When the list was finalised for candidates hoping to win the public’s votes in next month’s council elections one feature immediately caught the eye – the number of Independents included.
Across central and north-east Fife there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of candidates standing as an Independent – 17 in all – which could result in a major change for local politics in Fife.
All of the candidates who spoke to the Press came to the same conclusion – the needs of the constituents are more important than those of any political party.
Should the public feel the same come polling day on May 4, then local politics may never be the same.
Cllr Andrew Roger is standing down after this election, having served his Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages ward for 25 years as an Independent. He says people are fed up with “Politics with a capital ‘P’” at local level.
“People simply want the best councillor in their area who can do a job for them,” he said. “That’s when you need to take politics out of it.
“When I entered politics as an Independent I did it because I wanted to look after my community and get things done.
“I’m under no whip, I can say what I want and do what I want – all within context of course.”
Andrew says that in his ward the mix of Independent and party councillors works well.
“It’s only when you go to a full council meeting that you get into the heavy politics and the name calling,” he says.
This view is echoed by fellow Cllr Bryan Poole from Cupar, who is also standing down this year.
He said: “Decision making is always predicated on, ‘What will the other political group do?’.
“The different parties in Fife are so intent on playing petty party politics with each other that the particular needs of Fife are not given the priority they need.”
Andrew added: “As an Independent you can stand up for yourself and for your community.
“I’ve had fellow councillors saying to me that I’m lucky. They’ve said that they’ve agreed with a motion that I might have been putting forward but have had to take the party line and disagree.
“And I’ve had locals come to me specifically because they know I don’t have to toe the party line and can get things done.”
Both concede that it can be more difficult without the might of a party giving support in terms of experience and resources in the background, but that didn’t stop the pair rising to office; Bryan as Fife’s spokesman for Education, Children, Young People and Families, whilst Andrew was vice-chair of Health and Social Care at NHS Fife, proof that an Independent standing is no barrier to a successful political career.
So might the public follow suit with the view that political parties don’t best serve their needs?
Andrew firmly believes that more Independents in seats would be a hugely positive move.
“Politics can change overnight,” he said.
“I believe that if we had a lot more Independents in Fife the council would be in a better place.”
The Independent candidates for the Kirkcaldy area are;
Marie Penman – Marie Penman hopes to retain her seat in the Kirkcaldy East ward after a stormy first term as councillor.
Marie (49), a journalism lecturer at Fife College in Kirkcaldy, first came to political prominence after leading the Yes Kirkcaldy campaign and won her seat in January 2015 standing as an SNP candidate, but resigned from the party in March 2016 amid allegations of bullying at local level and elected to stay on as an Independent councillor. She is a board member of Kirkcaldy Foodbank and a member of the Anti-Bedroom Tax campaign.
Roy Mackie – The Kinghorn resident is standing for election for the first time in the Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy ward. Roy, who recently turned 60, spent the majority of his working career as an engineer which involved him travelling extensively all over the world. He became interested in politics after spending time serving on Kinghorn Community Council, where he is still a member with “strong principles”.
Also standing in the same ward is Independent candidate Peter George.
Matthew Ritchie – Matthew is another first-time candidate. The 51-year-old is a life-long Kirkcaldy resident and has lived in his ward of Kirkcaldy East for the past 25 years. He has recently helped to organise the Fife Anti-Cuts march and Gala, and has been a strong opponent of the Bedroom Tax. An employee of Fife Council, he also commits a lot of his spare time to carrying out voluntary activities in his local community.
Daniel Penman – If elected, 18-year-old Daniel would be the youngest councillor in Scotland. Head boy at St Andrew’s High School in Kirkcaldy, Daniel passed five Highers last year and has a place to study Law at Edinburgh University in September. He is the son of fellow independent candidate, Marie Penman, and is standing in the Kirkcaldy Central ward and says he wants to give a voice to young people in the area as 16-17 year olds will be eligible to vote for the first time this year.
Calum Paul – Along with the Independents is Calum Paul, who is standing as a candidate for the Scottish Libertarian Party. Calum (31) was born in the Lang Toun and attended school and college in Glenrothes. After briefly living in Edinburgh working as a chef, he returned to Kirkcaldy, where he runs a small business in the Olympia Arcade. He was a fierce supporter of the Yes campaign and joined the Scottish Libertarians two years ago, where he was recently appointed as a Constitutional Committee member. He is standing in the Kirkcaldy Central ward.