTA and five years as chairman of the community council. It was pretty much almost a natural step. Like a lot of people, you either shoot your mouth off and complain, or you put up and do something about it. I decided to put up.

What’s the one thing Holyrood politicians could do that would be of the greatest benefit to the area you represent? 
Fix the roads – but I have a question. Why is it we have gone from being in the top 10 best education systems in the world to under 30? Education should be a higher priority. The whole of our future depends on how we look after our youngsters and educate them. I have a grandson of 15 in Switzerland and he speaks four languages. The Swiss system is incredibly better, we don’t even teach people to read and write in English properly. 

What’s the best thing about living where you do?
That’s simple, it’s the GP surgery. This village was designed with everything; it’s the most amazing thing, considering the fact there’s 1,800 people. We have got a wonderful surgery, library, bus service, ambulance service, shops of the right calibre, bowling club, a fantastic high school and primary school – you couldn’t design a village better. The two doctors are lovely ladies who do a fantastic job.

Is there a particular word you love using the only people in your part of the country would recognise? 
No, but there is a word which I think is onomatopoeic of it to the Nth degree. The word is dreich. I think that wonderful Scots word sums up the weather here to such a beautiful extent. 

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?
Devon. I thought that was where I would end up as a naval officer. I was at Dartmouth naval college for three years then based at Portsmouth, so I was south coast orientated, but I won’t move now – my next move is into a wooden overcoat.

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