AN internal Tory battle is under way to succeed the party’s two retiring Lothian MSPs.
Conservative constituency associations have begun choosing candidates for individual first-past-the-post seats at next year’s Holyrood elections, with selection for one of these essential in order to qualify for a place on the all-important regional list.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson was confirmed as candidate for Edinburgh Central on Friday after the other contenders withdrew.
And on Saturday, Leith businessman Iain McGill was chosen from a shortlist of five to fight Edinburgh Northern and Leith. Most of the Tories’ other candidates in the Capital will be chosen this week.
The hopefuls include Inverleith councillor Iain Whyte; Liberton/Gilmerton councillor Nick Cook; former Edinburgh South general election candidate Miles Briggs; City Centre councillor Joanna Mowat; Gordon Lindhurst, who stood in Edinburgh South-West at the general election; and Jeremy Balfour, councillor for Corstorphine/Murrayfield.
The Tories are not expected to win any of the first-past-the-post seats in the Capital next May, but party rules require candidates to be selected for a constituency seat before they are eligible to stand on the list.
Existing list MSPs Gavin Brown and Cameron Buchanan are both standing down.
Top slot on the Lothian list is now expected to go to Ms Davidson. Although currently a list MSP for Glasgow, she announced earlier this month she would seek election in the Capital next year instead.
But activists turning up at the selection meeting in Central on Friday night were surprised to find hers was the only nomination.
One member said: “Whether others were put under pressure to pull out I don’t know. She spoke very well, but what’s the point of a selection meeting if you only have one candidate?
“There seems to be growing control from the centre over who gets to stand as candidates.”
In her pitch to the behind-closed-doors meeting, Ms Davidson said: “Edinburgh returned a resounding No vote last September and while there are many Conservative-minded people in the city, the party’s vote has been squeezed in previous elections.
“My profile as party leader will give a strong reason for Conservative and Conservative-inclined voters to turn out for us.”
She added that “as one of the most recognisable names in Scottish politics” she also hoped to attract a number of floating No voters and secure a third Tory MSP in Lothian.
Edinburgh Central was won by the SNP from Labour at the 2011 election. The Tories were in fourth place.