Scottish elections 2021: Here are the candidates and issues in Edinburgh Central
Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson surprised everyone when she won Edinburgh Central from the Nationalists in 2016 by just 610 votes.
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That made it one of the most marginal seats in Scotland.
But Ms Davdison is standing down this time and the SNP has chosen one of its biggest guns, former Westminster leader Angus Robertson to try to take the seat back.
Tory candidate Scott Douglas, a councillor for Corstorphine/Murrayfield which is partly included in the constituency, claims 99 per cent of unionists he has spoken to are going to vote for him. "It’s quite polarised,” he says. “Either you're an SNP supporter or you want to stop the SNP. We have been getting the message out that if you do want to stop the SNP, thanks to Ruth's efforts last time, we're now in the best position to do that.”
He acknowledges Ms Davidson had a personal appeal beyond the Tories’ normal reach but says he expects to hold onto voters who switched to back her last time.
"Ruth is probably the most popular politician we've ever had in the party. But I've not spoken to anyone yet who said ‘I voted for Ruth because she was Ruth but I’m not going to vote for you’. Everyone has said they will still vote for me.”
He says the prospect of another independence referendum “looms large” but claims people who want to “stop the SNP” are also “just annoyed a government that has been in power for the last 14 years and has a pretty shoddy domestic record looks as if they are going to cruise back in”.
“The shame of this election campaign is that because the SNP want to have this second referendum that has distracted from the topics we should be talking about – the economy not growing as fast as the rest of the UK, the issues on health, the Sick Kids hospital and education.”
Angus Robertson, who grew up in the constituency and went to Flora Stevenson’s Primary and Broughton High School, says the SNP has a good chance of winning the seat so long as voters turn out.
“It’s the most marginal Tory-held seat in the country – only 610 vote in it – which should encourage all SNP voters to cast their votes and should make all people who might traditionally support the Greens or Labour or the Lib Dems or even independent candidates realise they would be unwittingly helping the Tories if they don’t vote SNP.”
Mr Robertson, who spent 16 years as an MP, says he wants to be a “pro-active community representative who is accessible for constituents” and claims the Tories let people down through a lack of constituency surgeries.
He says there are 7,200 European and international residents in Central eligible to vote. “In speaking with them it’s clear their preference is to have a pro-European internationalist rather tan a pro-Brexit Boris Johnson supporter.
“I am running to make sure the area is represented by an SNP MSP who will support the re-election on an SNP Scottish Government and form a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament so we can have a referendum during the next term. We’re running hard on the issues that matter to us and they’re issues that matter a lot to many voters in Edinburgh Central.”
Although the contest is seen as a two-horse race between the Tories and the SNP, the seat – which includes the New Town, Stockbridge, Comely Bank, Craigleith, Gorge/Dalry, Fountainbridge, Tollcross, the Old Town, South Side and Dumbiedykes – was held by Labour’s Sarah Boyack from 1999 until 2011.
And Labour candidate Maddy Kirkman says: “We've always seen the seat as a three-way contest. I don't think SNP and Tory candidates are engaging with the issues local people are facing, Their main line of argument seems to be ‘Vote for me because I’m not the other guy’. We've been trying to talk about housing and jobs and the climate emergency and public services.”
She says for a long time, independence was seen as the way to break with the status quo and have a new beginning. “Actually the Scottish Parliament could be doing so much more and has the powers to affect a lot of the things touching people's lives. I think there is a growing understanding that constitutional change is a very messy route towards achieving what is already possible.” She cites housing and rent control as examples.
As a disabled campaigner she is keen to see more disabled MSPs. And she has pledged not to take a rise on her current salary, which is half that of MSP, with the excess going to causes and campaigns in the constituency.
Green candidate Alison Johnstone, a Lothian list MSP since 2011, polled well over 4,000 votes last time and was accused by some of letting the Tories in, but she is robust in rejecting the criticism.
“To suggest the SNP lost in 2016 because of Scottish Green votes and not the because of their own campaign suggests to me entitlement – no political party is entitled to any vote or any seat.
"This seat has been represented by three different parties at the last three elections. But ongoing issues around a lack of housing, affordability of housing and serious levels of pollution have remained the same despite those three parties' involvement. I'm really pleased the Scottish Greens are able to offer people an alternative vision for our Capital.”
Ex-Marine Bruce Wilson, the Lib Dem candidate, is upbeat about the campaign. “In the Edinburgh West part of the seat a lot of voters are sticking Lib Dem and we're seeing a good response to our messaging elsewhere. Our whole theme of putting recovery first seems to be cutting through.”
And he adds: “Residents want an MSP that's there to serve the community.”
Ukip’s leader in Scotland, Donald MacKay, is standing on a platform of abolishing the Scottish Parliament and claims the Tories are “not true unionists” because they support devolution. “I think the Conservative party in Scotland are an absolute woeful disgrace. I’m fed up listening to Douglas Ross refer to the Scottish ‘government’ – if you've got a government you're de facto an independent country already.”
Tam Laird, leader of the Scottish Libertarian Party, is also standing. “We’re absolutely for free speech and oppose the Hate Crimes Act. We also want to see an end to all lockdown restrictions, never again to be introduced.”
And artist and film-maker Bonnie Prince Bob is standing as an independent, aiming most of his fire at Angus Robertson, branding him “the epitome of a carpetbagging politician”. He advocates rent controls and more social housing, claims supermarkets in poor areas do not offer good quality fruit and veg, and argues the private Queen Street Gardens should be opened to the public.
Ruth Davidson Con 10,399 30.4%
Alison Dickie SNP 9,789 28.6%
Sarah Boyack Lab 7,546 22.1%
Alison Johnstone Green 4,644 13.6%
Hannah Bettsworth Lib Dem 1,672 4.9%
Tom Laird Scottish Libertarian 119 0.3%
History of seat