General election: who will win in Edinburgh South?
It's the marginal seat where Labour has a 15,000 majority
ON paper it’s the safest seat in Scotland. Labour’s Ian Murray won Edinburgh South with a massive 15,514 majority in 2017.
But the seat has a history of much closer results - Mr Murray was just 316 votes ahead when he was first elected here in 2010 - and he is not resting on his laurels.
“The 2017 majority was a snapshot in time,” he says. “We’re fighting this as a marginal seat because it’s always been marginal.”
And he is clear it is a straight fight between him and the SNP - despite leaflets from both the Tories and the Lib Dems, each claiming they are the only ones who can stop the SNP.
“The Tories are putting out spurious graphs and spurious information saying only they can win this constituency and the Lib Dems are doing the same.
“If they get people to vote for them on that basis there’s going to be an awful lot of angry people when they see the result on Friday morning.
“I hope they’re prepared to apologise to the public of South Edinburgh for misleading them and potentially delivering an SNP MP.”
He says the latest odds at the bookies are 1/3 on for him to win, 3.5/1 for the SNP, 66/1 for the Tories and Lib Dems 100/1 for the Lib Dems.
Mr Murray was a firm Remain supporter and has been a leading voice for a “People’s Vote”.
“People know my position on Brexit is very clear,” he says. “And the Labour Party position on Brexit is now very clear. People are desperate for that People’s Vote with the option to remain and they know voting Labour is the only way they can get that.
“They are also desperately, desperately trying to stop a second independence referendum. And we have been very clear - no deal, no talks, no pacts, no Indyref2.”
Mr Murray says because his stance on Brexit and independence are well known, it is local issues which voters have been talking to him about.
“We’ve been talking about planning, school capacities, the disaster of social care, lack of investment in local councils, lack of local infrastructure, GP places. All those are right at the top of the agenda. And people know I’ve always been on their side in those kinds of issues.”
SNP candidate Catriona MacDonald, who runs a cafe and community art space in Tollcross, says she has found a lot more undecided voters than in previous elections.
“The biggest thing is Brexit,” she says. “What people want to get out of this election is a government that’s going to allow them to remain in the EU. But they don’t feel very confident a vote for Labour will result in Brexit being stopped. They don’t feel Corbyn can be relied on to stop Brexit.”
She says staying in the EU was also a motivation for some people to vote against independence in 2014. “So from the point of view of a lot of voters here they’ve now voted twice to remain in the EU and they feel that’s not being respected.
“I think people do feel Ian Murray has done a good job at standing up for the Remain vote in the constituency but it’s still a vote for the Labour party and that’s what people are worried about. The SNP has a really clear message that we want to stop Brexit and I think that’s getting through to people.”
She says Brexit has also made many voters reconsider independence. “A lot of people still want to be in the UK and the EU, but when they have the choice between being independent in Europe or being in the UK but outside Europe they prefer the European option.”
Morningside councillor Nick Cook is the Tory candidate. He says many Conservative voters backed Ian Murray in 2017 but are returning to the fold this time. “While it would be foolish not to recognise the significant size of Ian Murray’s personal majority, I expect that to at least halve. But Westminster elections in Scotland are highly unpredictable so all bets are on the table.”
However, he also defends Tory leaflets which have gone out with the message “Only Nick Cook can beat the SNP here”. He says: “I think I am best placed to beat the SNP. The only way to beat the SNP is to vote for a party that won’t grant an independence referendum.”
Lib Dem Alan Beal says Brexit is his party’s big selling point. “We want to stay in the EU and the UK, which is what most people want.”
He says the European elections in May showed people were willing to vote Lib Dem in big numbers. “Labour’s vote completely collapsed.”
His campaign has put out a letter from polling expert Mike Smithson claiming “The election in Edinburgh South is between the SNP and the Lib Dems.”
Mr Smithson has since said he was not told in which seats his letter was being used.
Mr Beal says: “It was a mistake at the printers. It should not have gone out.” He says the letter was a national mailing to individual voters and by the time the mistake was realised it was too late to stop them.
Green Kate Nevens says many voters in Edinburgh South care a lot about the climate and the environment. And she believes the party is having an influence. “The bigger parties are talking about it as one of their priorities and I’m not sure we would have seen that if we had not been running.”