Question time for Fife election candidates ... but only three attend hustings

Three candidates bidding to win the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat in next week’s General Election have been taking part in a public hustings in the town.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 10:19 am
The candidates who were quizzed by the public in Kirkcaldy. From left: Neale Hanvey, Lesley Laird and Scott Rutherford. Pic: George McLuskie.
The candidates who were quizzed by the public in Kirkcaldy. From left: Neale Hanvey, Lesley Laird and Scott Rutherford. Pic: George McLuskie.

Around 70 members of the public came along to the event, organised by Fife-based equalities groups, Pink Saltire and Fife Centre for Equalities, ready to quiz the candidates at New Volunteer House in East Fergus Place on Tuesday evening.

The election hustings was chaired by Stuart Duffy, founder of Pink Saltire, who also took to the helm at the 2017 hustings event held in Cowdenbeath.

All six candidates had been invited.

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Around 70 members of the public came along to the election hustings in Kirkcaldy on Tuesday evening. Pic: George Mcluskie.

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Scottish Labour candidate Lesley Laird. Pic: George McLuskie.

Liberal Democrat Gill Cole-Hamilton had been unable to attend, and sent an opening statement to be read on her behalf; Kathleen Leslie (Conservative), was attending another event, and there was no contact from Mitch William (Brexit Party)

Topics for discussion included tackling hate and discrimination in society, equality, Universal Credit, Brexit, a second independence referendum, climate targets and the decommissioning of Mossmorran.

The first question asked candidates how they support policies which tackle hatred and discrimination in society including Islamaphobia, transphobia and anti-Semitism.

Independent candidate Neale Hanvey said it was fundamentally a question of justice and a question of equality.

Scottish Greens candidate Scott Rutherford. Pic: George McLuskie.

“We need to look at every issue and the only way to tackle that is to try and live by authentic principles. Sometimes people make mistakes within that and apologies are an important part of how you deal with that. One of the things my mum always taught me is if you make a mistake own up to it, take responsibility for it, apologise and then try and make amends that is something that has always been very important to me.”

Scottish Labour candidate Lesley Laird said starting to tackle such behaviour starts with education as well as recognising that we are a multi-cultural society and need to give respect to others and their places of worship.

Scottish Greens candidate Scott Rutherford said the Scottish Government can legislate on some issues and there is an onus on politicians to stop people from shrinking away from their full potential.

Another question for the panel centred on disabilities and how dignity can be restored to the welfare system.

Independent candidate Neale Hanvey. Pic: George McLuskie.

All candidates agreed that Universal Credit needed to be replaced with a fairer system, such as a universal payment or universal based income – a block payment received every month which is gradually phased out as you earn more - helping people who are unemployed into jobs rather than punishing them.

There were differences, however, on the issue of a second independence referendum.

Mr Rutherford said it was essential before the end of any negotiation period or transition period for Brexit. He said it will harm workers’ rights, food regulations and cause climate crisis on an international scale if we leave the European Union.

Mr Hanvey said it was really important that pro-Scottish MPs are returned in numbers in this election.

“Do we want Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn making decisions for Scotland while Scotland continues to be ignored? “ he asked. “Or do we make these decisions ourselves? Are we going to be better at it than they are ? I think we are.”

Ms Laird said: “There are polarised views on independence. The will of the Scottish people was decided in 2014. I don’t believe that, right now, in the midst of everything that’s going on that independence would be the right social and economic choice to be making.”

On the topic of climate emergency, the candidates were asked if now is the time to decommission the Mossmorran plant in the constituency.

Mr Hanvey said: “Mossmorran could be much more environmentally friendly.

“My meetings with Shell and Exxon are that they are taking that seriously and progressing with projects.

“I hope the investments being made will go a long way to reducing some of the challenges the local community faces with unplanned flaring because that is unacceptable.”

Ms Laird said: “We can all recognise that Mossmorran has a good employment record and provides money into the economy – but we also need to recognise that we are in very different times to when that plant was first produced.

“They are not good neighbours to the community that lives around the plant. You cannot be a business and be a bad neighbour.” She said the Mossmorran Working Group would continue to hold the plant to account and if she is re-elected, pledged attention will not be taken off these issues.

Mr Rutherford said: “Mossmorran is a neighbour that acts in bad faith and does not care about its community.”

He added: “When under pressure it will pay for school activities, to get some good PR. I think it is despicable what they do. It has to go.”

**A ‘Mossmorran hustings’ takes place at Lochgelly Town Hall tomorrow night (Friday) from 7-9pm. All six candidates have been invited.**