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Solving problems and making lives easier: Young Councillor of the Year, Dan Hutchison

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Credit: Guy Hinks

In this interview, Dan Hutchison, winner of Young Councillor of the Year in the LGIU Scotland & CCLA Cllr Awards 2023, discusses his journey into politics and his work as a councillor for Govan in Glasgow. 

At the age of 20, Dan Hutchison was the assistant manager of a restaurant in the city centre of Glasgow. He enjoyed the work, and the restaurant itself was impressively organised. However, there was a problem: the way he was being treated was well below par. “It was perhaps the worst treatment I have ever had in a workplace,” he remembers. “I was quite unhappy and generally looking for something to do that wasn’t going to make me as miserable. I didn’t enjoy being there, and it was difficult for me to understand why because I’d always been working in that kind of environment.”

It was the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, and political discussion was everywhere. “Every time you went home or looked at your phone, there were videos of politicians talking”, Dan recalls. Inspired by watching political figures, he decided to join a political party, with involvement in the Unite Hospitality Union further assisting in his political education. Fast forward to today, and he is a Scottish Green Party councillor for Glasgow City Council’s Govan ward, as well as the winner of the Young Councillor of the Year accolade in the LGIU Scotland & CCLA Cllr Awards for 2023.

“I always think that the point [of my role] is to try and make someone’s life easier,” he says. “Government at any level has bureaucracy, and some of it’s necessary and some of it maybe isn’t. The reason we’re there is to make that bureaucracy work so that people don’t have to spend their whole day on it.”

Behind the role

Dan has been a councillor for Glasgow City Council since May 2022. Prior to his role as a councillor he had run a friend’s local election campaign as well as getting involved in causes in his area, including campaigning to prevent a drive-through from being built in the middle of a housing development. “I was kind of like: ‘You know what? They’re looking for someone to run in Govan, so I might as well do it,’” he explains.

As a Scottish Green Party councillor, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of the areas that Dan’s role covers is cycling. As part of this role, Dan is involved in a ‘bike bus’ initiative for pupils at Ibrox Primary School, which allows students to cycle to school safely. “I’m literally just back from it,” he says at the time of speaking to the LGIU. “We meet at Ibrox Library, and all of the pupils are invited to come with their bikes. We cycle all of the kids to school together, with the adults in the dangerous bit to stop them from going into traffic.”

Dan explains that in the last session Glasgow City Council made a position that it would ‘Copenhagenise’ the city – a strategy inspired by Copenhagen’s successful transformation into a cycling-friendly city. This approach aims to create a safe and accessible cycling environment throughout Glasgow, promoting active travel and reducing dependence on cars. “As one of the poorest areas in the city, Govan tends not to get to go first with stuff,” he says. “We’re [however] getting it the soonest, hopefully — it’s just about to go into consultation. There will be a lot of cycle lanes: every main road in my ward will get one, and they’re supposed to all connect up.”

“My partner used to live in Berlin, and he cycled everywhere there, but here, he doesn’t feel safe doing it. I grew up in Fife, and where we were, everyone cycled places. Being able to cycle from the city centre past the football stadium to Braehead would be amazing. My dream would be to see all the football fans arriving on their bikes.”

In addition, Dan’s proposals as a councillor include a feasibility study to move the council workforce to a four-day working week. “We know how we can implement it if we have the money, which was the intention [of the feasibility study],” he shares. Dan goes on to highlight how “The Green staffers in the Parliament and the party staff all moved to a four-day work week about six months before the council elections. We’re off less now, and there’s less illness.”

Lows and highs

Dan’s role isn’t always without its challenges. “There’s a particular issue that we have at the moment with a building that the football stadium has built in its grounds,” he notes. “They put these big screens up outside and they’re shining right into people’s windows, so obviously, the neighbours are unhappy about it. [There was] an online petition which the residents had set up, and they’d said that I supported them. I do, as do two of the other councillors, but they put my name on because I think I responded to the email quickest.

“My inbox got an absolute onslaught from fans of the club trying to make a sectarian argument that I hate them. Some of the abuse was quite horrific. I’m like: ‘All of the people that are unhappy about this are also fans of the same club. It’s nothing to do with the football.’”

Despite this, it is clear that Dan is motivated by making a positive difference as a councillor. “What I get out of it the most is when you manage to solve something because it’s not particularly easy and it doesn’t happen all of the time,” he explains. “Sometimes, you can jump on something and get it fixed really quickly. I think the most rewarding thing for me is when you see things that are organised by the community. We’ve got a really good place round the corner that was a kind of vacant bit of grass. A local group had said: ‘We’ll take on the land and do it up a bit,’ and they have by far done it up.”

With sentiments such as these, it comes as no surprise that Dan was named Young Councillor of the Year!

Watch the full interview with Dan here:



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