Holyrood candidates grilled at business hustings

From left, Rona Mackay (SNP), Katy Gordon (LibDem), Chair Robert Wilson, Sheila Mechan (Conservative stand-in and Margaret McCarthy (Labour).
From left, Rona Mackay (SNP), Katy Gordon (LibDem), Chair Robert Wilson, Sheila Mechan (Conservative stand-in and Margaret McCarthy (Labour).

The controversial shared space at Kirkintilloch was top of the agenda when Scottish Election candidates for Strathkelvin and Bearsden were quizzed at a special hustings meeting.

Five parties were vying to win over voters at the event held last week in McGregor House, organised by Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce.

Around 25 people turned up at the meeting, held for two hours over lunchtime to put their question to candidates Rona Mackay (SNP); Katy Gordon (LibDem) and Margaret Mccarthy (Lab). Conservative candidate Andrew Polson was unable to attend. In his place was Sheila Mechan, the Tory candidate for Glasgow Kelvin.

Chaired by local businessman Robert Wilson, the event gave candidates the chance to persuade people to vote for them or their parties.

The first half hour of debate was taken up by a heated debate on the shared space.

Blind campaigner Sandy Taylor, who has led the protest against the scheme, highlighted the issue at the hustings

Complaints have been flooding in to the Herald after the first phase of the works at Kirkintilloch town centre started on February 8. Cowgate is to shut to vehicles in continuous phases until August 2017.

Mr Taylor told candidates there had been no meaningful consultation on the shared space, adding that as a disabled person, he “can no longer use the high street.”

He, along with fellow members of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Forum and their supporters, are calling for a moratorium on all shared spaces in Scotland until safety and equality issues have been addressed.

All candidates agreed that public consultation surrounding the shared space was an issue.

SNP candidate Rona Mackay said the shared space design had been “a disastrous decision” by East Dunbartonshire Council and agreed with Mr Taylor that there had been no proper consultation with the public.

She said: “The concept is not suited to Kirkintilloch, it is too busy”, adding it was another disastrous scheme by the Labour/Tory and formerly Lib coalition at the council.”

Labour’s Margaret Mccarthy hit back, saying shared spaces were “Scottish Government policy.”

But she agreed that “a lot more work had to be done” by the council with regards to consultation.

Katy Gordon (LibDem) said: “I have knocked on a lot of doors and have heard from a lot of people who are very concerned about the shared space.

“I have also met people who are in favour of it but are a bit frustrated.”

She added: “I think there has been an issued with consultation in general.”

Sheila Mechan, representing Tory candidate Mr Polson said: “Safety for disabled people should be paramount.”

Other issues at the hustings included education and the closure of the Drumgrew Bridge.