By Russel McPhate

I first joined the then Scottish Liberal Party, as a 17 year old, in 1983 and was active in student politics as well as my Constituency – Glasgow Hillhead. I moved to Shetland in 1987 to complete my Legal training and was active in the local party as well as Shetland Campaign against Douneray Expansion and Shetland’s anti-Poll Tax group – SCRAP. At the end of 1990 I arrived in Dunfermline and attended my first Dunfermline AGM in 1991 at which I was, in the best Liberal tradition, “volunteered”  to join the Committee! During the 90’s I held a number of positions on the Committee including Treasurer and while I was mainly an Agent at election times I had the honour of being the Party’s candidate for the 2001 general Election. After 2002 I took more of a back seat – mainly as my children were born in 2002 and 2004 – but over the last few years I have again been more of an active member and have returned to the Committee.

It has been as difficult, if not more difficult, a few years for Dunfermline Liberal Democrats as it has been for the party nationally. To go from having an MP, an MSP and 6 Councillors across 5 wards at the start of 2010 to having just 1 Councillor and losing our deposit at the 2015 General Election was extremely traumatic for the party and during the hard years it was only a small band of activists – and the prodigious leafletting of Tom and Beryl Leatherland ! – that kept us going. Fortunately, we have benefitted from the Lib Dem Fightback that started in 2015. Our membership has grown and is not too far off where we were in the 90’s. we have a whole new team of activists – including, but not limited to, Wendy Chamberlain, Lauren Jones and Bryn Jones – all of whom have worked very hard and were excellent candidates in the 2017 Council elections. We have a new Councillor, James Calder, who is already marking himself out as one to watch on Fife Council and who is a very able replacement for the excellent and long serving Tony Martin who did so much for Pitcorthie, and for us, over many years.

It has been busy – 2 General Elections, 2 Referendums, a Scottish Parliament election and a full set of Council elections in just under 3 years. There has been no time to draw breath or to take stock. We managed to increase our vote share between the 2015 and 2017 General Elections (unlike the party nationally) and we put up a very creditable fight in the 2017 Council elections. However, what that showed us is that it is not possible to overcome poor poll ratings nationally with a few weeks or months campaigning – no matter how good. We now have a period of a few years before the next Scottish parliament and Council elections and we have the time to grow our membership; engage with our Communities and build our profile. We cannot elect an MP, or even an MSP, without an upturn in the national fortunes but we can contribute to that upturn and improve our position and we absolutely can get more Liberal democrat Councillors elected by using that time wisely.

During the 90’s and into the naughties a similarly placed Dunfermline local party managed to pull itself up from 4th place in the Constituency to 2nd and into a position where Willie Rennie could win his famous By-election victory. We increased our membership and we also managed to increase our number of Councillors. We have the people and the energy to do it again and I look forward playing my part in that process.