I LOVE living and working here in East Lothian, and I would be honoured to be given the chance to represent this great county in the Scottish Parliament.

I previously had the privilege of representing you as your MP, and the principle I applied then was simple: always put East Lothian first, and always stand up and argue for the interests of the county. That is exactly what I would do in Holyrood too, just as Iain Gray MSP has done for the past 14 years, in the face of an SNP Government who always push East Lothian to the back of the queue.

This parliament must be about bringing people together to recover from the pandemic, rather than a divisive independence referendum. Scottish Labour’s National Recovery Plan will do just that, jump-starting the economy and creating 170,000 well-paid, high-skilled jobs across the country.

It will also restart our NHS, which has served us so well through the pandemic, but which has seen waiting times soar, and which now faces SNP plans to invest less even than the Tories have allocated to the NHS in England. Only Scottish Labour has the vision to deliver an NHS recovery that ensures that we never again have to choose between treating a virus and treating cancer.

Closest to my heart, though, as a practising primary school teacher here in East Lothian, is ensuring our young people are properly supported as they return to school, college and university. We would bring teacher numbers back to where they were before the SNP started cutting our schools, reduce class sizes and provide access to tutoring support for everyone who needs it, not simply those who can afford it.

Even before Covid hit, increasing numbers of Scots, especially children, were being pushed into poverty. That is a disgrace and East Lothian has not been immune from it. I would work with East Lothian Council to ensure their anti-poverty strategy is supported by government to reverse that disgraceful trend. Nationally, Scottish Labour would double the Scottish Child Payment, supplement it for children with disabilities and increase eligibility for carers’ allowance to help those who look after their loved ones. I will also work with our council’s climate strategy to ensure we invest in a green recovery, protecting the planet we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

At this critical time, Scotland needs a parliament whose only priority is recovery, focussed on what unites us, not what divides us. Locally, we cannot afford part-time parliamentarians who see this constituency as a platform for party infighting or a stepping stone to independence. We need an MSP whose only priority is our county, our communities and our local concerns, a champion for East Lothian, not for independence or anything else.

I promise you that my priority as MSP will always be the people of East Lothian and it is on that basis that I hope you will vote for me and for Scottish Labour on May 6.

Martin Whitfield biography: I live in Prestonpans with my wife Rachel and our two boys. I grew up in Gosforth, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, but, like thousands of other people across the county, chose to live and work in East Lothian and am proud to call it my home. After graduating in business law from Huddersfield University, I worked as a solicitor until 2001 before leaving the legal profession to retrain as a teacher. I taught at Prestonpans Primary School from 2007 to 2017 and was a local Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) representative, as well as a council member of the General Teaching Council for Scotland. I am currently teaching at Dirleton Primary School. I have always been engaged and active in my local community over the years. I served as a member of Prestonpans Community Council, including as its chair, as well as being involved in other local community groups and charities. In June 2017, I was privileged to be chosen as Labour’s candidate for the ‘snap’ General Election and subsequently elected as East Lothian’s Member of Parliament, serving until the December 2019 General Election. This was not a career move I had actively pursued, and I was genuinely an MP whose only priority was focusing on East Lothian and its interests. In Parliament, I was a backbencher, sitting on the Commons’ Science and Technology Committee. During my time in the Commons, I was one of the first MPs to call for Universal Credit to be scrapped, campaigned for greater awareness of ‘hidden’ disabilities and promoted local industries, including East Lothian’s first-class food and drink sector. I was involved in various all-party parliamentary groups with a constituency interest, including serving as chair of both the Timber Industries APPG and the Any Disability APPG, which I was instrumental in establishing. I also served as one of the UK Parliament’s representatives to the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation. In the constituency, I held regular advice surgeries at locations across the county, visited hundreds of businesses, charities and other community organisations, and assisted over 5,000 constituents with individual issues or queries.