The first of The Courier’s hustings events sparked lively debate in Perth.
Windfarms, the NHS and pensions were among the topics tackled by the hopefuls for the Perth and North Perthshire seat.
Alongside Pete Wishart, who has held the seat for the SNP since its creation, were Ian Duncan for the Conservatives, Labour’s David Roemmele and Peter Barrett for the Liberal Democrats.
Dozens of members of the public packed into the Soutar Theatre at the AK Bell Library on Tuesday evening for a chance to pose questions to the parliamentary hopefuls.
Courier political editor Kieran Andrews chaired the event.
The evening began with a question on the future rights of EU nationals working within the NHS in post-Brexit Britain.
Mr Barrett said the government needed to give “immediate assurance” to all EU nationals working within the UK that they would have a continued right to remain.
“We believe it’s very important to encourage nurses and social care workers to remain in Scotland and to remain in the profession, and that’s why we also want to see the 1% cap on nurses’ pay lifted,” he said.
Mr Roemmele said Labour was keen that EU nationals were not used as “bargaining chips”.
Ian Duncan said such an assurance should work both ways, with British nationals working in Europe requiring similar assurances, adding the NHS would “not survive” without EU workers.
Mr Wishart said he was “appalled” that EU nationals were being used as bargaining chips, adding that he is committed to voting to raise spend on the English NHS so that Scotland would benefit from additional funding through the Barnett consequentials.
However Mr Barrett attacked the SNP’s management of the NHS, saying the Tayside health board had not had a balanced budget for the past six years.
Mr Wishart hit back saying the current system was designed more than 30 years ago and was not equipped to deal with a growing and aging population.
Another hot topic on the agenda was renewable energy.
Asked by a member of the public if Scotland had too many, too few or the right number of wind turbines, the panel largely supported the clean energy generators.
Mr Barrett drew cries of outrage for suggesting that Scotland had too few wind turbines.
He said: “Onshore wind turbines are a mature renewable technology – it’s something we have expertise in.
“I think there are areas in the country where the density of windfarms is at capacity but there are still plenty of other areas that can be developed.”
Mr Roemmele said he believed wind turbines have a “certain elegance”, while Mr Duncan said Scotland had reached “saturation level” with onshore turbines but said there may be the opportunity to expand them offshore but feared advances such as electric cars would mean the country would not be able to generate enough electricity through wind to meet its needs.
Inevitably the discussion turned to independence after the panel was asked whether they felt their parties represented the average person.
The question sparked a war of words between the SNP and Conservative candidates, with Mr Wishart quipping he felt he was fighting the “Ruth- Davidson-opposes-a-second- independence-referendum party” rather than Mr Duncan.
He said: “By now, I am pretty certain that Ruth Davidson opposes a second independence referendum.
“I’m pretty certain that she does and she really means it when she says that – but what about getting on to the real issues, the things that matter, the things that I have responsibility for in the House of Commons.
“Whoever is elected here will bear the great responsibility of voting on your behalf.”
Attend your hustings
The Courier will be hosting further hustings events this week, with meetings in St Andrews and Arbroath on Wednesday and one in Dundee on Thursday.
To book a place, please email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org.