Scottish elections: These are the candidates in Kirkcaldy

Voters go to the polls next Thursday to elect their next MSPs

By Jon Brady, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 30th April 2021, 8:13 pm

There are five constituencies across Fife – in this feature we profile the candidates standing in Kirkcaldy

Am I in this constituency?

Kirkcaldy covers the Fife Council wards of Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages, Kirkcaldy Central, Kirkcaldy East, Kirkcaldy North, and Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy.

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The Kirkcaldy candidates

You can check which constituency you live in on the Local Government Boundary Commission website.

What happened last time?

Kirkcaldy has had just two MSPs since 1999. Marilyn Livingstone was elected for Labour until 2011, when David Torrance won the seat with a slim 182-vote majority. He has since nurtured that lead to 7,395 as of 2016, an 11-point swing even further in favour of the SNP.

In 2019's UK General Election, locals swung away from Labour's Lesley Laird in favour of SNP-turned-independent-turned-SNP candidate Neale Hanvey. He has since defected to Alex Salmond's Alba.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday, May 6

Who is standing?

Kirkcaldy has five constituency candidates for 2020, each of whom is profiled below in their own words.

Claire Baker - Scottish Labour Party

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Kelty, and my dad was very involved in politics so I grew up in a political household. The miners' strike was a particular memory for me, when we saw a government let livelihoods and an industry collapse. I was on some of the marches and things. Before I was elected I worked for Amicus, now Unite, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Royal College of Nursing.

What are your local priorities if elected?

The key issue is recovery from the pandemic. It's had a huge impact on everybody and has exacerbated the difficulties we already have in the Kirkcaldy constituency. Food bank use has increased and we need investment and jobs. We need to see more economic activity here - we have a higher unemployment rate than other parts of Scotland.

What happened to BiFab was a let-down for the community and although it has been saved there's been a lack of jobs and employment so far and we don't have any answers for Burntisland.

Kirkcaldy has a problem with recruiting GPs. I want to see more investment in primary care and preventative health measures as well to reduce health inequalities. The exam chaos we saw last summer led to vast differences in qualifications at different schools and there's still a massive attainment gap in Scotland. We need to make sure kids get enough support.

I've campaigned a lot about the Fife Circle railway and while the Scottish Government have aggred to bring it in to public ownership, which Labour has pushed for for some time, Fifers need a better service.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I've been going wild water swimming during the pandemic. I used to go swimming in Burntisland Pool but when lockdown came in I got a wetsuit. There's loads of people doing it along the coast but Burntisland is quite quiet. We're very fortunate in Fife to have lots of Blue Flag beaches.

I'm also a published author - I wrote a book on Sylvia Plath.

Alan Beal - Scottish Liberal Democrats

Tell us about yourself.

I worked in the environmental field for most of my career, previously at the Tayside and Fife Energy Advice Centre and I'm currently an energy efficiency consultant. Obviously people now see that climate change is quite important - I've been doing it for 25 years and I'm keen to tackle it properly if elected.

I've also worked in a night shelter so I've seen homelessness first-hand, and I want to try to solve it if I can.

What are your local priorities if elected?

The main thing is getting the recovery started and bringing about better economic prosperity. Kirkcaldy has been missing out on that - we need a decent economic recovery and a better education system for Kirkcaldy and in other parts of Fife.

That could be done by bringing power closer to people. The Scottish Government could have kept hold of some of the powers given to it by Westminster but gave them right back: things like benefits, energy grants, lots of things have been left by the side.

I've seen first-hand some great examples of projects that could we could do more of like the H100 hydrogen project in Methil and it's a great example that could be transformational for the area. It's a perfect location for it. There's real potential here. We need to promote the idea of local - reducing local taxes for businesses and support the high street.

Places like Kirkcaldy need a fairer education system. Apprenticeships are also a challenge - our colleges have been neglected and there's fundamental problems with the apprenticeship system. It's hard to get apprenticeships in some trades and that needs a fundamental change at government level.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I'm a keen cross-country skier - I've skied in the Arctic Circle as well as the Anatolian mountains in Turkey. It was all fairly exotic!

Kathleen Leslie - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Tell us about yourself.

I've been a councillor since 2017. Prior to that I was a teacher for a number of years, most recently teaching children with additional support needs. I wanted to get into politics for a long time so when the opportunity came up I went for it. I love being able to work with local people to get local solutions and work one-on-one with people. My campaigning goes back to 2012.

What are your local priorities if elected?

One of the things I've come to realise over the last four years is that local government is so important but to get better funding for it needs representation higher up. As an MSP I would have more leverage for trying to get faIrer funding for local government and priorities like anti-social behaviour and early years and childcare.

I'd be looking for better resourcing at a national level for our police. We've had a lot of anti-social behaviour recently and while I'm not blaming police for that we need more officers out there, a more local police force that I believe we have lost.

We also need better disabled access at our railway stations and as an MSP it would be easier to have meetings with bodies like Transport Scotland to make that happen. Kirkcaldy as a town has prospered but the high street has not, and I believe our planning system is not fit for purpose. Too often we see decisions made far away from local people.

And obviously there's education. We've lost a lot of time because of the pandemic so we need more teachers in schools to make up for that.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

If I have a spare 20 minutes I have a thing about watching YouTube videos on cleaning your house. I'm a closet Mrs Hinch fan. If you've had a day of politics and want to clear out your head nothing beats it. Everybody thinks I'm mad but sometimes it helps me completely zone out. It's amazing the inspiration it gives you though.

Calum Paul - Scottish Libertarian Party

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Kirkcaldy and went to school and college in Glenrothes before I moved to Edinburgh, cheffing, doing bar work and playing in a few bands before I came back and started working in a local gaming shop selling Warhammer and the like. When that closed I started my own business for four or five years then I started working in the film industry: a few acting jobs, some combat performance and behind the scenes.

What are your local priorities if elected?

As a libertarian I believe in a small government approach and returning power to a local level. I'd like to cut a lot of spending bloat around Fife: transport officers say they are lacking funding to fix potholes but there's money to put granite down on the new Prom in Kirkcaldy. Returning more power to local authorities and reforming local spending would give more power to local people.

Something that really irks me is the help Amazon is given in Fife, particularly given how they have benefitted from the lockdown. They hire the majority of the workforce in the area but I hear a lot from my peers that they seem to have a lot of power when it comes to the labour market and there's a lot of barriers in place stopping small businesses from competing with them. This is a company that treated people so badly they were camping outside because it was more affordable than commuting.

I want to see high streets moving beyond retail, as they are being hammered. There's a philisophical argument to be made for the high street - it's a congregation point that people go to not just to consume but to spend time together. I'd do everything I could as an MSP to improve things - the last thing we should be doing is giving responsibility for that to committees or quangos. The people know what they want.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

While I've got a fairly deep background in music and film, one thing people might not know is that I'm an avid cat lover. I have a little ginger cat called Jones and he's my world.

David Torrance - Scottish National Party (incumbent)

Tell us about yourself.

I joined the SNP in 1979 and became a councillor in the 1990s, but my background is in engineering originally. From there I went to work for [2007-11 list MSP] Chris Harvie and went on to be elected as an MSP in 2011. But my real passion is being involved in voluntary organisations like my local Scout group, as a man and as a boy. I'm a kept man, and I have a son and a daughter.

What are your local priorities if elected?

Job opportunities - especially apprenticeships and training for young people, as we have some of the top areas of deprivation. Education and training are key to getting young people into employment, and apprenticeship schemes are key to that. It's really important to me, to be able to have schemes in this area to break the cycle going round for 30, 40 years since the heavy industries disappeared.

We also need to look at how we regenerate our high streets, how we build them back to be used by the public. The days of the big retailers are long gone so we need to make them multi-use. We're improving on social housing stock but we need to build new council and social housing at a high standard so people can avoid fuel poverty. It's important we keep up the good work.

The other one for me is connectivity: it's key to getting to appointments, to jobs, to education. We've seen some areas of development - the Levenmouth rail link has been a godsend - but there is still quite a bit of work to be done in other parts of the area. I want to see work done on our NHS facilities and GP surgeries to make them one-stop hubs for other services, to make the community aware those services are there.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I'm a real keen gardener - I especially enjoy growing vegetables. I've got a greenhouse in the garden right up the side of the house and I've got every type of vegetable growing: leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips. My strawberries, you would not believe.

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