CONSERVATIVES aiming to get elected to Holyrood are lining up to bid for seats in the Lothians after both the region’s sitting Tory MSPs announced they were standing down.
Gavin Brown and Cameron Buchanan are among a swathe of Tory MSPs who will bow out at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.
Now the race is on to inherit their places. Several leading councillors and former general election candidates are among those poised to throw their hats in the ring.
The Tories are unlikely to win any of the first-past-the-post seats in Lothian, but the party expects to secure enough votes for two list MSPs again.
Under the party’s rules, hopefuls must be chosen as candidates in individual constituencies in order to be included on the list. Sources predicted “a bun fight” for the selections – due to be completed by the end of August – ahead of the crucial battle for top places on the list.
Six serving city councillors – more than half the Tory group – are said to be interested.
Former group leader Jeremy Balfour confirmed he was keen to have a go at becoming an MSP. Liberton/Gilmerton councillor Nick Cook said he planned to put his name forward. Lindsay Paterson, who stood at the general election in Edinburgh West, is also tipped to stand.
Colinton/Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust and Joanna Mowat, who represents the City Centre, are understood to be interested too. And Inverleith councillor Iain Whyte was described as “an outside possibility”. Group leader Cameron Rose said he had “no intention to stand”.
Among others expected to be in the running are Leith businessman and long-standing Tory activist Iain McGill, who has stood several times before, both for Holyrood and Westminster; Miles Briggs, who was candidate in Edinburgh South at the general election; Sandy Batho, who is chairman of the Edinburgh West local party and stood in Linlithgow at the general election; and former Edinburgh South West candidate Gordon Lindhurst. There could also be bids from former RAF intelligence officer Huw Bell, a candidate in Fife in May, but who lives in the Capital; Chris Donnelly, who stood in Livingston; and Borders councillor Michelle Ballantyne, who stood in Midlothian.
For the first time, Conservative supporters as well as members will be given a vote in deciding the order of candidates on the list.
The Tories have consistently had two MSPs in Lothian since the start of the Scottish Parliament. David McLetchie and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton were both elected on the list in 1999; Mr McLetchie won Edinburgh Pentlands in 2003 and held it in 2007. Lord James stood down in 2007 and was replaced by Gavin Brown.
And at the last election in 2011, Mr McLetchie and Mr Brown were both elected from the list, with Cameron Buchanan taking over Mr McLetchie’s seat after he died in 2013.