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How Dundee voters put Westminster hopefuls to the test in city election debate

Candidates vying for votes in the Dundee Central constituency took questions on Green policies, Brexit, the local economy and higher education.

Dundee election hustings
Candidate face voters at the election hustings on Wednesday. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson.

An audience of 200 voters grilled election candidates hoping to represent Dundee at Westminster, demanding answers on everything from education to the election gambling scandal.

All four main parties were represented at the hustings, organised jointly by the University of Dundee and The Courier.

And they were keen to tackle the big problem of political integrity.

All candidates confirmed they had not placed a bet on a political race with the benefit o insider knowledge.

Gambling scandal

Conservative candidate Emma Farquhar said: “I haven’t bet on the election. Anyone who has who is shown to have insider knowledge that needs to be investigated”

Candidates were also quizzed on what they would like to see the next UK Government do to support the local economy in Dundee and boost tourism.

Labour hopeful Richard McCready told the audience that the people of Dundee would need to see the benefits of the improved waterfront, or it risk becoming an “abject failure”.

“It needs to bring jobs and prosperity to Dundee.

“I welcome the Eden Project, I hope that comes to fruition before too long, but I would also say I hope we scrap plans to close the Mills Observatory, Caird Park Golf Course and Broughty Castle.

“There’s no point closing the amenities we’ve got and coming up with new things.”

Dundee election hustings
(From l-r) Liberal Democrat candidate Daniel Coleman, Conservative Emma Farquhar, SNP hopeful Chris Law and Labour’s Richard McCready. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson.

Chris Law highlighted that Dundee has been rated one of the top 10 places to visit in Europe.

“That’s testament to the work that’s been done over the past 10 or 11 years under the SNP council,” he said.

“A key part of that has been delivering the waterfront project. Now people flock from across Scotland.”

A clear priority for voters, the first questions focussed on the climate crisis and how each party would respond locally.

One audience member raised the specific impact of increasing extreme weather events, and the impact these would have on communities across Dundee and beyond.

“The most important issue facing the world today is climate change, and it has been minimised,” one audience member said.

“It’s impacting the lives of many, with flooding and importing more of our food.

Labour candidate Richard McCready said co-operation would be needed to tackle climate change. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson.

“My house was damaged in storms, it’s going to affect business and us all.”

Responses included a transition from oil and gas in Scotland to renewable energy.

On the international front, another contribution from the audience pointed out Scotland had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

The questioner said: “Each of you are seeking support to represent Dundee, in Scotland 62% voted to remain.

Brexit among Dundee audience’s priorities

Dundee Central SNP candidate Chris Law
Incumbent SNP candidate Chris Law. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

“I would like to know what each party will do on restoring our rightful place in the heart of Europe?”

SNP incumbent Chris Law was the only candidate to make the case for rejoining, saying: “Scotland voted to remain. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

“We were told if we voted no to independence we’d be guaranteed to have a place in the EU, that’s turned out to be completely wrong.

Liberal Democrat candidate Daniel Coleman said that while he passionately campaigned to remain, he did not think it was “realistic” for the next parliament to rejoin the EU.

Another issue on the agenda was higher education, with each candidate pressed on their policies for the sector.

National service

Conservative candidate Emma Farquhar was quizzed on whether any young person would attend university under Tory plans to introduce national service.

She said: “The details will be very important. If the Conservatives are elected, and if this starts going through parliament, I’m sure many amendments will come to the table.

“Countries like Norway, Finland and Austria, they all have forms of national service.

“In a referendum recently, Austria voted to keep their national service. That’s a country that’s got experience of it in practice.”

While Mr Law made a case for rejoining the EU, he was reminded the bloc’s rules mean the government’s free education offer cannot discriminate against Scottish and EU students.

While record numbers of Scots are attending university, the number of fee-free places could be reduced if Scotland re-entered the EU.

Labour, meanwhile, was asked to explain how it would turn criticism of the SNP government’s record on higher education improvements.

As well as the four candidates who took part in the hustings, there will be six others on the ballot.

You can see the full list of people standing in your area using our tool below.