General election: who will win battle for Edinburgh South West?
SNP's Joanna Cherry defends Capital's most marginal seat
TWO and a half years ago, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry saw her majority cut dramatically from more than 8,000 to just over 1,000, making her Edinburgh South West seat the most marginal in the Capital.
But Ms Cherry, the MP who led the successful legal action challenging Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament, believes there are several factors which are likely to help her hold onto the seat, which stretchs from Haymarket to the Pentlands.
”The campaign is going well, but we’re not taking anything for granted,” she says. “We’ve got more activists turning out to help than ever before and we’ve knocked on more doors than ever before.”
She acknowledges the Supreme Court victory over prorogation has boosted her already high profile as SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster and given her a recognition factor with the public.
And she believes the prospect of Boris Johnson in Number 10 for the next five years is reducing the Tory vote.
The Conservatives replaced Labour in second place last time and will be hoping to attract anti-independence votes from all the other parties.
But Ms Cherry says: “It feels very different from 2017 when I was one of the Tories’ target seats. They had 15 target seats and they won 13 of them. If the Tories didn’t win it then I think they’re going to find it hard to win it now.
“There are people switching from the Tories to SNP because they are against Brexit and horrified at Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. The fact the Tories have chosen a pro-Boris pro-Brexit candidate doesn’t help them.”
She says she is finding a lot of support for the idea Scotland should be able to choose its own future.
“This is a straight fight between me and the Tories and think there will be a fair bit of tactical voting from Labout, Lib Dems and Greens to keep the Tory out.”
That Tory is Callum Laidlaw, a councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar and Conservative education spokesman in the city. He says he is getting a good response.
But he says: “People have a view that politics has gone in on itself. The things people want tio talk about - public services, investment, job creation - have been sidelined by the constitutional debate about both independence and Brexit - so our message of no more referendums plays quite well.”
On Brexit he says: “I voted Remain I have always felt if you ask the people you accept the result and implement that decision. I’ve always wanted us to leave with a deal that protects people’s livelihoods and we’re there now.
“There’s a strong feeling the SNP have somewhat weaponised the Remain vote as a proxy for support for independence. I’ve not met very many people, even if they are not a fan of Brexit, who say independence is the solution, If anything people will say ‘If Brexit is this complicated what would independence look like?’”
Labour candidate, novelist and creative writing tutor Sophie Cooke, voted Yes to independence in 2014, then joined the SNP but left over “failures in education and health policy, and a realisation that the party was less progressive than it claimed”.
She argues the number one policy has to be halting climate change. She says a second independence referendum is not a priority and she now backs federalism.
Lib Dem Tom Inglis, a technology expert from Balerno who campaigns locally for better bus services, says constitutional issues are the topics people raise most. And he expects a significant increase in his party’s vote share. “We’re the only pro-EU and pro-UK party so a lot of people are wanting to support us.”
Green candidate Ben Parker says every hustings he has been to has seen questions on the climate emergency. “I’m 23 and it’s an issue my generation care a lot about and I think we are slowly starting to see that being reflected in terms of wider social consciousness.”
Brexit Party candidate David Ballantine wants Edinburgh to challenge London as the dominant financial centre and argues for Scotland to have its own stock exchange again and a Scottish version of Silicon Valley to be built in South Gyle.
And former Tory Mev Brown is standing for the Social Democratic Party - a reborn version of the 1980s SDP - arguing for Brexit and against independence. “My two main messages are ‘British jobs for British workers’ and ‘British homes for British citizens’.”
He wants to stick to the Tories’ now abandoned target of reducing immigration below 100,000 and proposes to reform the education system to align student courses with the needs of industry and commerce. He is against NHS privatisation but claims the greatest threat comes from the trade agreement Europe signed with Canada which he says would allow German healthcare companies access to the UK health service.