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VIDEO: Fired-up Fifers grill election candidates at heated St Andrews hustings

A lack of trust in politics, the independence question, and the legacy of Brexit were among the concerns brought up by frustrated voters.

Fired-up Fifers grilled the six election candidates fighting to win their votes at a heated St Andrews hustings charied by The Courier.

Frustrated voters voiced their lack of trust in election promises being made after years of major parties being embroiled in scandals and controversies.

From independence to Brexit and everything else – here were the key topics which animated the audience during the rowdy university debate.

Is independence still important to voters?

John Swinney’s SNP has put securing a second independence referendum at the front and centre of its election pitch.

Local candidate Stefan Hoggan-Radu made an impassioned pitch for why leaving the union is necessary – but many in the crowd were unimpressed.

Jennifer Gallagher and Stefan Hoggan-Radu clashed on independence. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Jennifer Gallagher, standing for Labour, said the SNP and Tories both want the election to be about independence to deflect from their records in government.

When asked whether independence will be their priority when going to the ballot box on July 4, only a small number of voters raised their hands.

By contrast, almost everyone in the crowd agreed the NHS will be on their minds when they go to vote.

Do voters have any trust in politics?

One audience member pointed out economic experts have criticised economic pledges being made in party manifestos.

He asked the six candidates if they were “honest” enough to admit that higher taxes would be needed to fund the NHS.

That steered the debate on trust in politicians at a time when many voters are apathetic.

Wendy Chamberlain won the seat in 2019. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Lib Dem Wendy Chamberlain, who won the North East Fife seat in 2019, remarked that her party is still haunted by its coalition with the Tories.

“I’m here representing a party that knows very well how to make a promise and then not being seen to keep it comes back to bite it,” she told the crowd.

“People just do not trust politicians anymore,” said Mr Hoggan-Radu.

The candidates depated key election topics such as independence and immigration. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson.

That remark was met by heckles over the scandal surrounding a motorhome owned by the SNP which was seized by police in Dunfermline last year.

But by the end of the night almost everyone in the audience said the hustings had helped them become more confident about how they will vote.

Encouragingly for Ms Chamberlain, she was the crowd’s clear favourite.

Has Brexit been a complete failure?

To open the debate, candidates were asked if they could name any benefit of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Not a single one of the six election hopefuls were able to give a clear positive – even those nominally in favour.

Reform UK candidate Matthew Wren. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Reform UK candidate Matthew Wren, clearly a strong supporter of leaving the EU, said the Tories had “squandered” the vote in 2016.

“I believe it’s still a good opportunity. But it needs to be done right,” he said.

“I’m sure in the days to come the fine academics of St Andrews University will find a benefit,” was Tory candidate Bill Bowman’s joking response.

That led onto a debate around immigration policy – a key topic given universities have often been highly critical of UK Government policies.

Ms Chamberlain argued institutions are already losing out when it comes to research.

Mags Hall was representing the Greens. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy Green hopeful Mags Hall, standing in for local candidate Morven Ovenstone-Jones, said ending the Rwanda scheme for migrants would be her priority.

What would the candidates do in the top job?

The hustings ended with a rather simple question for the candidates – what would they do given a day in 10 Downing Street?

Mr Hoggan-Radu said he would pick up the phone to SNP leader Mr Swinney and allow him to hold an independence referendum.

That got a groan from the crowd, who appeared unimpressed with his push for independence.

Former North East MSP Bill Bowman is bidding for an electoral comeback. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Mr Bowman initially joked he would give Scotland boss Steve Clarke a knighthood.

But he then hinted at voter frustration by saying he would like a government ministry for “making things happen faster”.

For Reform’s Mr Wren, the prospect was too unthinkable to even come up with an answer.

“I think I’d pass out,” he said.

Read more: See all our general election coverage in one place here