THE countdown is on to elect 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 DavidsonEuan Davidson

Euan Davidson (Liberal Democrats)

WHILST other parties have been bickering over the constitution, this week the Liberal Democrats have been concentrating on education.

If Scotland is to recover to a stronger position post-pandemic then education will be at its heart.

In 2016, Nicola Sturgeon stated that we should judge her on her record of tackling the attainment gap between the richest and poorest students.

It’s fair to say on that score, the SNP Government has failed dismally.

Even before the pandemic struck, progress had stalled completely with the worst figures for years.

That was before the exam scandal last year, where the SNP were happy to see pupils from the most deprived areas impacted disproportionately until they had to bow to public pressure.

My party has long campaigned for the introduction of extra funding for schools in deprived areas, which we introduced in Government at the UK level.

We were eventually able to persuade the Scottish Government to introduce the attainment fund and we now want to see it expanded significantly.

In 2021, it simply cannot be right that your life chances are still decided by your parents’ economic circumstances.

We also want to see an overhaul in the way we approach education as a society.

The introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, whilst well meaning, was badly mismanaged by the SNP Government.

Failures like this and the exam scandal show that much more faith needs to be put in our teachers and education professionals rather than Scottish Government ministers.

Another priority for me is improving early years education.

Evidence shows that a significant proportion of a child’s life chances are decided early on.

That’s why we want to delay formal schooling until age seven.

The evidence from countries across Europe shows starting children with a more play-based, less formal approach, leaves them much more prepared for formal learning later on.

Another referendum will do nothing to overcome the economic and social damage of the pandemic.

To give our children a fair chance, we must focus on education and recovery.

East Lothian Courier: Craig HoyCraig Hoy

Craig Hoy (Conservatives)

THIS election is a straight choice: we can focus on recovery or another divisive independence referendum.

This week, I have spoken to many residents while on the campaign trail in areas including Dunbar, Garvald, Longniddry and Prestonpans.

I recently conducted local surveys and produced a series of local manifestos, which I hope you have received.

As MSP I will focus on:

  • Rebuilding our local economy and communities while strengthening public services, creating jobs, reskilling workers and delivering improvements to infrastructure and our environment;
  • Recruiting more teachers, improving school buildings and establishing a new national tutoring programme while expanding free school meals to all primary pupils;
  • Tackling anti-social behaviour, getting more police on the beat, combatting drug abuse and putting victims first;
  • Delivering­ record funding for our NHS, ensuring our health services have the resources to tackle the backlog;
  • Enshrining in law that no planning decisions made locally will be overturned in Edinburgh, to halt overdevelopment in East Lothian.

My pledges dovetail with wide-ranging and ambitious plans outlined by Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives during the first weeks of the campaign.

We have announced a major drive to ensure young people can afford new homes.

While East Lothian has seen thousands built, it’s shocking that many people seeking to buy their first home have to leave their home town to get a foot on the housing ladder.

I am also committed to expanding local railways.

On this issue, and on every issue, I won’t just tell voters what they want to hear.

Other candidates have talked about re-opening the old Haddington to Longniddry line.

This solution is unworkable, putting at risk the much-loved railway walk.

Instead, I have worked closely with rail experts to explore plans for a new UK Government-funded section of the East Coast Mainline, which could expand existing rail capacity at Dunbar and Prestonpans, delivering new edge-of-town stations at Haddington, Tranent and Blindwells.

If we focus on recovery and not another referendum, these are the ambitious, job-creating policies we can deliver for East Lothian.

I look forward to working with you as your MSP to achieving them.

East Lothian Courier: Paul McLennanPaul McLennan

Paul McLennan (SNP)

THIS week, I’ve focused on helping to prepare East Lothian businesses to reopen during April.

Throughout both lockdowns, East Lothian has demonstrated itself as adaptable, resourceful and committed to community wellbeing.

Our residents have shown resilience, determination and neighbourly kindness.

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have pioneered the visionary ‘wellbeing government’; in East Lothian, ‘wellbeing high streets’ can hold the key to economic recovery as our new normal.

We can increase support for 20-minute neighbourhoods, putting everything within easy reach, with traders already playing their part by prioritising local produce and reducing their carbon footprint.

This underlies the SNP Government’s vision for ‘renewing Scotland’ post-pandemic, with the £100 million Green Jobs fund mapping the environmentally sensitive economic recovery younger generations deserve and demand.

Well-supported shop local initiatives have greatly expanded and I’m keen to extend this as East Lothian builds a strong recovery.

The SNP Government boost of a £10m ‘Scotland Loves Local’ fund is encouraging people to shop locally when they can, keeping wealth circulating within their community.

During the pandemic, I’ve chaired the East Lothian Council Town Centre Recovery Group; if elected, I’ll initiate an East Lothian Business Advisory Group to ensure the vital business voice is heard.

Our high streets are being supported by 100 per cent non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors this year, with Scottish Government investment of £719m.

It has also invested £275m over the life of the parliament to support community-led regeneration and town centre revitalisation.

I fully support this holistic approach to empowering communities.

This, coupled with prioritising ‘wellbeing’ via a universal basic income running in parallel with doubling the child payment, gives families increased means of participating in a thriving society.

The SNP Government has committed to 100,000 new homes, including affordable and social housing, stimulating the construction industry and ensuring warm, safe housing as essential.

Sharing the responsibility for improving the lives of the most vulnerable benefits society.

For a wellbeing local recovery and for recognising that no one is better off until everyone is better off, make both votes SNP.

East Lothian Courier: Martin WhitfieldMartin Whitfield

Martin Whitfield (Labour)

I AM PLEASED that there has been such a focus on two important issues in the early part of this campaign: the recovery of our NHS and tackling poverty.

This included Anas Sarwar unveiling Scottish Labour’s recovery plan for Scotland’s NHS following the devastating impact of the pandemic.

He highlighted the backlog for cancer treatment, with thousands of missing cancer diagnoses as a result of Covid.

We need an urgent plan to address this crisis, including rapid diagnostic centres and a catch-up plan for screenings by increasing staff and processing capacity to clear the backlog within a year.

Child poverty in Scotland was one of the key issues covered in the first televised campaign debate.

The SNP have been in power for 14 years but child poverty was rising again even before the pandemic hit.

Scottish Labour believes the next parliament must prioritise a national recovery so that we can transform the lives of children across Scotland and end the scandal of child poverty.

Another big pledge this week from Anas Sarwar is for a ‘Clean Up Holyrood’ Commission.

The recent behaviour of our MP has demonstrated how little power constituents have over elected representatives in between elections.

The commission will consult on ideas to give Scotland a parliament that can better hold the government to account and win back the trust of the people.

As lockdown continues to ease, I’m pleased to see more local businesses and organisations able to open up again.

This has been such a difficult last 12 months and I know that many businesses have been using lockdown to refine and renew the way they welcome customers back.

I wish them all well in the weeks ahead and encourage people to keep shopping locally.

Finally, the easing of restrictions has also meant I’ve been able to get out and do more leafleting, restoring some semblance of normality to an otherwise very different election campaign.

Leaflets and direct mails are still the main way for informing people, but you can also find out more about my campaign at or