Lothian's grassroots Labour members decide who should top the party's regional list in May's Holyrood elections
Sitting MSPs Sarah Boyack and Daniel Johnson are among the eight candidates vying for places. Voting to rank the candidates ends on Friday.
Labour currently has three MSPs in Lothian – Mr Johnson, who represents Edinburgh Southern, and two list MSPs: Ms Boyack and Neil Finday, who is standing down at this election.
Other list candidates this time are Foysol Choudhury, chair of equality council ELREC; Midlothian councillor Stevie Curran, candidate for Midlothian North and Musselburgh; Edinburgh Central candidate Maddy Kirkman; West Lothian Council’s depute leader Kirsteen Sullivan; and party activists Frederick Hessler and Nick Ward.
Ms Boyack, an MSP from 1999 until 2011 and a minister in the first devolved government, was third on the list last time and was not elected, but became an MSP again when Kezia Dugdale stepped down from parliament in 2109.
In her pitch to members, she says she offers experience, passion and commitment. “As a Cabinet minister I built the first railways for a generation, introduced free bus passes for the over 60s and Scotland’s first national parks. I built the first railways for a generation, introduced free bus passes for the over 60s and Scotland’s first national parks. As an MSP my priorities have been tackling the housing crisis, ending poverty and addressing
the climate emergency.”
Mr Choudhury stresses his commitment to social justice and community relations. “I have been involved in community work for over 30 years so I understand exactly what the needs of our local communities are.”
Mr Curran promises to be vocal and visible. “As chair of Midlothian police and fire board and cabinet member for housing and libraries, I know all too well the impact of cuts to council budgets. I will fight tooth and nail for fairer funding for councils.”
Mr Hessler stresses Labour values of decency, compassion and social justice. And he tells members: “I embraced what we call socialism aged 16, when I confronted homelessness and human degradation. I was radicalised in the cauldron of the 1981 NHS union struggles.”
In his pitch, Mr Johnson quotes the late Labour leader John Smith: “The opportunity to serve, that is all we ask.” And he adds: “We must set out how real change can be delivered by the Scottish Parliament now, contrasting the promises contingent on new lines on a map.”
Ms Kirkman says she is proud to be a young disabled woman standing for Holyrood. “I’m also proud to take a salary pledge: I will not take a pay rise on my current salary, which is around half that of an MSP, donating the rest to causes and campaigns across Lothian.”
Ms Sullivan says as a councillor she championed the delivery of free sanitary products in West Lothian schools and worked hard to initiate the West Lothian Food Network. And she warns the pandemic will widen inequalities. “We need to be bold in our response with policies that unite our party, rooted in equity, opportunity and unity.”
Mr Ward, an ex-teacher, former Islington councillor and now director of an autism charity, says the party should focus on the difference it can make in communities.