Scotland politics

Cowdenbeath by-election: Parties hit campaign trail

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Media captionBy-election candidates, top Natalie McGarry (SNP) and Alex Rowley (Labour) and bottom Jade Holden (Lib Dems) and Dave Dempsey (Conservative)

Candidates from the main parties have been campaigning ahead of the Scottish Parliament Cowdenbeath by-election.

Fife Council leader Alex Rowley is defending the seat for Labour, following the death of MSP Helen Eadie.

Women for Independence co-founder Natalie McGarry is challenging for the SNP, while the Conservatives have selected local councillor Dave Dempsey.

Jade Holden is standing for the Lib Dems in the by-election, being held on 23 January.

Youth unemployment

Mr Rowley said his campaign would concentrate on the "issues facing Fife families today", including youth unemployment, improving childcare, building more affordable homes and encouraging investment in Fife.

He added: "We will also talk about how the SNP have put Scotland on pause to fight the referendum.

"No longer do we have a government in Edinburgh, we merely have a referendum campaign.

"Our clear message to the SNP is this: Use the powers you have now to make the changes that Scots want to see. We don't need to wait until 2016."

Council tax

Ms McGarry said her priority was to "deliver the policies that Fifers value", such as freezing council tax.

She added: "Where Labour ganged up with the Tories this week to try to stop primary school children getting free school meals, and prevent expanded childcare provision, I will vote to help deliver these vital policies for families in Fife if elected.

"Where my Labour opponent thinks that council tax bills should go up again - just as they rocketed by 50% under Labour in the past - my priority is protecting the freeze that will save households in Fife over £1,600 on average.

"All of these policies need to be delivered by voting for the Scottish budget that funds them, and Labour have tried to vote down the budget as well as voting against these popular measures."

Town centre regeneration

Mr Dempsey, who is currently a councillor in west Fife, said he was keen to promote the regeneration of Cowdenbeath town centre.

He added: "Times are tough for retailers and the SNP should be seeking to help them.

"Instead, the Scottish government has hit the sector with a number of damaging policies like the retail levy and empty property tax.

"The least it could do is come up with a fresh town centre regeneration fund - the type of investment that could really change Cowdenbeath's fortunes.

"It's an extremely straightforward way to encourage growth, and make residents feel good about their own town centre."

Nursery places

Ms Holden said she would put the needs of constituents "ahead of the constitutional debate", and pointed to childcare as a key battleground.

She added: "Providing more nursery places for two-year-olds is good for children, good for families and good for our local economy.

"That is why Liberal Democrats in government have led a massive expansion of free care for two-year-old children in England.

"After months and months of pressure from Willie Rennie the SNP finally caught on and followed the Liberal Democrat lead.

"Local parents should not forget that just last week the first minister claimed that he could not help families in Scotland until after the referendum.

"This is a good start but we know there is more work that needs to be done. Our plan to extend free care to 40% of two-year-olds would help around 1,700 children across Fife."

The Cowdenbeath by-election was called after Mrs Eadie died in November last year at the age of 66, after it emerged she was being treated for cancer.

At Westminster, the area is represented by former prime minister Gordon Brown, who is MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

At the last Scottish election, Labour held Cowdenbeath with a 1,247 majority, although there was a 4.8% swing from Labour to the SNP.

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