West Lothian general election focus: Who will be Linlithgow's next MP?
Seven candidates standing in Linlithgow and Falkirk East
IT’s one of the biggest constituencies in the UK with 86,955 voters and stretches from the edge of South Queensferry up to Grangemouth and across to Bathgate and Armadale.
Linlithgow and East Falkirk was created in 2005, replacing the old Linlithgow seat held by Labour’s Tam Dalyell.
Former Linlithgow councillor Martyn Day won it for the SNP in 2015, defeating another Labour veteran Michael Connarty. At the last election Mr Day’s majority was cut from 12,934 to 2,919, but he sounds confident of being re-elected on December 12.
Last week’s massive YouGov poll with a seat-by-seat analysis predicted the SNP would win with 42 per cent of the vote but with the Tories rather than Labour in second place.
“That’s what it looks like on the ground,” says Mr Day. “The Labour vote is definitely down, some people switching straight to the Tories and others moving to the SNP. But the Brexit candidate will pull some votes from the Tories, which might change the situation. And Remain Tories are probably heading for the Lib Dems. It’s a free for all. There’s more churn in this election than any I’ve seen before. But the SNP vote seems pretty solid.
“It has a different feel from 2017 but it is heavily polarised on the constitutional issues - Brexit and independence are massive in this campaign, as are people’s views on Boris. Who is best to beat Boris is a big factor.”
Labour’s candidate is social worker Wendy Milne, who has worked in Africa with street children and in America with young people affected by a culture of drugs and violence.
She claims there is all to play for and she is not worried about the Tory challenge. “Some of the statements and comments from Boris Johnson of late have been quite off-putting for people.”
She says Brexit and indyref2 are not often raised on the doorstep. “It’s much more about the nitty gritty issues, related to poverty and the impact of poverty, access to health services, accessing benefits, bus services and the cost of train fares. Being a single parent and bringing my son up on my own, the issues around poverty are very close for me.”
Before 2017 the Tories managed around 12 per cent of the vote and had twice finished fourth, behind the Lib Dems, but last time their vote shot up to 29 per cent.
Candidate Charles Kennedy says: “There’s a demographic change in the area - there’s a lot of new housebuilding and a lot of people coming in who don’t have a historic association with a particular party. And I think the Scottish referendum in 2014 changed people’s views of all the parties.”
Mr Kennedy voted Remain but says everyone is sick of the issue and just wants it out of the way. “Brexit has fallen into the background and independence has come to the fore - which has swung the debate in our favour.”
The Lib Dems finished fifth, behind Ukip, in 2015 but increased their vote slightly last time. Candidate Sally Pattle says they are campaigning hard. “The reception has been very positive on the doors, but people remain worried about the uncertainty of Brexit and the impact it could have on the economy and jobs. The Liberal Democrats are the only true party of Remain. We are committed to keeping Scotland in the UK, and the UK in the EU.”
Green Gillian Mackay is focusing on climate change and says she gets a good reception despite the importance of the Grangemouth refinery in the area. “A lot of people are very sympathetic to the fact that we only have ten years left to prevent total climate breakdown and that we need to move away from the traditional fossil fuel heavy industry that we have in this constituency.”
The Brexit Party’s Marc Bozza was originally due to stand in Stirling, but Nigel Farage decided not to run candidates in Tory-held seats so Mr Bozza switched to this constituency.
He says: “I believe that Scots are critical to the success of the UK and the UK should be an independent, self-governing nation outwith the EU.”
Former soldier Mark Tunnicliff is one of only two candidates across the UK being fielded the Veteran and People’s Party, founded by a group of military veterans in 2017.
It focuses on certain key themes, including combating homelessness, NHS reform, better access to vocational education, increased defence spending and more police.
Mr Tunnicliff says: “We feel the current parties don’t tell the truth, they always put a slant on all the facts - everything from the NHS to the environment, so we want people to know the truth.”