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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 13:28 GMT
By-election avoids real concerns
In this week's reader's article, Paul Johnston from Dunfermline says what he thinks candidates in the local by-election should be talking about. To send us your views on this topic, see below.


It's Saturday night and the streets are awash with groups of individuals running from door and annoying the residents.

Paul Johnston
Paul Johnston has been hounded by by-election hopefuls

Is this another group of drunken neds and nedettes on a mission to annoy as many people as possible to quell their boredom?

No, this is the campaign team for the Liberal Democrats/Labour/SNP (delete as applicable) trying to persuade us that they will solve all of the problems of the residents of Dunfermline.

Since the announcement of the by-election, my wife and I have been hounded by repeated phone calls from the main parties and incessant leafleting.

What has concerned me is some of the "big" political issues that are being raised by the candidates.

Sure, the issue of Forth Road Bridge tolls was always going to be high on the agenda, but some of the other issues are petty beyond belief.

Is "muddy roads" really a major issue? Of course, with all the building going on within the eastern expansion there are going to be dirty roads but as soon as the diggers have moved on it will no longer be a problem - it will solve itself.

Let's not forget the problem of abandoned shopping trolleys, which is high on one party's list of local issues that needs sorting!

I'm so glad that a minority of Dunfermline people are getting their "concerns" met.

I chose to move to Dunfermline and I want to take an active part in the community and spend my money here but the facilities and shops are woeful

Never mind the real issues of public transport (RIP the Yellow Taxibus) and the crumbling city centre/poor shops.

If the public transport system between Dunfermline and Edinburgh were improved even more people would want to come to Dunfermline.

An hourly train service on a Saturday is just not good enough and no direct buses from the eastern expansion to Edinburgh during the rush hours are just two big concerns of local residents.

In the eastern expansion there are no facilities. No school, no leisure centre and nothing for children. There is a five-a-side pitch/tennis courts but they have been locked for over two years and one children's play area is situated under an electrical pylon!

I chose to move to Dunfermline and I want to take an active part in the community and spend my money here but the facilities and shops are woeful.

Whoever is elected on 9 February needs to address the REAL concerns of the residents and not just the petty annoyances of the small-minded minority.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not endorsed by the BBC.

Here are your views on this article.

The writer tells us he 'chose to live in Dunfermline' and then tells us its transport links are 'not good enough' and its facilities 'woeful'. One wonders just what he did take into account when making this 'choice'? If he exercises the same depth of thought when choosing who to vote for, I'm afraid he can't expect much but disappointment.
Donald , Glasgow

Last May for the election we received no material through our door, no-one came to canvass our vote. None of the parties seemed care about Rosyth or Dunfermline. This time around every Tom Dick and Harry has come to our door, do these people really care? Recent issues aside, Rosyth and Dunfermline have been crying out for better political representation, issues with transport, employment, the list is endless, wise up people of Dunfermline!
James Cohen, Rosyth, Fife, Scotland

I am native of Dunfermline and was brought up there. Mr Johnston's comments are very flawed. Whenever he chose to move there, the lack of facilities in the eastern expansion, transport hassles, and decaying town centre were all there already. In his irritation with all things political he says no-one is addressing the issue of the town centre. I'm sorry but the last time I looked at least one party (Liberal Democrats) were making it one of the main campaign issues. And by the way an energetic and committed local MP could do much to assist with regeneration.... The truth is that the area has suffered for 70 years from a Labour party who regard the area as their property and ignore its voters between elections, safe ,so far, in the knoweldge that with a few exceptions on the local council, the people of West Fife would vote solidly labour. Even the media refer to the area as Gordon Brown/Labour's "fiefdom" . Every thinking resident of the constituency should rise up on Thursday and use their vote, if only to show the rest of the country that there are no "fiefdoms" in 21st century Britain! And Paul - I'm a public transport user and therefore a pedestrian at times. Continually picking one's way through mud is more than a petty inconvenience.
Karen , Edinburgh

Most of the issues mentioned are indeed the responsibility of the Edinburgh, not the Westminster Parliament. Devolution has brought politics closer to the Scottish people but they seem unaware of it to a certain extent. The belief is that the real power still lies with Westminster MPs, but isn't it a strange notion that whoever gets elected will have almost no influence on transport, community schemes, health etc, even though these things are evidently closest to the voters' hearts?
Julie, Glasgow, UK

I am amazed at the amount of election material coming through my letter box, including five or six communications from one party, it must be costing a fortune, I am glad we don't have state funding of political parties in this country. One lot ruin their chances by leaving my front gate open. It is remarkable to see all the leading politicians canvassing in the High Street, I have never seen them here at any other time, probably never see them again after the poll.
El, Dunfermline

I was beginning to think it was just me that was being paranoid and that this was really a by-election for the Holyrood parliament. All the parties, bar none, have told the electorate what they would do in relation to devolved issues, when in truth they can do nothing! We were given a questionnaire from a Lib Dem canvasser asking us for information so that they could campaign for better rail services. On the train, it dawned on me that the Lib Dems in partnership with Labour in the Scottish Executive has recently acquired rail powers from Westminster. The Lib Dems don't need to campaign for better rail services, they have the power to do something now. The SNP candidate and Conservative candidate have both told me how they will campaign for retained services at the Queen Margaret Hospital. Why? This is a devolved issue and will be addressed at next year's elections. There is even a single issue candidate campaigning on an issue (bridge tolls) which Westminster can do nothing about. On the one hand, I am pleased that the local area and its problems are getting highlighted and discussed but for a Westminster election, it should be on Westminster issues and not seen as a Holyrood mid-term.
Stevie, Dunfermline

So let me get this straight. Politicians never listen to people and 'never come round here' etc. Now that they are there all of a sudden its a bad thing. Why do you want politicians coming to your door to find your view and to try and persuade you of theirs or no-one coming to your door ever and ignoring you completley?
Davie, Edinburgh

Fair enough on the points about all the leafleting but most of us complain that politicians don't listen enough and then complain again when they do. Having said that, it can get a wee bit much fighting your way in the door everyday past a pile of Labour and Lib Dem paperwork, not to mention the almost luminous SNP stuff. anyway, will probably vote Conservative for a change because I've tried everyone else and nothing's changed. Roll on Friday when it's all over.
John Mackie, Fife

To all who complain about Dunfermline town centre, you should try shopping in Kirkcaldy, also pretty bad and with the added attraction of addicts and shoplifters hanging about! At least you have a proper cinema near you as well, we get three-month-old movies at the Adam Smith Centre. If I had the choice I know where I would rather live.
Linda, Kirkcaldy

Ask the 729 people at Lexmark what is important not only for this part of Fife but for the whole of Scotland. Good secure real jobs, manufacturing factories that are UK-owned so they can't be shut down and shipped to some low cost developing nation.
Steven - Cowdenbeath, Cowdenbeath Fife

The campaign has done nothing to reduce my cynicism about politicians. I have lived in this "safe" Labour seat for many years and general elections have come and gone with scarcely any campaigning at all. Now you can't walk down the High Street without being harassed by politicians. Staying at home is no better, they ring you up!. On consecutive weekends I was canvassed by Annabel Goldie, Colin Fox, Nicola Sturgeon and Menzies Campbell. All I needed was Jack McConnell to "collect the set". Once the election is over, they will all disappear, never to be seen again, unless our next MP is so unfortunate as to meet with an untimely demise.
Graeme Wilson, Dunfermline

I am amazed by these comments. I live in Dunfermline and regularly tell people how great it is. I genuinely feel that it has a lot to offer, sure if you go looking for things to complain about you will find them, but that is true of anywhere. There are far worse places to live than this.
Matt, Dunfermline, Fife

I do hope there is a change, Labour have gone off the rails now, they are sleazy like the Conservatives. My vote will switch probably to the Liberal's. SNP are a waste of time, their policies are so out dated, Tartan Tories my father use to say. Look around Dunfermline, Labour are in charge and the town is getting worse and worse lets have a fresh change, quickly.
Gary , Dunfermline, Dunfermline

The author of this piece cites the Forth Road Bridge and public transport as major concerns for the people of Fife in the upcoming by-election, and there has been much coverage in the media over Queen Margaret hospital issues. What a pity that he, along with most of the politicians standing, fail to realise that transport and health are both issues which are devolved to the Scottish Executive, meaning that Westminster has no say or control over such issues. The candidate from the Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party is basing his one trick campaign on an issue that he would have no control over even if he was elected as MP. I feel in this way that politicians are misleading the voting public, but then that's nothing new!
Julia McConnell, Edinburgh, Scotland

Like the author, I too have been plagued by election correspondence. A small patch of Amazonian rain-forest must have been sacrificed to provide all the paper for the small mountain of election literature which has come through my letterbox in recent weeks. Unfortunately, it all goes directly into the recycling bin - without being read. It seems to me that the only time these candidates get in touch is when they want something - my vote. As far as I am concerned, they can all whistle for it. No matter what the local issues - and yes, the problems of the eastern expansion (or 'Tescoville' as some call it) are clear - the fact is that a single lobby-fodder MP in Westminster ain't going to change anything. Dunfermline is rock solid Labour. I would like to urge all voters tomorrow to join me in writing an abusive message on their ballot paper. Maybe these ambitious, shallow fools who seek to rule over us will eventually get the hint!
Paul, Dunfermline

I too have been hounded by phone calls and nuisance banging at the doors at all hours and for what? Being fairly young, and no real interest in politics as yet, I honestly don't know what each party is fighting for. Surely their time would be better spent ensuring that "their" public knew what they were voting for rather than trying to rack up the number of votes they receive.
Marc Driver, Dunfermline

I'm sick of this election. Why? Because the idiots (all parties) standing for the seat are campaigning on issues that they can't do anything about! Not that I'm saying they will be ineffectual - simply that these are all matters that are devolved and are therefore the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament and MSPs, not MPs and Westminster. The Queen Margaret Hospital, the bridge, crime, the Lexmark closure and almost all the other issues (including those raised by Paul) - they can promise all they like but how are they going to change things once they are down in London?
Iain, Rosyth

On the issue of public transport I have to laugh when people talk about improving public transport system between Dunfermline and Edinburgh leading to more visitors coming to Dunfermline - people would be travelling in the opposite direction.
Anthony Barbara, Dunfermline

Does Mr Johnston ever use the train? I think he'll find there's a half-hourly service between Dunfermline and Edinburgh and over four trains an hour from Inverkeithing on a Saturday. I'm originally from Dunfermline, and I know the town centre is a disgrace. Ironically, better transport links to Edinburgh will only make the town centre worse as more people travel to Edinburgh/Gyle to shop as the shops in Dunfermline get worse and, hence, the downward spiral will continue. And you would know the facilities that existed in the town's eastern expansion before you moved there. OK, the planners have messed up by allowing Dunfermline to develop lop-sided with a town centre on its western edge, but you can't have everything on your doorstep (not everyone has the biggest corner shop in Fife, and a leisure park, within walking distance).
Alan, Edinburgh

I was one of the people who rose in the middle of the night to travel by bus to come and canvass in Dunfermline at the weekend. I never felt that I was annoying anyone, quite the reverse, a lot of people were glad to have the chance to air their political questions to a person on the street. The majority of people I spoke to were really nice, and were, surprise surprise, really interested in the outcome of this by-election - a few slammed the door in my face, but on the whole this election results will be close, and the results will be important to the people of Dunfermline. Use your votes wisely and make a difference to the issues which matter to you.

I agree with Paul. The candidates seem to be bringing up issues that are either the responsibility of the local council or of the Scottish Executive, nothing to do with Westminster. Please can the candidates focus on issues that the Westminster parliament has responsibility for.
Matt, Dunfermline

Paul. Your use of the terms "neds and nedettes" is repugnant. How can you claim to want to take an active part in your community, and at the same time use stigmatising and derogatory terms to describe members of your community. Let's remember that our unfair society produces Non Educated Delinquents. It is neither big or clever to locate the problems of society in a social group.
Colin, Edinburgh

Is "muddy roads" really a major issue? Yes, it is. I travel through this area by motorbike. A muddy road can be fatal, especially at this time of year with poor lighting. Perhaps your contributor should be a little less self-centred.
Dave Edmondston, Dalgety Bay, Fife

Being a fellow resident of Dunfermline, I empathise with the points made by Mr Johnston. Even though some contributors here question whether or not a Westminster MP can change anything, surely they can raise real issues with their MSP equivalents? This may, eventually, filter down to the council which really needs to be held to account. I would encourage everyone to make good use of their vote in this election - change has to start somewhere.
James, Dunfermline

I fully agree with Paul - all the main parties seem to have their priorities completely wrong. For the size of the area, Dunfermline must have the worst town centre I've ever seen, and yet none of the parties seem to focus their attention upon improving this area. Also, there needs to be more efforts spent on attracting business to west Fife - maybe there wouldn't be gridlock on the Forth Bridge if people could work locally!
Pete, Dunfermline

I have voted Labour in every election so far, but my vote could well be going elsewhere this time. Dunfermline town centre has been in serious decline for 25 years now and we have been promised new facilities for years. It is all empty promises and that is all it ever will be under the current council. Dunfermline must have the biggest selection of charity shops in western Europe.

So Paul thinks that people with local concerns are "small-minded". I sincerely hope he does not succeed in his ambition to serve the community, if that is his attitude. But then again, if he really believes that the needs and aspirations of minorities are of no consequence, perhaps he does have all the attributes necessary for a career in politics.
Kerry Morgan, Gold Coast, Australia.

What Paul Johnston has missed is that most of the issues he mentions are not up for grabs in the by-election: they are areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament and should be taken up with his MSP rather than any prospective MPs and their campaigners.
Alex, Glasgow

Paul of Dunfermline states that the only time the candidates get in touch is when they want his vote. The majority of people standing as candidates have other full time jobs to take up their time and therefore would find it impossible to contact 70,000 people without the resources available to them at a by-election. Instead of spoiling his ballot paper he would better using it to remove the party in power that has obviously failed him and the people of Dunfemline & West Fife.
Andrew, Glasgow

This article is just another typical, moaning rant by someone who would rather see others improving things than get off their own backsides and do it themselves. It's so easy to complain about politicians (and of course very understandable in our so-called 'democracy') but what is to stop Mr Johnston from starting a local campaign group, joining a community council, voting for someone else, taking direct action or (heaven forbid!) standing for election himself. Stop whining and start actually doing something.
Dylan Ciccone, Edinburgh

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