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Scotland's One-Woman Rubbish Party Wins Seat In Local Elections

The U.K. held its local elections Thursday, and a brand-new political party won its first seat.

This party is comprised of just one woman, named Sally Cogley. And it has just one issue: rubbish.

In Thursday's vote to fill three Irvine Valley places on East Ayrshire Council, Cogley came in second after the Scottish National Party candidate, enough to win a seat.

Or as The Telegraph had it, "People chose the bin-focused party over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour in East Ayrshire, Scotland."

According to Rubbish Party's website, Cogley founded the party in March "to rid the local community of all types of 'rubbish' from wasted resources to littering and dog fouling. Households are facing council tax increases alongside cuts to services, it is therefore imperative that wastage is removed and that money is spent wisely."

Cogley formerly worked in human resources, the website says, and she has been a community councilor for over 10 years. It says Cogley has organized the annual litter pickup and initiated a river cleanup in her town of Galston, where she has lived for more than 20 years.

Her platform was indeed focused on literal rubbish, with her party's Facebook page showing Cogley standing in front of vanquished piles of the stuff.

"Do you despair at the amount of litter, fly tipping [illegal dumping], dog poo, cigarette ends and chewing gum that blight our roads, paths, parks, town centres and countryside?" her fliers ask.

But Cogley also argued for the value of local representation, unaffiliated with the U.K.'s major political parties. "The Valley needs Councillors who are prepared to put The Valley first, candidates who have guts, candidates who will stand up and be counted, candidates who are not compromised by their party," according to the Rubbish Party website. "Sally is this candidate."

Cogley's anti-rubbish work has been well documented by Scotland's Daily Record. A 2015 article about her efforts has the headline, "Fed up Galston woman says litter louts and fly-tippers should be hammered with fines of over £1000."

Last year, she was part of a campaign to pressure dog owners to pick up their pets' poop. "I think that dog fouling is lazy, dirty and potentially dangerous. It is simply disgusting to bag it and not dispose of it in the bins provided. Discarding the bags of dog faeces on paths and/or in parks is revolting," she told the newspaper. "And sadly, as with all acts of littering vandalism, it has a magnetic effect. Once one bag is discarded more will follow."

But not everyone agreed that rubbish was the area's most pressing issue. In an exchange on her Facebook page two months ago, an apparent resident of the Irvine Valley asked Cogley, "Where are the rest of your policies."

"Like you I agree there is a lot to be done," Cogley replied. "PENSION POLICY — this is determined at national level, not local level and any candidate who tells you to the contrary is telling you what they think you want to hear, not what they can deliver. ... I categorically will not be asking for more money for the positive changes I seek to deliver."

British publications were keen to point out that the Rubbish Party won as many seats — one — in Thursday's council and mayoral elections across England, Scotland and Wales as the right-wing UK Independence Party. The Guardian reported that UKIP lost 140 seats in the elections, wiping out the huge gains it made in 2013.

Despite her success, Cogley claimed to have no wider political ambitions.

"Sally is not trying to change the world," her website stated, "but will change the Valley."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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