SNP picks WFI campaigner to fight MacAskill seat

SNP candidate Ash Denham has pipped favourite Anum Qaiser, to stand in Edinburgh Eastern. Picture: Contributed
SNP candidate Ash Denham has pipped favourite Anum Qaiser, to stand in Edinburgh Eastern. Picture: Contributed
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A LEADING independence campaigner has been selected to stand for the SNP in the seat currently held by Kenny MacAskill.

Ash Denham, a spokesperson for Women for Independence (WFI), was selected by members in Edinburgh Eastern – beating off stiff competition from favourite Anum Qaiser.

Ms Qaiser, 22, had been tipped to win the nomination after gaining support from former justice secretary Mr MacAskill and three SNP councillors in the constituency – Mike Bridgman, Alex Lunn and Stefan Tymkewycz

If she had been selected, she would have become Edinburgh’s first female Asian parliamentarian and Scotland’s youngest ever MSP. But she was edged out by Ms Denham after a vote earlier this week.

Ms Denham is on the national committee of WFI and works as the head of campaigns for the Scottish think-tank Common Weal.

She said she would fight for a “better deal” for constituents in Edinburgh Eastern if she was elected to Holyrood next May.

She said: “It was a tough and close-run contest. Local party members decided I was the best person to represent them.

“I’m delighted to be selected and excited to begin campaigning.

“I’m looking forward to fighting for a better deal for people right across the constituency.”

Ms Denham said she was angry about Conservative cuts to public services and welfare.

She said: “Austerity is a discredited economic policy flogged like a dead horse by the morally bankrupt Tories abetted by Labour.

“My focus will be on closing the gap between the rich and the poor, by providing more social housing, an end to pernicious zero hours contracts and campaigning to make this a living wage constituency.”

Mr MacAskill announced in June he planned to quit as an MSP after serving since the start of the parliament in 1999.

The SNP’s national executive committee agreed there should be an all-female shortlist.

If elected next May, Ms Denham will work closely with Tommy Sheppard, who was elected MP for Edinburgh East at the general election.

Despite losing out, Ms Qaiser – a former Labour activist – vowed to support the chosen candidate.

She said: “It was great to speak to so many members all across Edinburgh Eastern during the selection process, and I would thank everyone who supported and voted for me.

“It is clear that many constituents identify with the SNP as they feel that the Labour Party has left them.

“I will be out on the streets of Edinburgh Eastern, side by side with our candidate Ash Denham, and I have no doubt that the SNP will win the constituency seat of Edinburgh Eastern.”

In his endorsement of Ms Qaisar, Mr MacAskill described her as “one of the brightest talents” of the new generation which had emerged during the referendum.