Kenny MacAskill chosen as SNP candidate for East Lothian at general election

FORMER Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has been chosen as the SNP candidate for East Lothian at the next Westminster election.
Kenny MacAskill was Justice Secretary for seven yearsKenny MacAskill was Justice Secretary for seven years
Kenny MacAskill was Justice Secretary for seven years

The ex-MSP for Edinburgh Eastern emerged the victor from a field of four contenders in the one-member-one-vote selection.

Labour won the seat from the SNP in 2017 when primary teacher Martin Whitfield defeated George Kerevan by 3083 votes.

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But the Nationalists believe they can regain the constituency at a general election, based on recent opinion poll showings for the parties in Scotland.

The new candidate says the prospects are good for victory in East LothianThe new candidate says the prospects are good for victory in East Lothian
The new candidate says the prospects are good for victory in East Lothian

Mr MacAskill said: “It is a privilege to have been selected as SNP candidate to be East Lothian’s strong voice for Scotland.

“I am grateful for the trust that enables me to return to front-line politics and fight to win this seat.

“All elections are important, and everyone in East Lothian certainly knows we’ve had a lot of them, but the forthcoming general election will determine the future of our county, our nation and these islands for decades to come.”

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The other hopefuls on the shortlist were former Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson, Prestonpans community councillor DJ Johnston-Smith, who fought the seat at the 2016 Holyrood election, and Lee-Anne Menzies, a leading activist in Edinburgh Eastern.

Mr MacAskill has been a lifelong SNP activist and led the party's anti-poll tax campaign in the 1980s.

He was elected to the Scottish Parliament as a Lothian list MSP at the first election in 1999. In 2007, he became MSP for Edinburgh East by winning the seat from Labour and held it until he stepped down in 2016.

He became Justice Secretary after the SNP won power as a minority government in 2007 and remained in that post throughout the time when Alex Salmond was First Minister, but returned to the back benches when Nicola Sturgeon took over.

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He found himself at the centre of international controversy in 2009 when, after rejecting an application to transfer Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya, he then authorised Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds because he had terminal prostate cancer. Doctors said he had three months to live, but he survived until May 2012.

He told a party hustings during the selection contest that the British state was breaking apart and MPs would have "a critical role in that final push".

He was backed in the contest by Mr Kerevan and Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry, who led the legal case which led to the Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson had acted unlawfully in proroguing parliament.

After being named as candidate, Mr MacAskill said: “The SNP won East Lothian in 2015 and our local polling shows that people across every ward are now supporting us in steadily increasing numbers. I will fight to win back the seat for the SNP.

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"Johnson was been shown to have been wrong about the Brexit bus; wrong about his supposed powers of persuasion; wrong that people opposed to Brexit would give up.

"Deal or no deal – he’s playing with a marked deck and some sharp practice. Scotland is on to him."