Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Polls close in Dunfermline vote

Latest news from the polls
Latest news from the polls

Polls have closed in the Dunfermline by-election, which was prompted by the resignation of shamed MSP Bill Walker.

The SNP is defending a n arrow margin in the seat - and w ith a cushion of just 590 votes at the last count, Labour hopes for a successful night.

The parties have slugged it out over contentious local issues including proposed school closures by the council.

The SNP has also focused on its national policies such as the council tax freeze and the decision to remove the tolls on the nearby Forth road bridge.

But the party's opponents have tried to argue the SNP is centralising local services and spending too much time on the independence referendum.

The contest was triggered when Walker bowed to pressure and gave up the constituency following his conviction for a catalogue of abuse against his ex-wives.

He was kicked out of the party when the allegations surfaced but clung on as an Independent.

In a final pitch for votes last night, Labour candidate Cara Hilton said: "We need a new voice and a fresh start. We need to move on from the shame of Bill Walker. We need an MSP who will put Dunfermline first, not the referendum.

"We need a representative who will speak up for the people of this constituency and as a local mum who lives and works here and who currently represents part of the constituency on Fife Council, I believe I am the best candidate to be that voice."

SNP candidate Shirley-Anne Somerville spent the last day of the contest promising to make her first call as elected representative to the council's education director.

"Should I be elected, my promise is to be a champion for the people of Dunfermline and the West Fife villages - starting by working with local parents to stop the Labour council's school closures plans," she said.

"The council's proposals are flawed on educational and financial grounds and if I am elected on Thursday, my first call on Friday would be to Fife's education director, seeking a meeting to demand that the closures plan be withdrawn.

The Liberal Democrats have been successful in the past at Westminster and Holyrood levels but would need to persuade a huge number of people to back them today.

Candidate Susan Leslie said: "Labour and the SNP are happier fighting amongst themselves than doing right by residents here. It is no wonder that people think they have the wrong priorities for Dunfermline."

Scottish Conservative candidate James Reekie, who says he has run a positive campaign on local issues of importance, said people in the area are worn out by continual smear tactics coming from the SNP and Labour.

Instead they were far more keen to hear how candidates would improve the town centre, help ease the cost of living and act on local concerns like proposed school closures and downgrading of health services, Mr Reekie said.

"I've led a positive, issues-based campaign. I've done that because it's what voters want to see from their local candidate, and it's resulted in great feedback on the doorsteps," he said.

The by-election is also being contested by Zara Kitson for the Scottish Green Party, Peter Adams for Ukip and John Black, an independent.

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