NEXT Thursday (May 5), the East Lothian constituency goes to the polls to elect an MSP. Here, the four candidates explain why they deserve your vote.

DAVID BERRY (SNP) - David Berry has represented North Berwick on East Lothian Council since 1999. In 2007, when Labour lost its majority, he became leader of a coalition of seven SNP and six Lib Dem councillors. In June 2010 he stood down as the first SNP leader of East Lothian Council to concentrate on winning the Scottish Parliament seat for East Lothian.

Since returning to Scotland from overseas in 1993, he developed the LochMoy Ltd consultancy which specialised in designing and developing custom, multi-user databases for small to medium businesses.

In the 22 years between his graduation from the University of Edinburgh and his return to Scotland, David led a varied life, which included working for Honeywell in London, Siemens in Munich and several hi-tech firms in California's Silicon Valley. He also learned the joys of skiing, backpacking, rafting and creative writing.

"Into the last-but-one lap and all in East Lothian are pouring a blizzard of leaflets through letterboxes as the weather stays benign enough for them to get as many feet on the street as they can manage.

Compared to target seats like Dundee West, there actually aren't that many folk on the ground as disillusionment and tight budgets are having an effect. Locally the Lib Dems are notable by their absence as those they can mobilise are drafted in to defend seats in Edinburgh and the Borders. The Tories are playing their normal low-profile, phone-oriented campaign of shoring up known supporters and ignoring half the county.

But Labour is scrambling. Not only is their candidate spending most of his time elsewhere - like the surprise appearance last Thursday with Gordon Brown to try to win back Dunfermline - but voters are commenting on leaflets that make bizarre assertions like "fighting for mining communities". The last mine here closed half a century ago!

In the west of our county they used to weigh Labour votes. They are going to need every one they can scrape this time.

What I offer East Lothian is a visible, vocal champion. After three years as leader, changing our council's culture to listen and respond to the needs of each of our towns, it's time someone with clear purpose and determination did the same in Holyrood - someone like me who's not preoccupied with career or hamstrung by party priorities.

Representing East Lothian is not about nostalgia for when the crowds used to flood to NB or Dunbar, or when 2,500 miners worked down pits like Fleets or Prestongrange.

It's not just about insight into the distinct characters of each of our towns. It's about finding the right ways to keep each of them vibrant, with viable high streets, enviable facilities and a splendid quality of life. It is about developing small business and rich farmland in harmony with picturesque countryside, quaint villages, rugged coast and wild moorland. We welcome tourists but not unbridled growth. We welcome new residents who love it as we do, but not move-every-two-years commuters.

In short, it is about inventing the model for 21st-century living, right here in East Lothian." DEREK BROWNLEE (Conservatives) - For just over five years Derek has been an MSP for the South of Scotland region, which includes East Lothian. During that time he worked to get help for small businesses in the county and personally negotiated the Town Centre Regeneration Fund which helped towns across East Lothian.

Aged 36 and married with a young daughter, Derek worked as a chartered accountant before being elected. He was raised in the Scottish Borders and educated at Selkirk High School and Aberdeen University.

"So many issues have been raised over the campaign, but across East Lothian one of the biggest is jobs - and how we can create them. Previous governments spent too much time focusing on helping large firms to the exclusion of small businesses.

We need to put more effort into helping small firms so they can take on extra staff, and we need to help people who want to set up on their own too. We've put forward measures which would give extra funding for people wanting to start their own business, reform and reduce business rates for smaller firms and invest more in road maintenance - a real problem the minute you leave the A1.

I also support giving East Lothian Council more funding to support local bus services. We can do this if we take some of the national funds and pass them to councils to spend on local priorities.

I'm a strong supporter of the NHS and by protecting NHS funding it is much easier to defend valued facilities such as the Edington in North Berwick. Better integration of the services provided by East Lothian Council, such as social care, will also help.

The explosion in the number (and scale) of windfarms in East Lothian is partly because there is neither a balanced energy policy nor a national strategy on where they should be sited. That needs to change.

But your votes will also help determine what happens across Scotland. Obviously, what I've outlined will cost money and the Scottish Conservatives have set out how these measures can be paid for.

The Scottish Parliament takes decisions about the income tax you pay, your council tax bill and how much small businesses pay in rates. Labour and the SNP have made so many expensive promises they will need to put up your taxes to pay for them. Using both your votes for the Scottish Conservatives will help stop your tax bills going up.

Over the last four years, along with other Scottish Conservative MSPs, I voted to stop tax rises. And because Scottish Conservatives held the balance of power we were able to deliver the council tax freeze and cuts in rates for small businesses in East Lothian. Without the votes of Scottish Conservative MSPs, council tax would have increased year after year.

At the last election, voters in East Lothian helped elect me to Holyrood, preventing either Labour or the SNP from having an outright majority. Your votes can do the same again this year, and I welcome your support." IAIN GRAY (Labour) - Haddington resident Iain taught maths and physics at Gracemount High School in Edinburgh before teaching in an agricultural school in Mozambique for two years during their civil war.

He then joined Oxfam as Scottish campaigns director. His work took him to the minefields of Cambodia, the villages of Zimbabwe decimated by HIV/Aids and Rwanda after the genocide.

He was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and held four ministerial posts, including Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning. Iain then spent four years as a special adviser to then Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Darling. He returned to Holyrood as MSP for East Lothian in 2007 and was elected Scottish Labour leader in September 2008.

"Jobs, the economy, household bills, crime, schools, hospitals, care of the elderly - these are the things I will put first if I'm elected to represent East Lothian.

Over the last four years I've campaigned on the issues that matter to people in East Lothian. Along with thousands of residents I opposed the building of a new incinerator at Oxwellmains near Dunbar. SNP ministers ignored the will of local people by giving it the go-ahead anyway.

I fought the closure of Cockenzie House nursing home and worked with campaigners to halt the planned closure of Leuchie House. If Labour are elected, I'd secure the future of Leuchie, something the SNP has refused to do.

I know better transport links are important to many. In Parliament I voted for better regulation of bus services to give communities more of a say on their buses. Sadly, the SNP joined with the Tories and Lib Dems to vote that down. As First Minister I'd reintroduce legislation to improve our buses.

I've spent the last four years campaigning for better train services. There have been some improvements but more needs to be done and I will not rest until I've secured a proper local rail service linking Dunbar with Edinburgh and the reopening of a station in East Linton.

Our manifesto has serious measures to get people working and boost economic growth. These are the things that matter and the things I will put first.

The number of young people without jobs has grown faster in East Lothian than almost everywhere else in recent years so I would create 250,000 jobs and apprenticeships over the next decade to make youth unemployment a thing of the past.

I would ensure knife criminals go to jail and freeze the council tax for two years. I'd also halve the waiting time for cancer results, put literacy specialists into schools and I would not introduce tuition fees for students.

I started my career as a teacher in the 1980s in Edinburgh where I watched as a Tory Government drained the hopes from a generation of young people. Then I taught in Mozambique before joining Oxfam, where my work took me to villages in Zimbabwe and Rwanda.

My experience in those places is what has shaped my values and is what drives me now." ETTIE SPENCER (Lib Dems) - Ettie lives and works in East Lothian. She's married with three sons and three daughters, the two youngest at high school. She has four grandchildren and elderly and disabled relatives to help care for.

Ettie grew up on a small sheep farm but has experienced life in the inner-city, working in some of the most deprived communities in the UK and abroad.

She has worked in community development most of her life and more recently as a 'politically engaged' public artist. She has been an artist in residence in East Lothian schools and is currently vice-chair of a local arts trust. She also works part-time as a university lecturer and has a particular interest in issues facing young people.

Ettie is the founder and project manager of Carbon Neutral Stenton.

"The Scottish Government needs to address some very serious issues. We have an economic crisis that will affect a generation, and an environmental crisis that could be disastrous. I believe it would be unacceptable to leave these problems for future generations to sort out. As a politician, as a parent and as part of a generation that allowed these things to happen, I'm committed to putting all I have into tackling these and other social issues.

As we all are dependent on each other, none of us can avoid the part we have played in the current situation, nor can we ignore what we must do to the turn the tide. If elected, a commitment to this responsibility would underpin all I would work towards.

As East Lothian's population rises, there is a need to get the urban and rural environment right, including education, health and low-carbon, affordable housing. Keeping town centres alive means intelligent planning and a sustainable rural economy depends on developing small businesses (particularly green businesses), an effective low-carbon transport system and support for farming and local food production.

Many live in hard-to-heat houses and depend on fossil fuels, but we can't continue to depend on oil. Development of renewables offers opportunities for Scotland and we'd be mad to miss the boat.

I have a particular interest in issues facing young people. We must maintain free higher education and offer more skills training and apprenticeships. Volunteering and work experience play important roles in preparing young people to take their place in society. The voluntary sector and social enterprises need support, as do youth-led recreational and cultural activities.

We need to address caring for the elderly and sick and proper support for carers. I have been a carer and I know this is the hardest job and deserves proper status and recognition.

Finally, I believe we do not have balance in government. Women make up 51 per cent of the population but are seriously under-represented. We also need some 'non-professional' politicians with other life experiences. If we don't address these imbalances I believe we'll simply get more of the same.

As a woman - and one who has lived a varied life - I can offer some of this balance."