IF you gave John Mainland the pick of Scotland’s Parliamentary seats to represent, he’d narrow the shortlist down to just one. Kirkcaldy.
This is home - and a town he would be proud to represent at the Scottish Parliament.
It’s his fourth time standing for the Lib Dems in Kirkcaldy.
He made his local political debut in the 1997 Westminster poll, stood in the 1999 Scottish Parliamentary contest and then returned last year to face up to Gordon Brown.
‘‘A lot has changed over the years,’’ he said.
‘’When I first started to get more and more interested in politics aged around 15 or 16 I wanted to stand for Kirkcaldy in the Scottish Pariament.
‘‘There was no Parliament back then - now we have one. When I got that chance in 1990 it was fantastic.
‘‘Then we polled three per cent of the vote. Last year it was over nine per cent and nationally we are in government ...so things can, and do, change.’’
Aged just 39, John could be considered a political veteran.
A party member since its formation in 1988, he was the chairman of the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats from 1990-92, and his CV indicates the extent of his activism - from speaking at conference to chairing the local branch.
His first taste of campaigning came when he was part of the team which helped Jean Haddow win the Pathead council seat back in 1988-89.
Since then he has contested six elections - two regional council seats in Tayside, three in Kirkcaldy and one in Dunfermline.
‘‘People like to moan about things, but rather than just do that I want to make them better or at least influence them,’’ he said.
‘‘I want to help out and be involved in local groups, speaking to local organisations and companies, and making a difference.’’
He made his political debut in the 1993 regional elections in Tayside, when he was just old enough to stand.
‘‘You had to be 21 to be a candidate and I was one month over that and at university in Dundee.
‘‘I was up against Militant Labour who were venturing out of their Glasgow power base for the very first time, so that brought TV crews out to cover the event. It was in Whitfield and they didn’t win.’’
The political landscape has changed beyond recognition since then.,
Militant and Labour have gone their separate ways, and the Lib Dems have moved to the centre stage to form a rare coalition Government with the Tories at Westminster.
One year on and budget cuts dominate the headline in what has been branded ’’austerity Britain’’
Lib Dems test
The Lib Dems have come under sustained criticism for theier change of heart over student fees, and in March they slumped from second to a distant sixth - behind UKIP and the BNP - in a by-election in Barnsley, losing their deposit in the process.
John admits it’s a big challenge but one that has to be met head on.
‘‘People understand that the Tories and Lib Dems are together because that’s the way the vote went - and no matter who got in they would have faced the same challenges.
‘‘There is a massive, masive deficit which we must tackle
‘‘How do we address it when we are paying £1388 in interest every second?
‘’That is money paid out for nothing in return, and it is building all the time. How many nurses’ wages would that pay for?
‘‘The sooner we get it down the sooner we can stop spending it on nothing and start spending it on something.’’
The state of the economy - jobs and the cost of living - are certainly dominating discussions on the doorsteps.
‘‘These are very real concerns for people,’’ added John.
‘‘Jobs are under threat - at my own work we have a team of six, but only four are in post and we have been told our jobs are only safe for a year or so.
‘‘Moving up into Government is a tough step, but we have to be realistic. We cannot wave a magic wand and deliver everything overnight.
‘‘We just have to keep working hard.’’
The issue of student fees, which has sparked riots and massive protests down south, has had less of an impact north of the border where students do not pay, but John’s view remains clear.
‘‘We have to tough it out,’’ he said. ‘’Student fees were coming under Labour anyway.
‘‘They said there would be no limit to them. We are holding them to £9000 and then you pay back when you reach a certain level of salary.”
‘‘It’s a cost that has to be borne.’’