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General Election 2015: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visits Kirkcaldy - Gordon Brown's old constituency

The former Prime Minister held the seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath since it was created in 2005

Chris Green
Wednesday 15 April 2015 17:37 BST
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (PA)

“Stimulants. Depressants. Hallucinogens”, reads the sign behind Nicola Sturgeon, who is chatting to a Barnardo's education worker in the charity’s offices on the outskirts of Kirkcaldy.

The display is supposed to teach schoolchildren about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but it could also refer to the kind of substances that the SNP would once have had to take to believe it could defeat Labour here.

But things change quickly in politics. The aim of the First Minister’s visit to a charity in Gordon Brown’s former Fife constituency on Tuesday was plain: to highlight the ordinary people who are struggling here in Labour heartland.

The former Prime Minister held the seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath since it was first created in 2005 and Labour commands a majority of 23,000. But Mr Brown is not standing for re-election, and in March a shock poll by Lord Ashcroft suggested the unthinkable: the SNP may actually win here.

If it does, it will be one of the biggest shocks of the general election. But David Torrance, who became SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy in 2011, said his party were “very positive” after studying their canvas returns. “Spectacular is the word that you’ve got to use,” he says.

He added that he recently visited a Kirkcaldy street with 41 houses, in which three people were Labour voters, one was undecided – and every other said they were SNP. Labour’s canvassing teams were also noticeably smaller than his party’s, he says.

A walk along Kirkcaldy High Street appeared to confirm what the polls have suggested. Long-time Labour voter May Chalmers, 64, is peering in at the window of the SNP’s bright yellow shopfront, weighing up her options.

“I’m quite undecided,” she says. “The town is looking so bad now, so run down. The shops are all closed off, that’s one of the things that people are concerned about. It used to be a thriving town; it isn’t any more. I thought Gordon Brown was a good MP, but he’s not been here.”

Marilyn Davie, 66, says election results in Kirkcaldy used to be such a foregone conclusion that voters would walk into polling stations and ask: “Where’s the Labour booth then?”

She supports the Liberal Democrats, but says many traditional Labour voters are disillusioned. “They feel that whatever happens in Westminster has nothing to do with them. The Labour Party down there do not interact with anything that happens here.”

The former Prime Minister is not standing for re-election (Getty) (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Mr Brown’s departure has also hurt Labour, she says, as he remains a very popular figure in Fife. “I wouldn’t vote Labour, but I would vote for Gordon Brown. I would stand by what he says.”

Unfortunately for the wavering voters of Kirkcaldy, Ms Sturgeon did not have time to meet them. The First Minister stayed at Barnardo's for less than an hour before being whisked away by her advisers to prepare for tonight’s televised opposition leaders’ debate. For her and the SNP, a larger audience awaits.

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