Constituency profile: Edinburgh West

Toni Giugliano, SNP candidate for Edinburgh West. Picture: TSPL.
Toni Giugliano, SNP candidate for Edinburgh West. Picture: TSPL.
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IT was one of the hardest-fought contests in the Capital at the last general election.

Businesswoman Michelle Thomson emerged victorious as the new SNP MP for Edinburgh West, ousting Liberal Democrat Mike Crockart.

But she was quickly embroiled in a scandal over property deals, had to resign the party whip and spent the rest of the parliament as an independent.

The scandal helped the Lib Dems’ Alex Cole-Hamilton win back the equivalent Holyrood seat from the SNP at last year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

And now the Nationalists and Lib Dems are involved in another showdown over who should replace Ms Thomson as Westminster representative.

New SNP candidate Toni Giugliano says Brexit is often raised on the doorstep. “A lot of people are worried about jobs, about companies moving. If the SNP is not at the negotiating table, who is going to stand up for Scotland’s financial sector?”

Mr Giugliano is passionate about Scotland’s relationship with Europe. He was born in Italy and came to Scotland when he was seven.

“I came here thanks to freedom of movement. Scotland has given me everything I have. But I feel EU migrants have been vilified and freedom of movement has been vilified.

“A vote for me would be sending a message about the kind of country we are and want to be – a welcoming, progressive, open and fair country – and sending a message that our EU nationals are valued.”

Mr Giugliano, who stood unsuccessfully in Edinburgh Western at last year’s Holyrood election, is keen to highlight his local credentials, which he contrasts with the fact Lib Dem candidate Christine Jardine has recently stood in three seats in the north-east of Scotland.

“I’m a local champion who gets things done and that’s what people want. They don’t want someone who hops from place to place, claiming to be local just to get elected – that gives politicians a bad name.”

Ms Jardine, a former broadcast journalist and special adviser, says she moved to Edinburgh a year ago for career and family reasons and had no idea Theresa May was about to call a snap election. “Toni’s negative campaigning is backfiring,” she says. “People are fed up of that sort of politics.”

Ms Jardine says voters are unhappy with the SNP because of Michelle Thomson. “Lib Dems have a record of actually working with the community. People feel they have not had the same public service over the past two years that they have been used to.”

She says Lib Dems are in tune with the majority pro-UK, pro-Europe views of voters in Edinburgh West. “People are fed up with the fact the SNP won’t let a second referendum go. And they’re concerned about the economic impact of Brexit – they want to stay at the heart of Europe.”

Tory Sandy Batho says the key issue in the election is concern about a second independence referendum. Brexit also comes up. He was a Remain voter. But he says: “People feel it just needs to be got on with.”

He says the SNP vote is sure to drop because of Michelle Thomson. “People say with disappointment how poorly represented they felt.”

He points out he is the only major party candidate who lives in the constituency: “I’ve used local services and have a good appreciation of local issues.”

Labour’s Mandy Telford, former president of the National Union of Students, says her party’s manifesto goes down well. “We’re going to raise the minimum wage to £10, build 60,000 new homes, boost child benefit and we’re absolutely dead set against another independence referendum.”

Mark Whittet, from Barnton, Cammo and Cramond community council, is standing for his newly-established Scotland’s Independence Referendum Party on a pro-independence ticket, saying the SNP cannot win the seat because of the Michelle Thomson scandal.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com