Here are the candidates and issues in Edinburgh Western
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The only exception was 2011 when the SNP's Scotland-wide landslide saw Margaret Smith swept out of office. But five years later Alex Cole-Hamilton won it back from the Nationalists.
A New Statesman forecast, based on polls, gives the Lib Dems a 65 per cent chance of winning on May 6 against 35 per cent for the SNP.
Mr Cole-Hamilton says it is not a safe seat and he is not taking anything for granted. "I'm under no illusions, I have competitive race on my hands."
But he says the reaction on the doorstep is positive and people appreciate the efforts he has made over the past five years.
"The Lib Dem message of putting the recovery first is chiming like nothing else previously. People are exhausted, they're still scared, they're anxious for their livelihoods and their families and even people who were strong Nationalists are coming over to me in this election. They feel now is not the time for more constitutional division."
And he says it is "effortless" to persuade people who support other parties to back him as the best-placed person to stop the SNP.
Spaces for People is one of the topics people raise, he says. “I support many of the SfP initiatives. I passionately believe in active travel and I'm a keen cyclist myself. What angers me is the SNP council have set the active travel agenda back by imposing hare-brained schemes on communities like East Craigs, Craigmount and Silverknowes without any consultation."
SNP candidate Sarah Masson stood here in the 2019 general election, finishing second with 33 per cent of the vote. She says she is getting “lots of great feedback”, including people coming over to supporting independence.
"I’m the only Edinburgh Western candidate campaigning for our place in Europe and I'm so glad that I can offer people this future – it definitely resonates with people here. How we recover from the pandemic is also, obviously, at the forefront of people’s minds and it's great to have folk agreeing that returning to ‘business as usual’ is not enough. I know we can do better than the long-term damage of Tory cuts and Brexit.”
Locally, she says there are concerns about transport, housing and public services – “all issues I’m very committed to working constructively on to find solutions”.
The Tories won less than 15 per cent of the votes in 2016, their lowest share here since devolution. Their candidate this time is Susan Webber, councillor for Pentland Hills, who is also number two on the party’s Lothian list, almost guaranteeing she will become an MSP.
As Conservative transport spokeswoman on the council she is well versed in the controversies about measures like the Low Traffic Neighbourhood planned for East Craigs.
"East Craigs is at the heart of Edinburgh Western, Silverknowes Road is a very contentious part of the Spaces for People scheme as well and you have a lot of people from Davdson's Mains feeling disillusioned this has happened. They don't feel their voices are heard.”
And she says transport in a wider sense is a big issue too. “The west of Edinburgh is where all the commuters from Fife and West Lothian funnel into the city and infrastructure, transport congestion and solutions to that are really key to this part of the city. We have Edinburgh Gateway station sitting there with very few trains stopping and a whole lot of new homes being built in Cammo that are only going to add to that.”
But she also highlights education. “Pupils have missed out on so much in the last 12 months and even before that the gap in attainment was widening. We need to find a way to get our education system back on track. We have to make that a priority."
This has never been a strong area for Labour, but candidate Margaret Graham says they are making a point of campaigning in outlying parts of the seat like South Queensferry, Ratho Station, Newbridge and Kirkliston rather than just areas like Murihouse where there is a reasonable Labour vote.
She agrees Spaces for People is a hot topic. “There's lots of concerns about bike lanes they never see any cyclists in and how emergency vehicles get through if the roads are narrowed.”
Other issues include anti-social behaviour in Clermiston and South Queensferry and an outbreak of rats in housing at South Gyle. “People think it’s because of the Gyle estate over the road where there's hardly any footfall because people are not working in the offices.”
Ms Graham, a childcare manager, wants to see an acceleration in construction of social housing and childcare made a statutory provision for children up to 12. “Childcare is absoleuty essential to get people with families back to work and it should be more equitable – there are lots of models in other European countries.”
Daniel Fraser, a stay-at-home parent and part-time window cleaner and music teacher, is standing for the Scottish Libertarian Party. Freedom of speech is their central plank, along with "very low levels of taxation or ideally no taxation at all". "Taxation is a violation of private property rights," he explains. Schools, hospitals and other services should be provided by the private sector, charities and insurance companies, he says.
Alex Cole-Hamilton Lib Dem 16,645 41.9%
Toni Giugliano SNP 13,685 34.4%
Sandy Batho Con 5,686 14.3%
Cat Headley Lab 3,750 9.4%
1999: Lib Dem
2003: Lib Dem
2007: Lib Dem
2016: Lib Dem
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