The Strathearn ward, north of Perth, follows the historic valley of the River Earn.
Crieff, the main town, sits on a south-facing slope of the Grampians. It was once the centre of the Pictish Kingdom of Fortren and is the location of the oldest Roman frontier in Europe.
It was also one of the settlements burnt by the Jacobites after the 1715 uprising. Crieff rose from the ashes to become a prosperous weaving town.
The area’s biggest employer is the Crieff Hydro Hotel, which was first established during the reign of Queen Victoria as a popular holiday resort. The hotel remains one of the key reasons for people visiting the ward and attracts both local and international staff.
Recently, hotel bosses issued letters to all of staff offering voluntary redundancies. Chief executive Stephen Leckie blamed the increases in food and drink prices.
He also said the firm was spending hundreds of thousands of pounds more with the introduction of the national living wage.
The ward has a higher percentage of pensioners, about 29% compared to Scottish average of 19.8%.
About seven per cent of the local population has been prescribed medication for mental health issues, which is the same as the region average.
Crieff is a growing town, with attempts ongoing by Perth and Kinross Council to lure supermarket chain Tesco to Broich Road. The retailer withdrew plans to moved to the town in 2015, but new owners are now reconsidering the site.
The Courier invited each candidate to submit a short introduction to themselves and, if they wished, a video explaining why they deserve your vote.
Rhona Brock (independent)
“Born and brought up in Crieff, I have lived here all my life,” said Rhona. “I was elected as an independent councillor in 2012 to serve all communities and their different needs in Ward 6 Strathearn.
“I believe living in the ward that you represent gives you the knowledge and understanding that your community relies on.”
She added: “I have built up a good working relationship with councillors and officers of Perth and Kinross Council which I feel is a vital part of being a councillor.
“Why independent ? I stand for the community that I am proud to represent, I put the needs and aspirations of the community first, and I am not restricted by the need to toe a party line. Since being elected I have listened to local concerns and kept in touch with local opinion.
“I will work for all of you, without fear or favour, building on my experience during the last five years to bring new life, new hope, new jobs, new initiatives to the ward.”
Lawrence Buckley (Green)
“If you were a motorist in this area between 2002 and my retirement in 2013, you will almost certainly have seen me toiling behind the counter of Crieff Garage Filling Station, obliged (painfully) to sell fossil fuels and cigarettes,” said Mr Buckley. “I joined the Greens in the post-referendum ‘surge’ of 2014, having voted Green regularly once Tony Blair had seized control of the Labour Party.
“I have no illusions about topping the poll in this ward, but for the sake of us all it is vital that every Green’s voice makes itself heard.
“I am standing because Green supporters deserve the opportunity to cast their vote in accordance with their political beliefs, and not make do with second-best.”
He added: “To people who have told me ‘Never again after you supported a second referendum,’ I would like to point out that electing a Green councillor will not take Scotland out of the Union.”
Stewart Donaldson (SNP)
Stewart was brought up in Perthshire and his late father was for many years the manager of the Bank of Scotland in Crieff. Stewart’s family have farming connections across Perthshire going back many generations.
Stewart’s primary and secondary education were both in Crieff and following this he went to Edinburgh University with a further year spent at the Scottish Business School. Stewart latterly gained the distinction of becoming a Chartered Fellow of the Securities Institute.
With over 35 years’ experience in the Scottish financial services industry, Stewart knows the most important skill is being able to listen to, and understand, the needs and requirements of people. If elected, Stewart believes these skills will stand him in good stead as he advances the ambitions of all communities in Strathearn.
Stewart cites opportunity and fairness as his key motivations in standing for the council. Stewart celebrates the low unemployment rate in Perth and Kinross but knows much more must be done to increase prosperity for ordinary families locally.
John Fellows (SNP)
Much of John’s career has been spent in communications and community development.
He has previously worked in higher education, encouraging teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to university and college. More recently, as the head of communications for the Big Lottery Fund, he’s worked in partnership with charities and community groups across Scotland to develop their work. He has a proven track record of standing up for communities and individuals who are most in need.
Through his current work with local MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, John understands the issues facing communities in Crieff, Comrie and St Fillans. He has also worked over the past two years to support communities across Strathearn by fighting for a better broadband service, redressing injustices in the benefits and tax credits system and ensuring that the voice of local people is heard in Parliament and beyond.
He now wants to use this experience to improve the lives of everyone in Strathearn, by working to sustain and create local jobs and to make sure that Perth and Kinross Council delivers a fair deal for everyone in this area.
Craig Finlay (independent)
“On May 4, voters in Strathearn will have a fresh chance to send three keen and dynamic councillors in to Perth to represent them,” said Mr Finlay.
“I’m 32, live and work in Crieff, and am chairman of the town’s community council.
“Strathearn, like most other communities outside of Perth City Centre, has had to take a back seat for too long while the current administration in Perth and Kinross Council continually vote to divert funds to improve the city’s infrastructure.”
He added: “If you give me your vote, I’ll go into Perth and argue for Strathearn to be given the funding and resources it deserves to make us the most attractive part of Perth and Kinross to live, work and visit.
“My priorities will be to campaign for community councils to be given more power, to bring about more road safety improvements, urge developers to deliver a new supermarket soon, and to work closely with local groups to improve the area.”
Roz McCall (Conservative)
“I am a wife, mother, businesswoman and community-loving person who strongly believes that local government, if undertaken correctly, can make the biggest change to your everyday lives,” said Mrs McCall.
“Local council can revitalise a town and support local businesses and jobs, by simply getting the parking right or improving signs. It can regenerate community spirit and enhance neighbourhoods by keeping roads and pavements in good order and clear of obstructions, mess, ice and leaves.
“It can make massive improvements to people’s wellbeing by simply doing the job it is meant to do efficiently, and it can empower the next generation to go on and achieve remarkable things by simply helping teachers and community youth groups to do what they do best.”
She added: “Sadly, the Strathearn community has lost out over the years by a council that is far too Perth City-centric. If elected in May, I will work tirelessly to ensure that Strathearn and its people are well represented and given a strong voice.”
Alex Menzies-Runciman (Conservative)
“Like many of you, I got fed up moaning to friends and family about the state of our country and county,” said Alex. “Consequently, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring, to try to be part of the solution and run for the council in the Strathearn ward.
“Time and time again, the SNP has disregarded the will of the Scottish people both on the national stage and at local level. Our council insists on a Perth-centric view for its governance and it is time to send a message that Perthshire is just as important as Perth. Tourists visit the county not just Perth. Towns like Crieff are suffering from chronic under-funding and this is highly visible in the state of the High Street.”
He said: “The effective delivery of local services is the role of Perth and Kinross Council. Done well it can make a huge difference and I want to see the changes we need in Strathearn to ensure the ward can really flourish.
“If elected in May I will work tirelessly to ensure that Strathearn and its people are never overlooked again.”
Tina Ng-A-Mann (Lib Dem)
“I’m a single mum with a teenage son, and have worked at Perth Royal Infirmary for nearly 20 years,” said Tina. “I have previously been chair of the Open University Students Association in Scotland, supporting over 15,000 students, and secretary of the Perth & Kinross Liberal Democrats.
“I have particular interests in health, education and the environment. I strongly support musical instrument lessons within schools, and much needed investment in school buildings. There is also a great need for support for cottage hospitals to provide care within a patient’s own community, and to relieve strain on main hospitals such as PRI and Ninewells.”
She added: “I am concerned that our SNP council have continuously cut funding to vital services such as maintaining our roads, while spending lavishly on unnecessary Christmas celebrities and lighting for the council building.
“I believe in common sense and liberal values. Please vote for me.”