We have been asked if we can publish a letter, in full, that was sent to Central Fife Times on the 18th April 2016 on behalf of Linda Holt who has campaigned tirelessly in the local area against the Little Raith Wind Farm and also worked closely with several Lochgelly based community groups including Loch of Shining Waters.
The letter has been published here, in full, due to the Central Fife Times delaying publication of a redacted and reworded version. We have emboldened sections that have been cut or changed.
Your article, “Fury over campaign criticism”, attacks me for my letter published in the Central Fife Times the previous week on the grounds that I am “someone who hasn’t experienced the problems that the community is faced with the existing facility [sic]” at the Lochgelly Health Centre.
How on earth does your reporter know that? Presumably the claim about me was contained in the statement issued by the Health Centre Campaign Group, but again I ask how on earth do they know that I have not experienced the problems that the community faces at the Health Centre? I have never met their spokesperson Community Councillor Carol Mackie yet she feels justified in stating speculation about me as fact.
Of course the reason why the Health Centre Campaign Group feels it can assert I have no experience of the Health Centre is because my letter gave my address as Pittenweem, which Ms Mackie condemns as, apparently, “one of the more affluent areas of Fife”.
As a matter of fact, I have worked closely with individuals and community groups in Lochgelly over the last five years. My partner and three generations of her family live in Lochgelly, and have done so for decades. They all use medical services in Lochgelly so I am well-acquainted with the problems facing people trying to use these services.
It is true that my own primary care is not delivered by Lochgelly Health Centre, but by facilities in north-east Fife. But it is precisely the difference between my experience of medical services outwith Lochgelly and that of my friends and family’s in Lochgelly which has given me such a sharp sense of the health inequalities and injustices people in Lochgelly experience.
Should someone’s address determine whether they are qualified, or entitled, to comment on a public campaign or a political issue? Of course not. Pretending that who says something is more important than what they say is a tactic dictators and authoritarian regimes have used since time immemorial to deflect criticism and shut up their critics.
So it is doubly disappointing that in addition to Ms Mackie on behalf of the Community Council, Councillor Hood used the identical tactic to attack me on his facebook page, before telling me my “behaviour” (ie. my letter to the paper) is “utterly deplorable”, that I “do no favour to the decent people of Lochgelly who simply need better health services” and that I should “to use a local term, Jog-on!”
Rounding on someone who disagrees with you and attacking them for who they are is not likely to encourage the culture of engagement and community participation that politicians like Councillor Hood are always calling for. Indeed it’s more likely to stoke a climate of fear around speaking out in public and a sullen disengagement from local politics and community activity. Almost no one attends Lochgelly Community Council meetings and it struggles to fill its vacancies.
Nevertheless I remain amazed that Councillor Hood declines to use the unlimited space afforded by Facebook, and Ms Mackie the half-page allocated by the Central Fife Times, to answer the questions I ask in my original letter. Apart from casting aspersions on me for living in Pittenweem, all they can do is to assert that the petition is not political because SNP politicians also support it. Well, as I wrote originally, it’s bleeding obvious that Lochgelly needs a new Health Centre, and no local politican can afford not to support the petition or to criticise it. But that does not mean that the petition is a sensible idea or that it is not a political stunt to up the profile of a party in a constituency which the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour is not confident of holding.
It is a matter of public record that Councillor Hood first highlighted the need for a new Health Centre in a well-publicised attack on the SNP Health Minister in January of this year. It was turned into a community campaign fronted by Labour/Unison activists on Lochgelly Community Council in March, with Councillor Hood designing the virtual banner for the Health Centre campaign/Lochgelly Community Council page on facebook and also paying for the real banner, which was bandied about the media and featured Councillor Hood, another Labour Councillor and Labour activists (but none of the non-Labour politicians who support the petition). It is also noteworthy that many of the words used by the community councillors speaking for the campaign, Stevie Murray, Brian Schulz and Carol Mackie, bear a striking similarity to those used by Councillor Hood.
So I will put again my original, and still unanswered, questions, as I repeated them to Councillor Hood on facebook: “Why hasn’t NHS Fife been pushed on giving Lochgelly a new health centre years ago? What are you as the elected representative actually doing to help people in Lochgelly who have to wait weeks for a GP appointment to see a doctor sooner? What have you and your colleagues – of all parties if you like – done to address the health inequalities in Lochgelly over the last 10 years?”
Image Credits: Scotland Against Spin, Linda Holt being interviewed at Little Raith Wind Farm by the BBC in March 2016