Scottish Lib Dems to put female candidates in top five seats

Former Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart won't be standing. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Former Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart won't be standing. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Liberal Democrats are today set to agree new rules which will guarantee female candidates in their top five target Scottish seats at the next general election.

The move comes amid growing concern about the lack of diversity among the party’s elected representatives.

Given the scale of international challenges, are we better to face these together or alone?

Tim Farron

But it means any men hoping to fight key seats which the party does not hold – such as Edinburgh West – will have their ambitions thwarted by all-women shortlists.

Former Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart, who lost the seat to the SNP at last year’s election, said today: “I made it clear at the time that I wasn’t going to stand again in 2020.”

The former policeman, who is now doing some consultancy work but has not found a full-time post since his defeat, was tipped to fight any by-election in his old seat if new MP Michelle Thomson decided to stand down over her controversial property deals.

But the likelihood of Ms Thomson resigning now seems to have faded.

The new rules – being debated at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Edinburgh this morning – will also ensure women fight half of the party’s most winnable Holyrood seats in 2021 and field a female at the top of its list at the European Parliament elections in 2019.

But the special arrangements will only apply for the next round of elections.

The gender balance came to a head after Alison McInnes, the only woman among the five-strong Lib Dem group at Holyrood, was effectively deselected for this year’s elections.

UK Lib Dem leader Tim Farron will tell delegates at the Assembly Rooms in George Street this afternoon that staying in the European Union is a “no-brainer”.

He will say: “The decision to remain or to leave is the biggest in generations for our country.

“Given that Europe is the world’s biggest market, will we be more prosperous if we remain or leave?

“Given that this is a dangerous and uncertain world, are we safer and more secure by staying alongside our closest friends and neighbours? Or turning our backs on them?

“Given the scale of international challenges of a global economy, climate change and the refugee crisis – are we better to face these together or alone?

“The answers to each of those questions is a no-brainer. If you want a Britain that is prosperous, secure, a Britain that matters then you are voting to keep Britain in Europe.”

And he will take a swipe at the leading figures among the Tories arguing for Brexit.

He will say: “Gove, Villiers, Grayling, IDS, Whittingdale and Priti Patel – they’re only one lurid blazer away from John Redwood’s fantasy cabinet.

“But so far as the Leave side is concerned, they are the sensible wing. I turned on my telly the other day to see Nigel Farage and George Galloway sharing a platform, sharing a joke and sharing prejudices. If that doesn’t persuade you to vote, Remain . . .”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com