Michael Stewart: Scots need voice at Westminster

PEOPLE know me as a footballer, a football commentator and perhaps to the surprise of some, more recently as a political campaigner.

It’s a change of career which has surprised me too. But, like many others, the independence referendum awakened in me a renewed passion for my city and country’s future. And now I want to do even more about it.

I’ve had the privilege of representing both footballing communities in Edinburgh, giving me a unique perspective of how strong, loyal, true and valiant those communities are, seeing their clubs through the best and worst of times.

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Those are values with which I identify – they’ve influenced me and helped shape me as a person.

And I love this city. Edinburgh has always been home. It has its challenges and life is tough for many citizens, but this is one of the greatest cities in the world.

Growing up here then coming back and putting down roots again, starting a family and settling down . . . all of that was in my mind when I began to get involved with the Yes campaign, why I wanted to play a small role in helping to make the case for independence.

Throughout the campaign I talked with voters of all ages across the city, in more and less affluent areas, to understand what they want in their lives.

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Some of the most enjoyable conversations I had were with voters from Muirhouse and Drylaw, both key parts of Edinburgh West constituency, where I now hope to be selected as the SNP’s candidate for the general election.

People who previously felt politics wasn’t for them were up for it like never before. They knew what was at stake and it’s why so many of them registered to vote for the first time and actually did so.

Speaking with them was inspiring. And I’m still inspired now. I still want to play my part in contributing to Scotland’s and Edinburgh’s futures despite the outcome of the referendum.

Perhaps more so now than ever, we need strong voices for Scotland at Westminster.

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The referendum result has made me more determined to do all I can to make a difference for everyone who lives in Edinburgh.

I hope people will get behind me.

• Michael Stewart is an ex-Hearts and Hibs player now bidding to be an MP