General Election: Linlithgow and East Falkirk constituency profile

Martyn Day is the SNP candidate for the seat. Picture; Neil Hannah
Martyn Day is the SNP candidate for the seat. Picture; Neil Hannah
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MARTYN Day more than doubled the SNP vote when he won this constituency from Labour in 2015 with over half of all the votes.

He defeated Labour’s Michael Connarty, an MP for 23 years, by a majority of almost 13,000.

Joan Coombes. The Labour candidate.

Joan Coombes. The Labour candidate.

Two years on, there seems little reason to think Mr Day, who was a Linlithgow councillor for 16 years before being elected to Westminster, will not win again on June 8.

Brexit and a second independence referendum are supposedly the hot topics for this election.

Mr Day says: “The election was called about Brexit, but I think that’s a smokescreen. It was called to get an unstoppable majority for the Tories.

“The real challenge over the next couple of years will be thorough scrutiny over Brexit. The challenge is to get the best deal for Scotland.”

Charles Kennedy
Conservative candidate for Linlithgow & East Falkirk

Charles Kennedy Conservative candidate for Linlithgow & East Falkirk

And he is worried about the large number of petro-chemical jobs in the constituency. “It’s the biggest single employment sector, but it’s not one of the UK government’s priority industries in the Brexit negotiations.

“A hard Brexit could cost 80,000 jobs in Scotland, so we have to fight that.”

And a second referendum? “All our political opponents are campaigning on that and almost on that alone. I’ve barely mentioned independence.

“Nicola Sturgeon has a mandate from the Holyrood election and a democratic vote in the parliament for a referendum when the time is right. I don’t think we need to be arguing for an alternative mandate when she’s got one already.”

Liberal Democrat candidate for 2017 General Election Sally Pattle

Liberal Democrat candidate for 2017 General Election Sally Pattle

Labour’s Joan Coombes says the Tories’ plan to end the triple lock on pensions, removing the guarantee of a minimum 2.5 per cent rise each year, is “a disgrace”; she is proud of Labour’s commitment to a £10 living wage, and she is angry about the way people claiming benefits are sanctioned by the DWP.

“There are a lot of poor, vulnerable people treated absolutely abhorrently,” she says.

Ms Coombes, a Grangemouth councillor, argues the election is a choice between “Labour, which stands up for the many and fights for those who can’t fight for themselves or the Tories, who are looking after the privileged few”.

She insists SNP can never be effective at Westminster. “Even if they won all 59 Scottish seats, they are never going to have a majority or enough votes to make a change.”

Conservative candidate Charles Kennedy says the prospect of a second independence referendum is the issue people feel most strongly about. He has just won a council seat in Bathgate and says even in the local elections it was difficult to get people to think about anything else.

“The majority just want to talk about a referendum on one side or the other.”

Mr Kennedy accuses the SNP of going down to Westminster “to disrupt it rather than to engage with it”. And he says: “A Conservative representative would engage more and be able to raise local issues.”

Although he voted Remain in the EU referendum, Mr Kennedy says the mood is now to make the best of Brexit. “We have to get on with it and make as clean and good a break as we can. Theresa May’s message on that resonates with people.”

Liberal Democrat Sally Pattle is not willing to let the Brexit issue go so easily. She says the Lib Dems are in tune with the majority of people in the constituency who voted to stay in the UK and the EU.

“We are the only party that’s clear on being pro-EU, pro-UK and progressive.

“Someone is going to sign off the Brexit deal. Theresa May wants it to be her. Liberal Democrats don’t think the government should mark its own homework. We think it should be the British people who have the final say in a referendum.”

She also talks of more investment in mental health and more money for education.

“As a local businesswoman I’m also acutely aware of the issues facing high streets in the area and would work hard to cut bureaucracy and increase help for small businesses in order to nurture thriving local economies.”