Dunfermline by-election: Meet the candidates

THE Dunfermline by-election, triggered by the resignation of Bill Walker MSP after his conviction on 23 charges of assault, will take place on October 24th 2013.

People will vote in the Dunfermline by-election on October 24th. Picture: PA

Seven candidates will contest the seat, with Scotland’s main political parties all fielding candidates in the constituency. Here, we profile each individual, in alphabetical order by party name.

Conservatives: James Reekie

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The 22-year-old contested the seat in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, finishing fourth behind Walker (then of the SNP), Labour’s Alex Rowley and Jim Tolson of the Liberal Democrats and receiving 7.1 per cent of the total votes with 2,093. Mr Reekie has accused the SNP and Labour of ‘petty political mud-flinging’, and is focusing his campaign on job creation and regeneration of Dunfermline’s city centre, adding: “Dunfermline is in desperate need of regeneration. That will be a priority of mine during this campaign.”

Mr Reekie has also joined the battle to save Pitcorthie Primary from closure under plans being considered by Fife Council.

Green: Zara Kitson

Zara Kitson, a 27-year-old pro-independence democracy campaigner will contest the by-election for the Scottish Greens. Ms Kitson is an organiser of Say So Scotland, a group which aims to give citizens the chance and resources to make decisions directly instead of petitioning politicians, based on the recently-created new Icelandic constitution.

The Scottish Greens did not contest the seat in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, but Ms Kitson sees the by-election as ‘an extraordinary opportunity to get the Green message out in Dunfermline’.

Ms Kitson said that the campaign ‘must be about them, not us’, adding that it was fair to say Parliament ‘hasn’t always served the people of Dunfermline as well as it could.’

She was described by Stirling councillor and former MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell as one of the party’s ‘rising stars’.

Independent: John Black

John Black is standing as an Independent candidate due to ‘difficulties in getting The Scottish Jacobite Party re-registered with The Electoral Commission’, according to Dunfermline and West Fife Today.

The 73-year-old memorably challenged Alex Salmond to a head-to-head TV debate on the terms of the pro-independence campaign.

Active in Scottish politics since 2005 - when The Scottish Jacobite Party was first registered with The Electoral Commission - Mr Black lost his deposit in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections and also the 2010 Westminster election. He believes that there is a ‘unique opportunity to pause, reflect, debate and decide what sort of future’ Scottish citizens want for their country.

Labour: Cara Hilton

The daughter of former Labour MSP for Falkirk East Cathy Peattie, Cara Hilton joined the Labour Party at the age of 15, and was elected to Fife Council for the first time in May 2012 to the Dunfermline South ward.

Ms Hilton, 38, said she believed Dunfermline needs an MSP who will ‘work their socks off for this constituency’. She also stressed that she would go to the Scottish Parliament and put Dunfermline first, ‘not the constitution and the referendum next year’.

Ms Hilton’s main commitments include opposing ‘the SNP obsession with independence’, reducing living costs and demanding better bus services.

Liberal Democrats: Susan Leslie

Fife councillor and university lecturer Susan Leslie will stand for the Liberal Democrats, who have already had two local councillors elected in Dunfermline. Party leader Willie Rennie is currently MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, and Ms Leslie is a councillor for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy.

She promised to ‘work tirelessly’ for her constituents if elected, and pointed to her party’s ‘strong record of delivery for people in Dunfermline.’

Mr Rennie said of Ms Leslie’s selection: “Susan’s record and commitment to Fife is impressive.

We’re going to work hard for every vote and remind people how powerful a force Lib Dems are for their community.”

SNP: Shirley-Anne Somerville

A former Lothians list MSP, Shirley-Anne Somerville is currently director of communities at Yes Scotland. Born and raised in Kirkcaldy, she lives in North Queensferry with her husband and children, and defeated Fife councillor Karen Marjoram in an SNP Dunfermline constituency association vote.

Ms Somerville failed to win a seat in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, but was appointed as a Regional List MSP for the Lothians later in 2007 following the resignation of Stefan Tymkewycz, who stepped down to concentrate on his work with Edinburgh City Council.

She lost her seat at the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, missing out on the Edinburgh Northern and Leith seat by 595 votes to Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm.

After her selection, Ms Somerville said she was ‘honoured’ to be chosen as the SNP’s candidate and added that if elected, she pledtged to be a ‘strong local voice’ at Holyrood.

She also outlined her plans to protect the ‘people’s policies’ - the Council Tax freeze, free personal care for the elderly, no tuition fees for young Scots, free bus travel for over-60s and no Forth Bridge tolls.

UKIP: Peter Adams

Peter Adams is UKIP’s regional organiser in Scotland, and has lived in Fife for 20 years. The party has no elected representation in Scotland and lost its deposit in the last Scottish Parliament by-election earlier this year, in Aberdeen Donside.

Currently the treasurer of Kirkcaldy West Community Council, Mr Adams vowed to ‘represent the people of Dunfermline with common-sense views and ideas which appear to be lacking in our present parliamentary system’.

Mr Adams was at the centre of an inquiry amid claims he broke electoral rules by neglecting to mention he held a key health board appointment. His position as non-executive board member for NHS Fife prevented him from standing for the Scottish Parliament unless he tendered his resignation prior to nominations forms being lodged. He told The Courier newspaper last month that he thought he was eligible based on the information he had to hand, and had resigned from the board when the information came to light.

Deputy returning officer for Fife Linda Bissett said: “Mr Adams’ name will, by law, remain on the ballot paper.”