Election 2021: Here are the candidates and issues in Edinburgh Southern

Edinburgh Southern has changed hands more than any other seat in Lothian.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 7:00 am

It elected a Labour MSP at the start of devolution in 1999, but the Lib Dems won it in 2003, then it went Nationalist in the 2011 SNP landslide before Daniel Johnson won it back for Labour last time.

He had a majority of 1,123 and is seeking re-election on May 6 but knows he cannot take anything for granted.

"South Edinburgh has been known for a long time as a marginal seat both for Holyrood and Westminster,” he says.

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Edinburgh Southern constituency map Picture:  Allan Faulds at Ballot Box Scotland

"I don't think people here are wedded to one party or another – they take a critical look at them all. That explains the quite different outcomes we have seen in Scottish Parliament elections.

"My approach is not take any vote for granted but approach every election afresh and try to give people clear reasons to vote for me.”

But Mr Johnson claims there is no doubt the “overwhelming majority” of voters here do not want another independence referendum – and say so without prompting.

He says: “They are very clear we need to be concentrating on getting things back to normal from Covid and that has to be a real focus over the next five years."

Daniel Johnson - Labour

Other issues, he says, include education and the long-term consequences of Covid for young people, the council’s Spaces for People schemes, the troubles on the Meadows during lockdown and concerns about school capacity.

SNP candidate Catriona MacDonald, who runs a cafe and community art space in Tollcross, stood here in the 2019 Westminster general election.

She says: “Our main message is we're asking people to vote SNP to protect Scotland and to deliver a recovery from Covid-19. We need the next parliament to focus on a sustainable fair recovery from the pandemic.”

But she adds independence is a big issue for a lot of people. “As we start to think about recovery, the full powers – and especially full financial powers – of independence will be a key part of not just building back to where we were but building forward to a more sustainable future for Scotland.

Catriona MacDonald - SNP

“The biggest issue for a lot of people in Brexit – and the SNP is now the only party here that wants Scotland to rejoin the EU as an independent nation.”

Locally she says the biggest issue is anti-social behaviour on the Meadows.

And although she acknowledges people’s feeling they have not been consulted on Spaces for People until recently, she says: “Overall the measures have been really positive and we have seen people cycling more, especially around schools.”

With a relatively small Labour majority and a sophisticated electorate, Mr Johnson can expect some votes from Tory and Lib Dem supporters keen to stop the SNP winning. It makes it easier when Tory Miles Briggs – who was third here last time but got elected as a list MSP – is virtually guaranteed re-election since he is top of the Conservatives list and Lib Dem Fred Mackintosh is number two on his party’s list behind sitting Edinburgh Western MP Alex Cole-Hamilton and so has a reasonable chance of getting in if the Lib Dems do well.

Miles Briggs - Conservative

Neither party wants to call it tactical voting. But Mr Briggs says: "My message is if they want to re-elect me to make sure they are lending the Conservatives their vote on the party list.” And Mr Mackintosh says: “We're telling people the most effective way of electing a Liberal Democrat is to vote Lib Dem on the regional list. I would encourage everyone to use their vote to achieve the result they want."

Ironically, Daniel Johnson is also top of Labour’s list and therefore almost guaranteed a return to Holyrood too.

Mr Briggs lists job security in the wake of Covid and access to apprenticeships as big issues, along with infrastructure investment like a feasibility study on reopening the South Sub and investment in the Sheriffhall roundabout.

Mr Mackintosh fell 316 votes short of winning the Westminster Edinburgh South seat for the Lib Dems in 2010 and, now a QC, is back bidding for Holyrood.

“The SNP has been in power for 14 years and people can tell in their areas of interest that things aren't great.

“I think our strategy of putting the recovery first, talking about mental health, education, the NHS, climate change and jobs, is sensible.”

Fred Mackintosh - Liberal Democrat

Also standing is Philip Holden of the Scottish Family Party, which is neutral on independence, wants to protect children from "corrupting sex education" in primary schools and advocates a shared tax allowance for married couples so one parent could do childcare without the tax disadvantages.

Mr Holden, a website designer from the Grange, says: "We stand for traditional family values and we're offering something very different from the other parties."

2016 result

Daniel Johnson Lab 13,597 35.5%

Jim Eadie SNP 12,474 32.6%

Miles Briggs Con 9,972 26.1%

Pramod Subbaraman Lib Dem 2,216 5.8%

Majority 1,123

Turnout 64.2%

History of the seat

1999: Lab

2003: LD

2007: LD

2011: SNP

2016: Lab

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Scottish election 2021: Full list of candidates in Edinburgh and the Lothians

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Philip Holden - Scottish Family Party