Here are the candidates and issues in Midlothian North & Musselburgh

This is a strange election for everyone – no canvassing, no public meetings or street stalls and limited leafleting. But people are still taking up issues with those asking for their votes.

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 7:00 am

And in Midlothian North and Musselburgh one of the biggest concerns is Riverside Medical Practice and the problems patients have in getting appointments.

Last year the Evening News told how one patient tried over 400 times in a single day to call the practice and still couldn’t get through.

Now campaigners are asking candidates to pledge they would use their first question in the new parliament to raise the issue.

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Constituency map for Midlothian North & Musselburgh Picture:  Allan Faulds at Ballot Box Scotland

The Midlothian seat was held by Labour's Rhona Brankin from the start of the parliament until she stepped down in 2011 when the SNP won it in a Scotland-wide landslide.

Boundary changes that year saw Musselburgh added to the seat while Penicuik, Gorebridge and Newtongrange were moved into a new constituency of Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.

The SNP's Colin Beattie has been MSP since 2011 and had a majority of 7,035 last time.

He says he is "reasonably confident" about winning again.

Colin Beattie - SNP

On Riverside, he dismisses claims by his Labour rival Stevie Curran that he was late in intervening and shows a "lack of energy" about the issue.

Mr Beattie says: "Stevie thinks if he's elected he can wave a magic wand – unfortunately the power of a parliamentarian is quite limited."

He argues part of the problem is that the practice is an independent contractor. “You can't go into a private business, wave the big stick and say do this, do that. As an MSP you can't go in and say I want public resources put into this – it's not that easy."

He says he brought people together for "frank discussions" and things are moving in the right direction, though he acknowledges it won't be fixed quickly.

Stephen Curran - Labour

Pollution in the River Esk is another issue Mr Beattie mentions. He says after a series of different problems he brought all the key players together and progress was being made.

Labour's Stevie Curran, a Midlothian councillor for the past four years, says Riverside is the biggest issue in the election. His in-laws use the practice.

"There are a lot of issues there and we need to expedite a sustainable solution," he says. "Once you get to see a GP it's fine, it's getting the appointment, navigating the telephone triage system and just trying to get through on the phone."

He points to population growth and the fact East and Midlothian are the two fastest-growing council areas in Scotland. "Does the practice have the capacity to cope with that growth? The pressures facing GP services is only going to get more extreme the current 19,000 patients will soon become 20,000.

Iain Whyte - Conservative

"I'm not saying there is an easy solution, but there must be a solution."

Councillor Curran says another big issue is fair funding for councils. He cites the 24 per cent shortfall in Midlothian’s money from the government to fund the increase in early learning and childcare, due to a funding formula based on 2014 population figures. "Some of the options the government intended are not available in Midlothian as a result.”

Tory candidate Iain Whyte, the Conservative leader on Edinburgh City Council, says he is feeling “very positive” after an increase in the party’s support in the recent Midlothian East council by-election.

He says crime and anti-social behaviour is an issue in some parts of the constituency. “I'd like to see a return to the community police teams we had with Lothian & Borders police.”

On Riverside he says the health board has questions to answer.

And he says the Tories are committed to fair funding for councils. “Midlothian has the highest council tax in Scotland because it's not getting the funding it needs."

Charles Dundas - Liberal Democrat

Lib Dem Charles Dundas is promoting the “recovery first” message with the emphasis on education as the priority.

He says the Riverside patients are an “incredibly well-organised campaign group”. And he says: “I don't think NHS Lothian and the government can just say ‘GPs are independent business, the market will sort this out. Ultimately it comes down to the need to train more GPs, but that's a long-term solution and the people of Musselburgh can’t wait for that to filter through.”

The Riverside practice says demand outstrips available appointments and it recognises the depth of feeling in the community. A new GP started recently, another is due in the summer and more are being recruited.

2016 result

Colin Beattiie SNP 16,948 48.9%

Bernard Harkins Lab 9,913 28.6%

Jeremy Balfour Con 6,267 18.1%

Jacquie Bell Lib Dem 1,557 4.5%

Majority 7,035

Turnout 54.7%

History of seat

1999: LAB

2003: LAB

2007: LAB

2011: SNP

2016: SNP

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

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