Colin Keir faces fight as Alex Salmond backs rival

Colin Keir's work rate has been questioned. Picture: Contributed
Colin Keir's work rate has been questioned. Picture: Contributed
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ALEX Salmond has given his endorsement to one of the contenders challenging Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir for his Holyrood seat.

The former Nationalist leader says in a message on Toni Giugliano’s Facebook page that the former organiser of grass-roots Yes groups in the referendum campaign would make a “first class MSP” and he “looks forward to working with him as an elected member”.

Toni would make a first-class MSP. He has the drive, skills and experience

Alex Salmond

Mr Giugliano, who sits on the SNP’s national executive committee and worked as an aide to Mr Keir, is one of six would-be candidates standing against the sitting MSP for the nomination to fight the constituency at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

Mr Keir has been criticised for an alleged lack of activity since his surprise victory in the SNP’s 2011 landslide. One local activist described him as “lazy”.

Mr Keir insisted no-one has ever complained to him directly about such concerns.

In his endorsement of Mr Giugliano, Mr Salmond says: “Toni would make a first-class MSP. He has the drive, skills and experience to make a real contribution to our Scottish Parliament. He played a crucial role in the Yes campaign and was a fantastic candidate in the European elections.

“I know he would serve his constituents to the best of his ability. I look forward to working with him as an elected member.”

Mr Giugliano’s Facebook page also includes endorsements from SNP minister Humza Yousaf and Edinburgh Southern MSP Jim Eadie, who is Nicola Sturgeon’s parliamentary liaison officer.

Mr Eadie says: “Toni is a winner. He has made a significant contribution to the success of the SNP in the City of Edinburgh. He worked for me in the Scottish Parliament and has the proven skills and experience to be an effective parliamentarian.”

Mr Yousaf says: “I’ve known Toni for a number of years and can say without any hesitation that he is one of the most hard working individuals I have had the pleasure of working alongside. His graft, sincerity and commitment to the cause is unquestionable and I am delighted to give him my support.”

Edinburgh Western SNP members will begin voting tomorrow to select their candidate for next year.

The other challengers are city council finance convener Alasdair Rankin, council leisure convener Richard Lewis, and activists Graham Sutherland, Alison Lindsay and Jamie Szymkowiak.

After the Evening News revealed the challenge to Mr Keir, a dozen MSPs wrote to the paper defending him as “hardworking” and “assiduous” in pursuing cases on behalf of constituents.

But another letter to the News described his record as “dire”, saying that since being elected he had asked only four questions at First Minister’s Questions – the last time in October 2012 – and lodged only 13 written questions – the last one in January 2014, – as well as securing only three member’s debates.

Mr Keir said he had not asked Mr Salmond for an endorsement and wanted to speak to the former leader before commenting further.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com