Scottish elections: This is who is standing in Cowdenbeath

Voters go to the polls on Thursday to choose their next MSPs.

By Jon Brady, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Saturday, 1st May 2021, 12:32 pm

In this feature, we spotlight the candidates standing in Cowdenbeath.

Am I in this constituency?

Cowdenbeath covers the Fife Council wards of Rosyth, Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, Cowdenbeath, and Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty.

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The candidates in Cowdenbeath (Pic: Jon Brady)

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

What happened last time?

Rising from the ashes of the Dunfermline East constituency in 2011, Cowdenbeath was a Labour win for the late Helen Eadie, and it stayed red when Alex Rowley won at the by-election that followed Eadie's untimely death from cancer in 2014.

However, it swung towards the SNP in the 2016 elections, with Annabelle Ewing elected on a majority of 3,041.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday

In the UK General Election, locals voted Labour's Lesley Laird in as MP in 2017, but swung back to the nationalists in 2019 and elected Neale Hanvey, who has since defected to Alex Salmond's Alba party.

Who is standing?

Cowdenbeath has five constituency candidates for 2020, each of whom is profiled below in their own words. A * denotes an incumbent.

Annabelle Ewing - Scottish National Party *

Tell us about yourself.

I've had the honour of representing Cowdenbeath since 2016 and prior to that I was a list MSP elected in 2011, and had been a Westminster MP for Perth from 2001-2005. It really was a great honour to be the first SNP MSP for Cowdenbeath since the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament by my mother [Winnie Ewing] - I love the job of representing people. At the end of the day I'm there to represent people and I think people know that.

What are your local priorities if elected?

Jobs for young people is an important issue - especially now at a time where we have Brexit and the Covid pandemic having a big impact on jobs in some sectors. But what I've seen from the Scottish Government is a determination to ensure that young people are not left behind, with jobs, training places or possibilities for further higher education for every young person. We can't allow a generation to be left behind as a result of external factors.

Cowdenbeath is quite a diverse constituency with a lot of different issues and there have been many local campaigning issues I've looked at - flooding in places like Cardenden, the air traffic noise at Dalgety Bay and Inverkeithing, safe walking routes in Rosyth. I would continue to be a constituency campaigner whatever the issues.

In terms of the SNP manifesto it is a really ambitious range of measures to set Scotland on the right path post-Covid. I think in particular I would single out support for families because it's a struggle, and I'm delighted to see our pledge to extend free school meals to all children and for age appropriate tablets, Chromebooks and laptops. No matter where you're from you should have the same chances as other children in Scotland.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

It seems I've become the spokesperson for wrestling! Earlier this year the wrestler Mick Foley tagged my Twitter profile @AEwing4Cbeath in a tweet and my notifications were filled with people I didn't know. I did watch wrestling as a child - Giant Haystacks and people like that - but I wasn't aware of how big a deal Mick Foley was. However, people said really nice things and shared funny memes. I've invited him to speak to school kids in Fife - that's a major priority for me if I'm re-elected!

Mags Hall - Scottish Greens

Tell us about yourself.

I'm from Kincardine in west Fife and left Fife to study in Glasgow before travelling and living in New Zealand for a while. I've now been based in Dunfermline for the last ten years. Professionally, I've been working for a community food project, in sustainable local food in particular, looking at the environmental impact of our food system. I got involved in politics after the independence referendum, and for me it had to be the Greens.

What are your local priorities if elected?

This part of Fife has some of the worst environmental impacts of anywhere in the Mid-Scotland and Fife region. The issue around Mossmorran has been ongoing since we got Mark Ruskell [the Mid-Scotland and Fife Green MSP] elected in 2016 - not just the flaring but the long-term impacts on Cowdenbeath and our failure to plan for what happens at the plant and within the local community when we have to wind down fossil fuel use.

There are other clear examples of Mid-Fife being forgotten about and the community becoming a dumping ground for dirty pollution - just look at Dalgety Bay, where people have an environmental hazard right on their doorstep. The area needs an MSP that really understands these concerns and will stand up for the local community, and not be silent.

The other big issue for this area is the flight paths for Edinburgh Airport. It was just assumed people would be fine with it but people are fed up of being told they should be grateful for business and investment in their area while dealing with the consequences. And as with every area we're really aware of the local impact that Covid has had on our communities.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I'm a season ticket holder at East End Park [Dunfermline Athletic's football ground] - a long-time Pars fan. I'm really looking forward to getting back to the stands, hopefully from August if we're all good.

Alex Rowley - Scottish Labour Party

Tell us about yourself.

I was a member of Fife Regional Council when I was in my early 20s and did other jobs before becoming a Fife councillor and leader of Fife Council before becoming an MSP. I live in Kelty, I like spending time with my grandchildren and my main hobby is gardening.

What are your local priorities if elected?

We need to invest in people and invest in resources, otherwise I fear we will see levels of unemployment that we haven't seen for decades. I'm old enough to remember what the loss of jobs in mining, the Rosyth dockyards and the naval base did to communities across the Cowdenbeath constituency. The scars are still there of the social and the economic impacts in the 80s and 90s that some communities are still trying to recover from.

We cannot allow this to happen to young people in the 2020s. The role of an MSP is to ensure opportunities are there. Working with businesses across the area, and across Tayside and the Lothians, we need to create jobs locally. If we invest in infrastructure we can learn from the lessons of the past: invest in the roads and we will create opportunities and jobs.

I believe in local government. We've seen a centralisation of government over the last decade and that isn't good. You can't do a local economic strategy from Edinburgh but you can do it in Fife if you have the resources and local authorities have a key role to coordinate those opportunities.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I've mentioned that I like spending time in my garden and on my allotment - that's my favourite past time.

I love garlic so I grow a lot of that. During lockdown allotments have been a godsend. I'd like to see more and more opportunities for people to get involved in their local environment - the climate challenge we face is the biggest threat to the future and we need to be more in touch with what's going on around us.

Darren Watt - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Tell us about yourself.

I'm a councillor for Cowdenbeath and I live here with my wife and my three children. I've been a councillor for four years and I'd like to think the work I've done in my community speaks volumes and sets out the kind of person I am and what I could achieve if I was elected to Holyrood in May.

What are your local priorities if elected?

If I were elected to Holyrood I'd focus more or less on the things that matter to local people, as I do now: the things that people don't tend to see, like helping them on a one-to-one basis with housing problems, debt and schools.

As a local councillor I've seen first-hand how councils have been starved of funding for the last ten years, at the very least. We've seen the road conditions, and there's a mixed bag of focusing on the things that matter to people in the local area. I pledge to deliver fair funding for councils to enable Fife Council to properly invest in schools, roads, parks and public services.

The Scottish Conservatives are proposing a better fair funding scheme not too dissimilar to the current Barnett formula. I've seen first-hand the effects of councils with limited funding and the deteriorating condition of the roads. It affects each and everyone person in Fife.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I'm a seasoned eBay veteran. I used to run an online collectibles business and I sold over 28,000 items in the last 15 years, with a feedback score of over 20,000.

Malcolm Wood - Scottish Liberal Democrat

Tell us about yourself.

I'm a dad to some boys in primary school and my wife is a hard-working hospital doctor. I'm a software engineer by trade and I've been a Liberal Democrat member for a very long time. They reflect my views on personal freedom, are worried about climate change and have the most realistic policies for dealing with it.

What are your local priorities if elected?

In general, our policy message is to put the recovery first, and that's about making sure there's green jobs for our young people. As we go back to normal after the pandemic our young people have been really badly affected as so many work in service jobs. This is an opportunity for more jobs in things like mass tree planting projects. Building wind turbines locally has been a massive missed opportunity.

In the short term, Mossmorran flaring is a big issue for Cowdenbeath - not just as a place to live but because of the challenge for the future of whether we can make it compatible with our climate change targets. I'm optimistic we can but it remains a big challenge.

Inverkeithing needs a new school pretty urgently. It's the same building as when I was there and the roof is still letting rain in. As a musician music teaching is important to me and I've seen other councils cut it back complaining of budget cuts. I was very lucky with my music teaching here in Fife and I want to see that continue.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

I'm a very enthusiastic musician. I play piano really quite well - the big classical pieces mostly. It was available to me in school and it's something that's kept me going my whole life.

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