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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 17:39 GMT
Committee visit 'a coincidence'
Michael McMahon
Michael McMahon said it could not be better timing
MSPs on Holyrood's petitions committee have been holding one of their meet-the-people events in Dunfermline.

The visit to the Fife town has been taking place in the middle of the by-election campaign which followed the death of Labour MP Rachel Squire.

Committee convener Michael McMahon said it could not be better timing - but stressed it was pure coincidence.

The Labour MSP said the committee arranged the session last September and it would have been unfair to cancel it.

Voters will go to the polls on 9 February to choose the new MP to represent Dunfermline and West Fife at Westminster.

Tolls call

MSPs were hearing a plea from the Reverend Ross Brown of Inverkeithing, who said his parishioners have constantly talked of being ignored over transport.

He wants the tolls on the Forth Road Bridge to be removed.

He told MSPs: "It's part of the national road network and we as motorists already pay some of the highest taxes in Europe."

Tom Minogue, who is campaigning to have the tolls abolished, was told to leave the meeting after staging a protest.

The Dunfermline and West Fife candidate for the Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party accused Helen Eadie, Labour MSP for Dunfermline East, of abusing her position on the committee.

She was suggesting ways in which the committee could take the issue forward when she was interrupted by Mr Minogue's protest from the public benches. He was asked to leave.

The committee agreed to write to both the Scottish Executive and Forth Estuary Transport Authority on the issue as well as motoring organisations the AA and the RAC.

Other protesters want a review of rural dental services and disabled groups have complained about parking places and speed bumps.

When the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999, some critics worried that the public petitions committee would be a gimmick.

Since then it has become an important link between the people and their politicians.

MSPs have dealt with petitions ranging from the Iraq War to eating disorders, the Skye Bridge tolls, detox clinics, fishing limits and the fate of hedgehogs in the Outer Hebrides.

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