Local party members will meet virtually tonight to pick from a four-strong shortlist – but there is surprise and puzzlement over a decision to exclude Iain Whyte, the Conservative group leader on the council and a candidate at many previous elections, from the final list of contenders.
"It’s very strange.” said one insider. “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why he would not be shortlisted.”
It’s the second time in just a few weeks that Cllr Whyte has been snubbed in his bid to get elected to Holyrood. Earlier this month he also failed to make the Tory shortlist for Edinburgh Western. Fellow councillor Susan Webber was the eventual choice there.
Cllr Mowat, who represents the City Centre ward, is thought to be the only female on the Central shortlist.
A party source said: “Central Office want her to do it because she’s a woman and because she already represents a huge chunk of the constituency since it’s in her council ward. She’s not popular with everyone though – she has strong views.”
Ruth Davidson won the seat unexpectedly from the SNP at the last election in 2016 with a majority of 610. And insiders admit the party faces an uphill battle to retain the seat since Ms Davidson, who was Scottish Tory leader at the time, is standing down from the Scottish Parliament and heading to the House of Lords.
The source said: “Ruth won it on the back of her very high national profile. She did very little in terms of campaigning in the seat and she won it on just 30 per cent of the vote while the Greens polled nearly 5,000 votes, most of which would otherwise have gone to the SNP.”
The SNP has chosen its former Westminster leader Angus Robertson as its candidate for Edinburgh Central.
The constituency includes the Old and New Towns, the West End, Stockbridge and Murrayfield, as well as Dalry and Dumbiedykes.