Scottish elections 2021: Here are the candidates and issues in Linlithgow
At the last Holyrood election the SNP's Fiona Hyslop won Linlithgow with over 50 per cent of the vote in a four-cornered fight and the biggest majority in Lothian.
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Having served as a list MSP since the start of the parliament in 1999, she was first elected as constituency member in the SNP landslide of 2011 and increased her winning margin in 2016.
The seat is the biggest in population terms in Scotland and covers not only Linlithgow itself but a big slice of West Lothian including Winchburgh, Broxburn, Bathgate, Blackburn, Whitburn, Armadale and Blackridge.
Ms Hyslop feels frustrated that campaigning is limited by Covid and door-knocking has been severely curtailed. "Normally we do so much canvassing you don't need opinion polls to tell you where you are," she says.
Despite her 9,335 majority she says she never takes any votes for granted. “We always fight and fight hard – people deserve to hear what you're saying so we're very pro-active with that.”
Local issues she says people raise include the major house-building projects in the constituency and the need for new Infrastructure. “Winchburgh as a village developing into the size of a town. And there’s lots of new-build in Bathgate and Armadale.
“I helped to ensure the schools in Winchburgh had funding as part of the City Regon Deal, we're looking to get the railway station at Winchburgh, other places will need more healthcare.”
National issues on people’s minds are jobs, economic recovery and the recovery of the NHS. And for some there’s independence. She says SNP supporters keep coming up to her and telling her "we can do it this time".
Linlithgow was a Labour seat for the first 12 years of the parliament and the party’s candidate this time is Kirsteen Sullivan, depute leader of West Lothian Council and councillor for Whitburn and Blackburn.
"The overwhelming sense we're getting is that people want change. The pandemic has given people a chance to take a breath and think about what is important to them. This isn't the time to be talking about independence. They're concerned about the high street, whether they'll have local shops to go back to; people are worried about whether they're going to be able to continue their businesses. There is huge appreciation for teachers, but parents are still concerned about the fact kids have had six months out of the classroom.”
She also points to an issue currently causing particular controversy in both Whitburn and Linlithgow. “Too many vacant buildings and pieces of land are snapped up and nothing ever happens to them. It's a blight on the high street and people are really concerned.” She says Labour backs legislation to introduce compulsory sale orders.
Tory Charles Kennedy, a Bathgate councillor, claims he has found more floating voters than ever.
“Independence, for or against, is obviously the big issue but there are a lot of people interested in how we take forward the recovery.
“Many lost their jobs and we need to create new jobs for them, but if we can make them green jobs a lot of people feel there’s a chance to combine recovery along with a change in our industrial base.”
He mentions the major new housing developments and efforts to promote the Bathgate Hills as a tourist attraction and says there is a real rural economy returning in the area.
And he says Spaces for People has caused much animosity particularly over a lack of consultation. "Active travel should be encouraged, but with a rural community cars are very important because the bus services are not what they could be."
Lib Dem Sally Pattle, who runs a bookshop in Linlithgow, fought the seat at the 2017 and 2019 general elections for Westminster and says the Lib Dem message is getting a good reception. "A lot of people are just quite tired with what is going on and they definitely are not looking to be talking about constitutional matters. They want to be talking about jobs and recovery.”
She says the fact a quarter of children in West Lothian live in poverty is "outrageous in 2021" and feels strongly about education. “At the current rate it will take the SNP 35 years to close the attainment gap – we need action on that now.”
She highights the “shocking” rise in drugs deaths. "We're linking that to mental health services because the cuts in the past few years are devastating. If we're going to break the cycle of poverty and addiction we have to get more mental health professionals on the ground.”
And she wants to reform business rates to help small businesses. “This past year has shown us just how valuable our high streets are.”
Fiona Hyslop SNP 19,362 50.4%
Angela Moohan Lab 10,027 26.1%
Charles Kennedy Con 7,699 20.0%
Dan Farthing-Sykes Lib Dem 1,319 3.4%
History of seat