Election row heats up between former co-workers

The campaign offices of Mike Crockart and Michelle Thomsonare next door to each other. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The campaign offices of Mike Crockart and Michelle Thomsonare next door to each other. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A ROW has broken out between former colleagues in the battle to become Edinburgh West MP after a letter was sent out telling voters that Liberal Democrat Mike ­Crockart is “retiring”.

SNP challenger Michelle Thomson said her letter was aimed at correcting “false” claims about the closure of Edinburgh Leisure venues and Scottish Government moves to “fast-track” housing developments.

But Mr Crockart – who worked under Ms Thomson at Standard Life around 15 years ago – said he would fight for re-election on May 7 and blasted the document as “misleading”.

It is the latest spat in a fight that has seen the contenders open campaign offices right next to each other – with Mr Crockart putting up a window display taunting his opponent.

He has also demanded Ms Thomson “correct the mistake” in her letter and ensure nothing else is published with similarly “inaccurate” information.

Mr Crockart was elected as constituency MP five years ago with a majority of 3803 over Labour. He said: “It has been brought to my attention that the SNP candidate for Edinburgh West recently sent a letter to voters across Edinburgh which twice referred to me as ‘the retiring MP’.

“I want to categorically state that I am not retiring. I am fighting this election and intend to be returned as the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh West on May 7.

“Whilst I am sure that this poorly chosen phrase has ­simply been misused, I am concerned that the many voters who received this letter could be misled into believing that I am retiring and standing down at this election.”

But Ms Thomson has hit back, insisting her letter was merely referring to the dissolution of parliament.

She said: “I am happy that people understand that Westminster is now dissolved and therefore there are no MPs – that’s a statement of fact.”

SNP figures said eye-catching window signs put up at the Liberal Democrat campaign office – which is next door to Ms Thomson’s – were “a sign of desperation”.

Colin Keir, Nationalist MSP for Edinburgh Western, said: “The Lib Dem incumbent is hanging on by the fingernails. He knows his party is the most distrusted in the UK.

“He’s getting more desperate. The Lib Dems know they’re having a really hard time on the doorstep just now. Everyone knows what’s at stake.”

He added: “Michelle will fight the election on the positives. The Lib Dems have got to know they’re in trouble.”

But Councillor Paul Edie, leader of the city council’s Liberal Democrat group, has called on the SNP to “grow up”.

He said: “Election campaigns are about plain speaking. [This letter is] not acceptable and they know what they are doing – trying to gain advantage by misleading people into thinking [Mr Crockart] is not standing when he is.”