In last week’s Times, Cllr Linda Erskine accuses me of a “contrived campaign”, of having an “unhealthy interest in … anything pertaining to our community”, of “having no other purpose but to cause dissent among the local community” as well as a “non-factual diatribe”, “negativity” and “nonsense”. On top of all that she denounces me for “mud-slinging tactics” – an irony, which while it passes Cllr Erskine by, will not be lost on Times readers.
The simple reason for Cllr Erskine’s ire is that she was forced into a humiliating climbdown over the proposal to give St Andrews University a 40-year lease at the Meedies. There is no doubt that this decision was going to be made by officers, not elected members, as was confirmed to me by senior officers at Fife Council – unless of course Cllr Erskine means to call these officers liars?
There was clearly political will behind this proposal – as proven by Cllr Erskine’s support for the rowers in the columns of the Times. But there was considerable anxiety publicly expressed both at Benarty Community Council and in social media that it was in effect a done and dusted deal which would effectively privatise a key part of the Meedies while giving nothing back to the communities – apart from, as Cllr Erskine put it, the pleasing sight of St Andrews University rowing up and down the water.
Without my motion at a full meeting of Fife Council, we would not have got the assurance that elected members would be making the decision or that obligations regarding community availability and the nurturing of local talent will be built into the lease.
Contrary to the Times report (online 5th October), the administration amendment did not in fact pledge “full consultation”. All it promised was that the lease would not be agreed “until agreement on the proposals has been reached between the University and local stakeholders”. It does not state who these local stakeholders are, or how who they will be selected. Local stakeholders in the Meedies who only last year were left out of the consultation process for the new visitor centre, then promised a consultation whose results Cllr Mark Hood and the Labour administration refused to honour, are right to be wary.
Cllr Erskine’s rewriting of history over last year’s visitor centre debacle beggars belief. But then again her colleague Cllr Hood wasn’t the only one who told public lies. Cllr Erskine herself misrepresented the support of Lochgelly Community Council at the Fife Council Executive Committee when it approved the project against the community’s will.
Of course Cllr Erskine wants me to stick to Pittenweem matters, but she knows well Fife Councillors are charged with addressing Fife-wide matters. The Meedies belongs to all of Fife and it’s not just people in Benarty who want the best for it, a point Cllr Erskine and her colleagues are always keen to stress when they want to discount the views in Benarty.
Cllr Erskine has one eye on her voters here and the other on her position in the ruling administration which is seeking to maintain its control over the park’s future. By contrast, I have nothing to gain politically from working for a fair, community-driven deal for the Meedies.
All this is an odd way to honour “the privilege”, as Cllr Erskine puts it, of representing the people of Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty. I agree with Cllr Erskine that their residents are “great people, with huge hearts, who work hard to bring improvements to their communities” but unlike her, I do not think they are buttoned up the back.