Scottish election 2021: Here are the candidates and issues in Edinburgh Pentlands
It’s ten years since the SNP’s Gordon MacDonald won Edinburgh Pentlands by defeating former Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie.
The Tories had arrived at the election count at Ingliston in a confident mood, but as the ballot papers were sorted into piles, that changed.
And when the result was declared, Mr MacDonald had won with a 1,578 majority in a seat where the SNP had always been third. He had not even taken time off from his job as an accountant with Lothian Buses to campaign.
Mr MacDonald was re-elected in 2016 with an increased majority of 2,456 and a calculation by the New Statesman, based on polls, gives him an 86 per cent chance of winning again on May 6.
He says housing is the major issue in the constituency, with the Capital’s population having risen by 13 per cent over the last ten years or so and private rents running at up to three times those for council houses.
"Thankfully we're seeing, certainly in my constituency, a lot of affordable homes being built,” he says.
"Since 2007, about 7,500 affordable homes have been built in the Edinburgh area supported by the Scottish Government, so we are trying to deal with the issue."
And he says the SNP manifesto includes plans to tackle rent increases by making rent pressure zones more effective.
On independence, Mr MacDonald points to one poll showing 49 per cent ranked it the number one issue.
“Independence is needed for a purpose,” he says. “For example, if we had the power we could increase the minimum wage, which we can’t currently do because it's reserved.”
And he says Brexit has made people look again at the value of the UK.
“People are seeing the Erasmus scheme, which their kids possibly benefited from in the past and maybe now their grandchildren won't, or they see travel to the EU is going to be a bit more difficult or companies struggling like the fishing industry,” he says.
Tory candidate Gordon Lindhurst was second here last time, but got elected as a Lothian list MSP. This time he is too far down the Tories' list to get back into Parliament that way, so his only hope is to win the constituency.
He says the biggest local issue is the Spaces for People programme. "People are quite upset about the roads question and the obstacles, as they call them,” he says.
"It has been done on the pretext of Covid and now it could become permanent, but the measures have clearly not been thought through in terms of their effect on the elderly, the disabled, cyclists, shopkeepers and businesses."
He says he wants cycling improved, but added: "What we have seen through this initiative is nothing short of disgraceful."
Mr Lindhurst says people are now judging the SNP not just on its desire for independence but its “failure” in government. "So because the discussion has moved on, people are willing to look at things afresh. It’s entirely possible voters in Pentlands could decide to change their MSP at this election."
Labour’s Lezley Marion Cameron, councillor for Liberton/Gilmerton, says big issues include housing and homelessness, under-funding for both the council and the health board, and the need to build on brownfield land before the greenbelt.
She also says there is an urgent need to tackle the drugs crisis. “It’s shocking the number of people of people who are struggling and the families that are bereaved,” she says.
"Women, in particular, if they have an addiction, are reluctant to come forward – if they have children they are worried they will be taken away from them.”
And she has strong views on public loos. “For me it’s a huge issue of equality – the sheer lack of safe, modern, hygienic public loos and other facilities like changing rooms, feeding areas, showers,” she says.
"If we’re serious about being an inclusive, modern, outward-facing capital city, we need to do much better.”
The Lib Dem candidate, architect Fraser Graham, names his priorities as combating climate change, promoting LGBT+ rights and providing sustainable public transport.
He says there is a big issue around parking at Pentland Hills regional park, with people parking on verges, blocking the road. “It's clear some improvement is needed to create more parking.”
He is also campaigning for more train services to stop at Curriehill station to provide better links into Edinburgh and across to Glasgow. And he says another campaign helped secure the new First Bus 63 service between Currie and Balerno and Hermiston Gait and the Gyle.
Former maths teacher Richard Lucas is standing for the Scottish Family Party, which he describes as “pro-family, pro-marriages, pro-life, education and freedom of speech”.
“Concern about Scottish education is very widespread – it's going wrong in virtually every regard,” he says.
"Other parties want more money or more teachers, but they don’t recognise the flawed philosophy of education.”
He wants to scrap the Curriculum for Excellence and accuses the government of "rampant indoctrination”, “appalling, vulgar an corrupting” sex education and trying to abolish punishment.
Gordon MacDonald SNP 13,181 39.5%
Gordon Lindhurst Con 10,725 32.2%
Blair Heary Lab 7,811 23.4%
Emma Farthing-Sykes Lib Dem 1,636 4.9%
History of seat