FOUR election hopefuls are looking to gain the Wee County's vote of confidence in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections.

Electors will go to the polls next Thursday, May 6, with the four Clackmannanshire and Dunblane constituency candidates this week giving their thoughts in the final campaign push.

Scottish Liberal Democrat man Ilyan Stefanov, Labour candidate Craig Miller, the Conservative's Alexander Stewart and the SNP's Keith Brown gave their thoughts on the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the independence debate.

Mr Stefanov is calling for improved bus and passenger train services to be established between Alloa and Dunfermline to aid the recovery.

He said: “I am calling for improved bus services and for passenger train services between Alloa and Dunfermline to be established.

“I will work hard to deliver green jobs and retraining opportunities across Clackmannanshire.

“We must double funding to eradicate fuel poverty, double the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty and more affordable homes.”

On the issue of recovery from the pandemic, he said more in-class support is needed for children along with smaller class sizes.

He would focus his attention on tackling the health crisis, recruiting more mental health professionals to work in communities, hospitals and school.

Dr Stefanov also called for new diagnosis and treatment centres to catch up with backlogs and said his party would focus on upgrading homes to be warmed with zero carbon emissions while switching transport to electric power.

He also called for training grants to help people change career.

On the issue of a second independence referendum, he said: “The questions is, if your home is burning do you file for a divorce or you tackle the fire first?

“After the year we've all had, Willie Rennie and [myself] want to spend every minute of the next five years focused on putting the recovery first, not repeating the divisive arguments of the past five years.

“Willie's Liberal Democrats will reform the UK to a federal future and defend devolution by giving local communities a bigger say.”

Clacks man Craig Miller, standing for Scottish Labour, said it is time for the next generation of MSPs to take a seat in Holyrood.

He said: “I was born in this community. I still live here. My family live here.

“I am determined to deliver for everyone, regardless of whether they vote for me, because I want the best for our community.

“It’s time for change and for a new generation of MSPs.”

An avid supporter of various organisations in Clacks, Mr Miller said he has managed to secure more than £700,000 in funding for the third sector over the past years.

He added: “I can do so much more as your MSP if I am given the opportunity.

“I care about what happens in Clackmannanshire, I have spent the last decade creating community choirs, a collaborative dementia singing group, organising events and concerts, securing funding for a soup kitchen and a food bank, delivering the finances needed to create jobs, delivering a much needed community building extension and creating opportunities for taking part in community activities at no cost to the participant.

“I am ambitious for our community and I will never tire of fighting for those opportunities to do more.”

The candidate said his thoughts are with the more than 110 Clacks families grieving the loss of a loved one to Covid-19.

The recovery from the pandemic must be a priority, he explained, and challenged previous governments on their record in education.

The candidate added: “Thousands of jobs are reliant upon politicians putting their differences aside and working together over the next parliament to secure Clackmannanshire’s and Scotland’s economic recovery.

“The divisions of the past must be set aside and all our focus must be on recovery.”

On the issue of a second independence referendum, he said it was “frustrating” that “the focus of much of the debate for the SNP and the Tories is on the constitution” in the midst of a pandemic.

He added: “I hope that another referendum does not take place in the next parliament, if it does it will be a waste of time and energy that should be focused on our national recovery.”

Scottish Conservative and Unionist candidate Alexander Stewart has made five key pledges to aid the recovery from the pandemic.

He said he would enshrine a fair funding deal for the council in law, stands firmly against a second referendum and promised to continue his “unwavering support for local charities and organisations” if elected.

The candidate explained the focus should be on recovery from the pandemic and added: “I am pledging to enshrine a fair funding deal in law for Clackmannanshire Council.

“For too long the SNP have slashed funding for our local authority.

“Under the Scottish Conservatives our councils will be guaranteed a fair share of the Scottish budget ever year to protect vital local services.”

He also committed to ensuring that planning decisions are kept for local authorities and promised his party would implement a victims' law along with whole life sentences for the “worst criminals”.

On education, Mr Stewart added: “We will recruit 3,000 additional teachers across Scotland and introduce a national tutoring programme to ensure our most deprived pupils can catch up on lost learning.

He is also backing plans to extend high street rates relief to premises into the 2022-23 financial year.

On the issue of a second independence referendum he said he is “firmly against” the idea as “the only priority should be our recovery from Covid”.

Speaking about what he will bring to the Clacks area, he said: “Through my work in the constituency and in Parliament, I believe I have shown a resolute commitment to the residents and communities of Clackmannanshire and Dunblane.

“I will always be a completely accessible MSP to everyone across the region on any issue they contact me on and seek to secure a successful resolution.

“My unwavering support for local charities and organisations will continue as will my representation for successful outcomes for people seeking assistance in relation to vital public services.

“This area needs strong representation in Parliament and somebody who will put local people’s needs first.

“If you want a MSP solely focused on our recovery after this election, then you must vote for me.”

Scottish National Party candidate Keith Brown is offering his “in-depth knowledge” to steer the country out of crisis.

The Clackmannanshire and Dunblane candidate, seeking re-election, explained progressive policies as well as a “serious plan for government” will be needed to move into recovery and he will stand “firmly for” Scottish independence if elected.

He said: “We are presenting a transformational policy programme to drive recovery: policies to protect our NHS and establish a new National Care Service; to provide opportunities for our young people; to build a stronger and more sustainable economy and deliver greater job and economic security, and to tackle the climate crisis and end child poverty.”

Mr Brown argued he has the experience required to help steer the Wee County and the country through and out of the “unprecedented crisis” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Having been an elected representative in Clackmannanshire for 25 years – as councillor, council leader, and now MSP for the last 14 years – I bring an in-depth knowledge of the constituency and a track record of delivering for local communities.

“I’ve built up good relationships with local businesses, community groups and third-sector organisations.

“I’ve organised an annual employment fair to unlock jobs and employment opportunities for local people and supported many groups and organisations to gain funding.

“I’ve also campaigned on issues such as protecting vital bus services, keeping health services in our local area, and I helped to secure millions of pounds of vital investment through the city deal.

“As your SNP candidate, I offer a bold and ambitious manifesto to kickstart and drive recovery, and the choice of a better, fairer, more prosperous future for our country.”

Speaking about a second independence referendum, he added: “As we set about the task of rebuilding our country this is a fundamental question that all of us in Scotland must ask ourselves.

“Will we – the people of Scotland – place trust in ourselves?

“Or will we leave our future in the hands of a Westminster system that is so clearly taking us in the wrong direction?

“We need the powers of independence to ensure that the country we rebuild is the one we want it to be, with kindness, compassion, fairness, equality and enterprise at its heart.”