Audience grill panel as BBC’s Big Debate comes to Kirkintilloch

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Around 100 people packed into the Park Centre at Kirkintilloch for BBC Radio Scotland’s “The Big Debate” which was broadcast live from the venue today.

Chaired by broadcaster Gordon Brewer, young and old, including pupils from Lenzie Academy and Kirkintilloch High School, put their questions to the panel made up of local MP John Nicolson, Editor of the Big Issue Paul McNamee, Glasgow MSP Drew Smith, former broadcaster Louise Batchelor of the Green Party and former Scottish Conservative Head of Communications. Andy Maciver,

Topics discussed were the resignation of Police Scotland chief inspector Stephen House, women-only carriages on trains, the Labour leadership process – and the controversial shared space scheme for Kirkintilloch town centre.

Chairman of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Forum, Sandy Taylor, asked the panel how they felt the new Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act would affect the shared space scheme being imposed on people against their wishes.

East Dunbartonshire Council plan to remove all traffic lights and safety barriers along the entire length of Cowgate. The project has provoked widespread criticism, especially from disabled groups who are concerned over safety at the busy road junction at Catherine Street.

John Nicolson told the audience shared spaces had to be managed on a ‘city-wide’ concept.

He added: “You cannot have cars racing around all over the place then suddenly at this junction there is no traffic lights.

“Sandy is blind”, he said, adding it was “absurd” that in East Dunbartonshire Council’s original proposals the advice was that pedestrians should make “eye contact” with drivers.

“That’s going to be a bit difficult,” he said.

There was a mixed reaction from the other panellists who admitted they did not know enough about the plan .

A member of the audience, Peter McDade of East Dunbartonshire Access Panel, blasted the plan, saying there had been fatalities as a result of similar schemes in Coventry and Grimsby.

Mr Taylor, who has been heading the local protest, said: “This scheme goes against the Equality Act and the Community Empowerment Act. The council have to do what their people want.

“This does not just affect disabled groups. It also affects the elderly and children.”