Election: Candidates lock horns at Glenrothes hustings

General Election Hustings. Pic: Steve Brown
General Election Hustings. Pic: Steve Brown

Political hopefuls intent on securing the Glenrothes and Central Fife constituency at forthcoming general election locked horns at a special hustings event in the town on Wednesday evening.

There were cheers, boos, heckling and even the odd bout of laughter from the 130 or so who were packed into the Lomond Centre for what was a largely good natured contest.

Organised by the Churches Together group and officiated over by Father Gerard Hand, the four parliamentary candidates; Peter Grant (SNP), Jane Ann Liston (Liberal Democrat), Alistair Stewart-Clark (Conservative) and Melanie Ward (Labour) were each given a chance to outline who they were and what they were standing for, before facing a number of questions submitted by the audience.

Only an election could pit together an IT specialist, an accountant, a saw mill trader and a charity worker on the same public platform , as Mr Stewart-Clark told the gathering that justice and good governance as well as the right policies would bring about safer, more prosperous Scotland that, he added, would only be achieved by returning a Conservative Government.

Miss Ward promised local jobs would be her top priority adding that those with the “broadest shoulders” should contribute more and would do with Labour’s 50 pence tax rate pledge.

Mr Liston said she stood for a “stronger Scotland” but the first cheers to fill the room came from the supporters of Mr Grant who said this election would for the first time give Scots a voice in Westminster.

With the formalities of introductions out of the way the question of what spiritual influence would guide candidates if they were elected drew the first howls of derision when the Conservative candidate attempted to defend the Tory implemented ‘bedroom tax’ legislation saying the policy “would help the poor in the long-term”.

The comment was quickly seized upon by Labour candidate Miss Ward who said her party were unequivocal in their support of those suffering the harsh realities of benefit sanctions and would scrap the spare room occupancy legislation with the help of a £175 million anti-poverty fund.

Mr Grant added that benefit sanctions were not a political issue but a moral one which, he said, could be address by the scrapping of £100 billion needed for Trident nuclear weapons, a cost that was “immoral and one he could not support as of conscience”.

On the question of the deepening crisis in Syria and how we should respond there were applause when Mr Grant responded: “I wouldn’t sent Tony Blair, we’ve already been involved in one illegal war.”

As expected the future of a nuclear deterant was also up for debate with, Melanie Ward responding that there would be a full strategic review of our armed forces should Labour get elected, the Conservative candidate warned the country’s seat on the ruling executive council of NATO would be debatable if the country scrapped its nuclear deterant.

And on the issue of the National Health Service there were claim and counter claim as Labour accused SNP incompetence over its handling of the NHS over the last eight years, adding that a mansion tax on the those with homes over the value of £2 milion would bring proper funding to the service.

After nearly two hours of debate, all four candidates said they could draw positives from the event, with both Labour and SNP supporters claiming their candidate had impressed the most. Come the early hours of Friday, May 8, we will know for sure.

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