THE race is now on to become East Lothian's next MSP.

Iain Gray (Labour) has stepped down after more than a decade in the role, with East Lothian residents electing their new representative next month.

Four candidates - Euan Davidson (Liberal Democrats), Craig Hoy (Conservatives), Paul McLennan (SNP) and Martin Whitfield (Labour) - are in the running for the role.

Each week, the East Lothian Courier will give each of the candidates the chance to speak about what they've been up to and why you should vote for them.


East Lothian Courier:

Euan Davidson (Liberal Democrats)

I SPENT last weekend in Dunbar and Haddington with local activists highlighting local issues of concern.

The theme running through all of the problems we discussed is a lack of local empowerment.

Too often, services are centralised and decisions are taken out of the hands of local people; for example, the running down of services at Belhaven Hospital by the Scottish Government.

If the SNP Health Secretary had agreed to a small upgrade grant back in 2017-18, significantly more services could have been retained.

Across the county, we see the same lack of joined-up thinking, with vast new housing estates lacking the essential additional infrastructure to support them: GP surgeries full, schools at capacity and non-existent public transport provision.

A centralised police force has seen officers disappear from our streets.

The closure of Haddington’s court forces victims and witnesses to travel into Edinburgh where there is a significant backlog in cases.

Liberal Democrats want to empower our communities to make decisions for themselves.

The SNP’s centralising tendency damages our local services.

Repeatedly, local decision-making is overturned by the Scottish Government’s reporters.

Of course, media attention is focussed on the launch of the Alba Party and Kenny MacAskill’s defection.

Mr MacAskill has said that if elected to Holyrood, he intends to stay an MP.

Personally, I believe this is unacceptable.

East Lothian deserves full-time representation at both Holyrood and Westminster.

The other concern is that the SNP and Alba seem determined to turn this election into a referendum on independence.

It’s almost as if we’re not pinned down by a frightening pandemic; as if our economy is not on its knees; as if we are not struggling against poverty and climate change emergencies; as if our education standards are not careering down international league tables.

Let’s spend the next five weeks talking about what matters rather than a constitutional obsession.

East Lothian Courier:

Craig Hoy (Conservatives)

NO SOONER was the election starting gun fired than blows were traded.

Unlike normal campaigns, it wasn’t the cut and thrust of argument between parties hitting the headlines.

Instead, Kenny MacAskill MP arrogantly turned his back on his SNP colleagues – and betrayed the trust of voters in East Lothian – by defecting to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.

I will fight this campaign positively, asking for the support of every pro-UK voter in this constituency.

While campaigning can’t take place in the usual way, I have already spoken with hundreds of constituents by telephone and have delivered thousands of leaflets.

Two clear themes have emerged.

Firstly, people are sick of the sleaze, division and incompetence of this SNP Government.

And they no longer trust Labour on the Union.

Residents don’t want to be dragged back to the division of another independence referendum.

Instead, they want the MSP who succeeds Iain Gray to be a strong voice for the interests of local people.

That’s why I have announced five-point plans for towns and villages across East Lothian.

We need to create more jobs, improve education, stop overdevelopment and tackle problems such as drugs and anti-social behaviour.

The issue of tactical voting has also come up on the ‘virtual doorstep’.

Labour is weak on the Union and can no longer win this seat.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has refused to rule out giving Holyrood power to hold another independence referendum.

Labour won’t agree to form a pro-UK coalition in opposition to the separatists.

Voters fear that Labour simply can’t say no to Nicola Sturgeon.

Anas Sarwar helped Nicola pass the Hate Crime Bill and sat on the fence over her misleading Parliament.

I am clear that a vote for any of the smaller fringe parties will only split the pro-UK vote.

In East Lothian, there is only one way of using your two votes to stop the SNP.

By voting for me in the constituency vote – and Conservative on the party ballot paper – we can block an SNP majority and another referendum.

By doing that, you will guarantee the next parliament will be focussed on rebuilding the economy and our communities.

East Lothian Courier:

Paul McLennan (SNP)

AFTER meeting a number of environment groups in the past few weeks, I’ve taken time this week to reflect on how we transform how our economy operates with improved stewardship of our environment.

Society’s underlying health and a sustainable environment need to be measured by more than just figures on a balance sheet.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEALL) urges transforming how the economy operates, warning that unless we rethink who wins and who loses out “we won’t have a chance of delivering that goal: social justice on a healthy planet”.

We can explore immediately green jobs for economic development, protect wild spaces for animals to thrive and individuals to enjoy, and sustain our landscape.

The Trossachs and the Cairngorms are renowned as Scotland’s only two national parks; as your MSP, I’d work with agribusiness, rural communities, environmental and other groups to investigate the feasibility of the Lammermuirs becoming a third national park.

This echoes the call by the National Trust for Scotland to explore further options for national parks in Scotland.

A natural boundary between the Lothians and the Borders, the Lammermuirs’ stunning landscape and history would attract locals to access nature and enhance wellbeing, boosting the rural economy.

Other measures specific to East Lothian are achievable, realistic and right for now, including engaging in Scotland as a recognised ‘Re-wilding Nation’.

As MSP, I’ll also support a feasibility study for Haddington train station; a planning bill overhaul to ensure new-builds include electric car points; and 10 per cent of transport budgets designated for active transport.

As a government, the SNP has introduced world-leading climate change policies.

We have pledged net-zero emissions by 2040 and are on course to meet that target.

Last year, we generated 97.4 per cent of our electricity demand from renewables.

This is displacing millions of tonnes of carbon a year, bringing jobs and enormous socio-economic impacts to our communities.

Iceland and New Zealand, successful small democracies led by women, joined Scotland as Nicola Sturgeon pioneered the ‘Wellbeing Economy Governments Group’.

Highlighting the inter-connection of personal and national wellbeing, Nicola argued “the goal of economic policy should be collective wellbeing: how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy”.

I want East Lothian to lead on the transformative change our environment needs – we can be the change we all desire.

East Lothian Courier:

Martin Whitfield (Labour)

I WAS joined by Scottish Labour’s new leader Anas Sarwar and local party members at the launch of my campaign.

Its key message is that Labour will focus on what unites us and on recovery – not another divisive referendum.

Mr Sarwar told the virtual meeting that a ‘national recovery plan’ for Scotland would be the centrepiece of Scottish Labour’s election campaign, covering key priority areas for recovery from Covid, including jobs, the NHS, education, climate and communities.

Speaking after the launch, Mr Sarwar said: “Scottish Labour, under my leadership, will make a national recovery our only priority. It’s only by voting for us that you can guarantee that we have a parliament focused on recovery.”

I have also hit the ground running with key local campaign calls, including reiterating my support for the reinstatement of a rail service and station for Haddington, and calling for a staffed shared banking hub to be piloted in Prestonpans to bring banking services back to the town.

This election is all about how we recover and rebuild after the pandemic and the fairer future that local people can have if we work together to focus on recovery.

East Lothian needs a recovery plan that will deliver local jobs, remobilise our NHS, provide children with a comeback plan, deal with the climate emergency and support communities to rebuild.

These are the issues I will focus on over the coming weeks to ensure that East Lothian’s people, communities and organisations have the support they need to come back stronger after Covid-19.

While I am keen to have as much contact with local residents as is allowed under the current public health restrictions, these constraints mean it mostly needs to be online at the moment.

I am also continuing my work as a teacher for the early part of the campaign, so my availability is restricted.

Anyone who would like to speak to me either by phone or video call should email to set up a meeting.

More information on my campaign is at or