​Bread and butter issues should come first for Swinney - Sue Webber

John Swinney speaks to the media after he is sworn in as First Minister of Scotland (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)John Swinney speaks to the media after he is sworn in as First Minister of Scotland (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
John Swinney speaks to the media after he is sworn in as First Minister of Scotland (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
In case anyone has forgotten, there’s an election this year and I’m very proud to be a candidate in the constituency where I was born and went to school.

​I don’t think anyone in the Scottish Conservative party is under any illusion that it’s going to be a tough campaign, but as a hockey player for more years than I care to remember I don’t go into any contest thinking about anything other than winning.

And I also know you don’t get out what you don’t put in, so every weekend I’ve been out knocking on doors to speak to as many people as I can to understand what they want from this election.

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Even if they are not likely to vote Conservative, the voters in Edinburgh South-West are still happy to remind me of their local priorities and are just glad that an elected representative has taken the trouble to find out what they think.

Although it’s unquestionably dispiriting when people tell me they’re not sure they can vote Conservative, it’s obviously uplifting when their attitude softens when I tell them I’m the candidate.

But no matter where their vote is going, the vast majority are not looking for the division which has so defined Scottish politics since the run-up to the 2014 referendum to continue. The things that matter to local people are not surprising; they want hospital waiting lists shortened, they want better social care for the elderly and infirm to keep them in their own homes, they want better bus services, and they want the potholes filled. Bread and butter issues.

The suburbs of Edinburgh South West are no student debating society. People are not talking about gender recognition reform, conversion therapy or any form of identity politics and they don’t want their politicians spending time on them either. They just want stuff done that improves everyone’s lives.

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Last weekend I came across a couple enjoying a coffee in their front garden and both expressed concern about the state of the NHS and the threat of a two-tier health service.

They knew from experience because the man had just paid for a hip replacement at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital. “The best £16k I’ve ever spent,” he said. He and his wife were both retired senior NHS doctors and when medics are losing faith, you really know there’s a problem.

And perhaps our new First Minster John Swinney realises there is a problem too. Perhaps he was sincere in his offer to set aside constitutional differences to work collaboratively with other parties – including the Conservatives – to achieve goals like building the economy, supporting jobs, tackling the rising cost of living and improving the health service.

Perhaps shaking the hands of both the Conservative and Labour leaders, Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar, after his acceptance speech on Tuesday was no hollow gesture.

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And if he genuinely believes that policies need to be based on evidence, that also means recognising that doing things differently from London for the sake of it is as damaging as it is divisive.

But I don’t believe for a minute John Swinney is making these promises because it’s the right thing to do, but because there is simply no other option. Unlike the SNP, we have been arguing so for years.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP

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