A FORMER SNP defence spokesman is to stand for the Liberal Democrats in a key city seat at next year’s Westminster elections.
Stuart Crawford, who spent nearly 20 years in the army, has been chosen as the candidate for Edinburgh South, one of the Lib Dems’ top target seats in the UK.
The 59-year-old former lieutenant colonel said he had quit the SNP after becoming less convinced of the case for independence.
But he admitted he was still “indy sceptical”, rather than embracing the Lib Dems’ No stance, and also supported unilateral disarmament, which is not Lib Dem policy.
He said: “The party is a broad church and there is room for all sorts of views.”
Born and brought up in Glasgow, Mr Crawford has lived in Dirleton, East Lothian, but his political consultancy business is based in the city.
He served in 4th Royal Tank Regiment and saw active service in the first Gulf War. He published a book about his experiences earlier this year.
But he resigned from the army in 1999 so he could stand for the SNP in the first Scottish Parliament elections in Roxburgh and Berwickshire – a seat won by the Lib Dems.
Despite failing to get elected, his military experience saw him appointed as defence spokesman for a spell.
But he left the SNP in 2001. He said: “I decided the SNP was not for me. I met some lovely people and I have great respect for many of those I knew at that time, but I had to concentrate on other things – my family was growing up and I had to put food on the table and pay the bills.
“My position shifted from being pro-independence to saying ‘Of course, Scotland could be independent but is it a good idea?’. I just don’t think the arguments have enough intellectual rigour and there are too many unanswered questions.
“The offer from Yes Scotland has become diluted to the point where it is clear that some sort of enhanced devolution is what most people want.”
Mr Crawford was not a member of any party for more than a decade but he joined the Lib Dems in 2012. He said: “Its principles of liberty and fairness appeal to me and I feel very at home with the party members I’ve met.”
The Lib Dems had high hopes of winning Edinburgh South at the last Westminster elections in 2010, but Labour‘s Ian Murray held it by just 316 votes.
Defeated candidate Fred Mackintosh opted not to stand again next year. Mr Crawford won the internal selection contest against two other hopefuls.
On paper, the seat remains one of the party’s best chances, but poor opinion poll ratings nationally make the prospects less promising.
Mr Crawford said: “Clearly the party has suffered to a certain extent by being in coalition with the Conservatives, probably more in Scotland than elsewhere.
“But I believe the party is a force for good in politics. Its heart is in the right place. All political parties have their ups and downs. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think there was a chance of winning.”