Ancient capital of Scotland celebrates a historic day

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The high street was awash with yellow banners. The newly elected Liberal Democrat MP, Willie Rennie, flanked by the national leadership contenders Simon Hughes and Menzies Campbell, held a victory walkabout. For the first time in living memory, Dunfermline, once the seat of power in medieval Scotland, was top of the news agenda yesterday.

The town's voters, long taken for granted in this traditional Labour heartland, knew they had delivered a historic victory to the Liberal Democrats. And many admitted that a deliberate snub had been delivered to Labour.

"As long as Rennie keeps his promises to fight for the local hospital, schools and jobs then we just might let him keep the job," said Helen Taylor, 46, a former Labour voter who admitted that she had become disillusioned with the status quo.

Nine months ago, Labour won the Dunfermline and West Fife constituency with an 11,500 majority. After the death of the sitting MP, Rachel Squires, Labour was expected to win the resulting by-election without much difficulty. It quickly emerged, however, that the Labour candidate, the Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler, was failing to impress against more locally rooted opponents.

There was also resentment over issues such as rising tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, which takes Fife commuter traffic to Edinburgh. Even a placatory visit by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, the MP for neighbouring Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, was not enough.

"People are fed up with Labour, they have done nothing for us and taken people's support for granted," said William Rae, 67. "I was a Labour supporter for 47 years but this time I voted for the Liberals because I am fed up with being ignored.

The debates which dominated the campaign, such as the protection of local health services at Queen Margaret Hospital, the controversy over the Forth Bridge and the state of the shopping centre, were all devolved issues over which Westminster has no jurisdiction.

"I voted for the Scottish National Party because they have done the most to save the hospital but I am still happy that Labour didn't get in," said Audrey MacDonald, 39. "The Lib Dems are too close to Labour in Scotland for my liking."

Willie Rennie had the broadest grin in town. "Labour has taken the people up and down the country for granted for far too long," he said. "Too much spin and not enough delivery." Already, the local man was adapting his soundbites for the national stage.

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