General election: Who will win in Edinburgh West?
Lib Dems and SNP in battle as poll suggests a dead heat
ONCE a Tory stronghold, Edinburgh West was won by the Lib Dems in 1997 and remained firmly orange until going Nationalist in the 2015 SNP tsunami. Two years later Christine Jardine took it back for the Lib Dems - but it looks as if it could be a close fight this time, with one poll predicting a dead heat between the Lib Dems and the SNP.
The constituency covers Drylaw, Muirhouse, Murrayfield, Corstorphine, Davidson’s Mains, Cramond and out to South Queensferry, Kirkliston, Newbridge and Ratho.
Ms Jardine says the YouGov poll - which quizzed 100,000 people nationwide and applied the results to each seat based on demographic make-up and other factors - did not take everything into account. ”I suppose it does remind people this is a two-horse race,” she adds.
She says there is widespread disillusionment among voters. “People are sick of Brexit and there’s a big anti-independence feeling. There’s a lot of disappointment in Jeremy Corbyn and a lot of comments I won’t repeat on Boris Johnson. People are fed up with the two party system. They want a change in the way we do politics in the UK.”
Ms Jardine says the biggest issue on people’s minds is climate change. “But it’s not getting the attention it needs because of the constant constitutional wrangling about Brexit and independence.”
Edinburgh West has two of Scotland’s worst polluted streets - St John’s Road and Queensferry Road. Ms Jardine says the Lib Dems would plant 60 million trees a year and encourage more wooden houses to help absorb carbon - and she believes it’s another argument for staying in the EU “because it will need global action to halt the damage that is being done”.
She dismisses the Tories’ Brexit plans. “Boris’s deal will not ‘get it done’, it will just open us up to another ten years of debate about trade deals and more uncertainty for that period.
”We respect the referendum but what we have said for three and a half years is there should be a public vote on the final deal to give people the final say on whether or not the deal they have is one they are satisfied with or whether they would want to remain in the EU.
She says independence comes up on the doorstep more than Brexit. “In this seat, if people want to stop independence we are the ones to vote for - we’re the only ones who are pro-UK and pro-EU.”
The SNP’s Sarah Masson agrees there is a lot of discontent with politicians. “Everyone is fed up with what has happened over the past three years and want something different. “They’ve been watching Westminster on TV, the whole behaviour and environment, and they’re disappointed in what they have seen.”
But she says people are coming round to the idea of independence. “People seem quite keen to have a say over their own future and have an option to have something different from the calamity of Westminster.
“Even people who oppose independence seem to accept we should be able to decide our own future.”
Other issues people raise, she says, include transport - particularly congestion and the need for better public transport. “There’s huge support for a change of culture on transport and how we get about the city - people wanting better cycle paths - and more buses to the outskirts and places like Kirkliston and Ratho. If we want less people taking their cars we have to make sure there are more choices.”
And she says the NHS is also a hot topic. “People are quite nervous about Boris Johnson having control of it and what he might or might not do with it in terms of doing deals with Donald Trump.”
The Tory candidate, Graham Hutchison, councillor for Almond ward and the Tories’ finance spokesman on the council, insists he has a chance of winning because 29 per cent of voters backed Brexit and last time the seat was won on just 34 per cent of the votes. “I would expect people who voted for Brexit in 2016 to be very engaged in this election and voting for us.
“I voted Remain, but it was a democratic vote. And if there was a second referendum I would vote to leave on the basis there shouldn’t be a second referendum and that first vote has to be respected.”
He says the biggest issue is the question of a second independence referendum, which the Tories have pledged to stop.
He claims the Lib Dems would prop up a Labour government which would allow a fresh indy vote - a suggestion Ms Jardine dismisses as “nonsense” and “mischief-making”.
Mr Hutchison says: “In the past unionist voters who opposed a second indepenence referendum have had three choices. Now if they don’t want a second independence referendum they’ve only got one choice and that’s us.”
Labour’s Craig Bolton, who works in the printing industry and is studying at the Open University, is a first-time candidate.
He says the issues worrying people in poorer communities are not so much Brexit and independence, but Universal Credit, zero hours employment, poor wages, housing and the NHS.
“I’m standing because I do not want my daughter to grow up in a society defined by privilege and deprivation. Labour will repair the damage done by nine years of underfunding but Tories, the Lib Dems and SNP.”
He says his party’s Brexit stance is pragmatic and democratic. “People try to say Labour’s position is in some way unclear but when I talk to voters they see it is straightforward.”
And he says he was impressed on a visit to the Royal High School to see how passionately young people felt about climate change. “Their opinion really resonated with me.”
Green candidate Elaine Gunn, from Ratho, had her stopwatch out when she watched the STV Scottish leaders debate the other night, to see how much climate change featured in the discussion.
“Willie Rennie mentioned it twice for less than 10 seconds. Apart from that, not a single person mentioned the word climate.
“It is abundantly clear that the main parties will only talk about climate in as far as it enables them to look good when they are sitting next to a Green. If the Greens aren’t there it just doesn’t get discussed in any detail whatsoever.”
But Ms Gunn says: “The biggest thing I’m picking up from people is just how absolutely sick and tired they are of all the arguing and how people are conducting themselves in the political sphere. That’s in large part why I decided to step up and become a candidate. Over the summer I was watching what was happening down in Westminster and I thought to myself I know of ten women in my village who could do a better job.”
She also highlights transport issues - those polluted street and also the need for better public transport from places like Ratho and Kirkliston.
“It’s the transport links out here that are affecting the city centre - it’s because transport links from the outside of the city are so awful people are foced to drive and that creates congestion and pollution. If we are going to address the transport situation we are going to have to think much more widely than the ciry centre. I live eight miles from the city centre. On public transport I could get into city centre quicker from Glasgow than I can from Ratho.”