City MSPs win Holyrood poll popularity contests

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THREE Edinburgh MSPs emerged with the biggest personal votes in Scotland in this year’s Holyrood elections, a new study has shown.

But the surge in SNP support in the Capital meant that, despite being far more popular than their party, two of the three still went down to defeat.

Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm, re-elected in Edinburgh Northern and Leith with a much-reduced majority of 595, was the only non-SNP MSP in the city to hang on to a first-past-the-post seat.

The study, by elections guru Professor John Curtice, found Mr Chisholm was the constituency MSP with the biggest personal following in the country.

His 12,858 votes (41.6 per cent) in the first-past-the-post contest put him 17.4 percentage points ahead of Labour’s 7508 list votes (24.2 per cent) in the seat.

Liberal Democrat Margaret Smith, who lost Edinburgh Western to the SNP after 12 years as MSP, was the sitting candidate with the second-highest personal support across Scotland, polling 15.8 percentage points better than her party.

Fellow Lib Dem Mike Pringle, defeated in Edinburgh Southern, was not far behind, emerging 15.6 percentage points ahead of the party there.

The scale of the SNP’s victory in the May elections – winning 53 of the 73 constituency seats across Scotland, including five out of the six in Edinburgh – left Labour dependent as never before on picking up list seats under the proportional representation system.

Almost all Labour’s constituency MSPs who won did so only because they were able to attract more support than the party.

Professor Curtice concluded in the report: “There appears to be considerable evidence that some voters voted for different parties on the constituency and the list vote in order to express personal support for an individual candidate.”

Other politicians who proved significantly more popular than their party included Labour’s Sarah Boyack, who emerged 12.3 percentage points ahead of the party in Edinburgh Central but lost to the SNP – though she was re-elected as a Lothians list MSP.

Tory David McLetchie polled 11.7 points better than his party in Edinburgh Pentlands, where he also lost to the SNP.

Lib Dem Jeremy Purvis was 12.7 points ahead of his party in Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, which also went to the SNP.

The SNP’s Kenny MacAskill was re-elected in Edinburgh Eastern with a share of the vote 7.1 points ahead of the party’s list performance in the seat.

Mr Chisholm said: “All I can say is thank you to all the people in Edinburgh Northern and Leith who voted for me, whatever their political views.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com