Election 2017: Indy surge turns Labour’s safest seat into SNP stronghold

Tommy Sheppard candidate for Edinburgh East. Picture; Neil Hanna
Tommy Sheppard candidate for Edinburgh East. Picture; Neil Hanna
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ONCE Labour’s safest seat in the Capital, Edinburgh East was won last time by Tommy Sheppard, who turned a 9,000-plus Lab­our majority into a 9,000-plus SNP majority.

He says the 2015 victory was in part down to the surge in support from the independence referendum.

Patsy King, Labour candidate for Edinburgh East. Picture; contributed

Patsy King, Labour candidate for Edinburgh East. Picture; contributed

“But we were also consolidating a process that has been taking place over the last decade or so, which is the shift in allegiance of the mass people on the centre-left of the Scottish political spectrum away from Labour to the SNP.

“The SNP has effectively replaced Labour as the mass social democratic party in what used to be their heartlands in urban central Scotland.

“For that to swing back, something dramatic would need to happen and there’s no sign of that swing back.

“If anything, Labour are in a more desperate situation than they were in 2015.”

Katie Mackie (Conservative) candidate for Edinburgh East. Picture; Greg Macvean

Katie Mackie (Conservative) candidate for Edinburgh East. Picture; Greg Macvean

Mr Sheppard acknowledges a “slight resurgence” of the Conservative party but says it should not be overstated.

“The Tories are running a very high-profile, single issue campaign trying to turn this general election into a vote on an independence referendum and it clearly isn’t.”

He says the election is about who will provide a strong voice for Scotland in the UK as we head into the very uncertain future of Brexit: “I believe people think the SNP are the best at doing that whether or not they agree with independence.”

Labour’s Patsy King believes that Labour’s manifesto is helping to win votes for the party.

Liberal Democrat candidates for 2017 General Election
Edinburgh and Lothians

Edinburgh East - Tristan Gray

Liberal Democrat candidates for 2017 General Election Edinburgh and Lothians Edinburgh East - Tristan Gray

“When we started campaigning it was quite difficult to judge the mood, but since the manifesto was published there has been a real change.

“The manifesto is really good for working people, particularly in terms of the £10 living wage, which will make a real difference to people’s lives, and also the issue of protecting EU nationals living in this country and giving them security in these uncertain times.”

Ms King, born and brought up in Craigmillar, is a community worker in East Lothian and has not stood for election before.

“One reason I decided to put myself forward was I like the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. I think he’s a man of principle – it’s about fairness and justice.

“People are worried about the health service; pensioners are worried about their pensions; and people are also worried about Brexit – they don’t trust the Tories on what they are going to deliver.”

But she said the idea of a fresh vote on independence was not popular.

“People don’t want another referendum. They feel they have voted once, it has been a No vote and that’s it.”

Conservative candidate Katie Mackie, elected as a councillor in Musselburgh three weeks ago, claims the contest in Edin­burgh East is a “straight fight between us and the SNP” des­pite her party taking less than 10 per cent of the vote last time.

“The majority of people want to speak about devolution and a second independence referendum. People are anxious and upset that they were told it was a once-in-a-generation thing but now we may have to go through it all over again.”

“A lot of people rule Labour out. People recognise it’s a choice between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister – and people don’t want Jeremy Corbyn.”

Lib Dem Tristan Gray, who is retraining as a software specialist, says the election nationally is about Brexit and Theresa May’s “power grab for control of parliament”.

“But locally, everyone has their own personal interests and issues they care about.

“I think it’s a good thing people have the chance to make their voices heard on a whole range of issues.

“The Tories would love it all to be about independence, but it’s very much not the case.

“It would suit the SNP and the Tories to make this primarily about the constitution because they have both been parties of government for so long they don’t want to be judged on their record.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com