THE countdown to become Musselburgh's next MSP is well and truly under way.

Colin Beattie (SNP) is looking to be elected for the third time having first won the Midlothian North and Musselburgh seat in 2011.

He will be up against Stevie Curran (Labour), Charles Dundas (Liberal Democrats) and Iain Whyte (Conservatives) in the election next month.

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:

Colin Beattie (SNP)

THIS has been a strange campaign where everything is done online, and I don’t have the same opportunities to speak to voters in person.

I truly miss the fun of meeting people and exchanging viewpoints and ideas.

I was amused to see Labour candidate Stephen Curran promising that if elected he would use the powers of an MSP to solve the issues at Riverside Medical Practice.

Mr Curran seems to overestimate the “vast” powers which a parliamentarian wields, when in reality these powers are actually very limited in such circumstances.

He needs to be realistic about the parameters of this role, instead of offering false promises.

As MSP, I cannot instruct a private organisation on how to manage their own business.

As we know, Riverside is effectively a private business, and as such they can pretty much run their practice as they wish.

This is how all GP surgeries were set up when the NHS was established in 1948.

Equally as an MSP, I cannot instruct the public sector on how they should deploy resources in support of a private business.

I can persuade and facilitate a solution, and bring different stakeholders together to seek agreement on improvements and identify problems and answers.

My office deals with many patients caught in the middle of a completely unacceptable situation and we have been collaborating with the practice and relevant stakeholders to encourage change and to seek a better way of providing healthcare locally.

I will continue to push for improvement if re-elected, but this is not a situation which has an easy solution. Some SNP Government policies if re-elected are:

  • £275 million to revitalize our high streets;
  • A National Care Service;
  • Abolition of non-residential social care charges;
  • Maintain free prescriptions and free tuition;
  • Free school meals for all primary school children;
  • Free bus travel for under-22s;
  • Demand answers for Covid-19 Tory contracts given to Tory cronies;
  • Independent Scotland to have a basic pension of £350 per week to match European levels.

Our future is in our hands on May 6.

East Lothian Courier:

Stevie Curran (Labour)

THE way in which our growing authorities are funded is extremely unfair.

When compared to other councils, East Lothian and Midlothian (fastest growing in Scotland) are disadvantaged, as Scottish Government-allocated funds are failing to recognise and keep pace with our growth.

Council tax income forms approximately 25 per cent of the entire council budget; the remainder is allocated by Scottish Government.

Our councils face huge challenges in meeting the growing demand for services, yet the funding model fails to take full account of our growth.

It really is an insult when you consider our commitment to meet Scottish Government housebuilding demands.

The Scottish Government are refusing to reciprocate that commitment and responsibility, with investment for local services and for transport infrastructure (e.g. Sheriffhall) to support the growth demands they place on us.

This is an unsustainable position.

My support for Scottish Government housebuilding targets is not unconditional, and I say that as the cabinet member with responsibility for housing in Midlothian.

In respect of Sheriffhall Roundabout, the following is an extract from a 2009 SESplan report: “The Edinburgh and the Lothians Structure Plan 2015 and the Regional Transport Strategy identify the grade separation of Sheriffhall roundabout as a key infrastructure project essential for the delivery of the development strategy. The continuing lack of Scottish Government commitment to grade separation at Sheriffhall will impact inevitably on the ability of Midlothian, East Lothian, south-east Edinburgh and central Scottish Borders to contribute fully to the drive for Scotland’s economic recovery.”

The gross underfunding of the 1,140 hours early learning and childcare implementation was highlighted at a meeting of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee at Holyrood.

Absurdly, Scottish Ministers took the decision to allocate funding on the basis of the 2014 population figures.

This is one of the most blatant injustices and attacks on equality that I’ve witnessed in local government.

Once again, no meaningful interventions from our current MSP.

I will continue to campaign for fairer funding for our councils.

My constituents will always be my priority.

East Lothian Courier:

Charles Dundas (Liberal Democrats)

THIS week, health and wellbeing issues have been a major feature of my campaign.

The last year has demonstrated just how valuable the work of healthcare professionals has been to our society, but I’m afraid that the problems I keep hearing about locally tend to be centred on how difficult it can be to access some services.

East Lothian patients were aghast back in December when the Scottish Government abandoned the plan to develop a new Edinburgh Eye Hospital at the Royal Infirmary in Little France, and instead have them travel the length of the Lothians to St John’s in Livingston.

Willie Rennie and the Scottish Liberal Democrats listened to these concerns, and during the Scottish Government’s budget last month we were able to secure a review of the decision – a potential lifeline for central access to specialist eye services in the Lothians.

I’ve also been contacted by the local campaigners concerned by the difficulties that the Riverside Medical Practice are experiencing getting staff in place to be able to serve the people of Musselburgh.

I was very impressed by how organised they are; no one else has asked me to make my first question in Parliament about their issue.

So I have pledged that if elected, my first question in Holyrood will be to the Health Secretary, or the First Minister, about the national obstacles to local healthcare provision.

For too long, vulnerable people have had to endure harrowingly long waits for mental health treatment in Scotland.

There is no issue as important to the Liberal Democrats as this.

On day one after the election, we will implement our new mental health recovery plan and train more mental health counsellors, bringing them into NHS workforce planning processes.

As Scotland begins to reopen, we desperately need to put the recovery first and invest in health services.

Mental health must be taken as seriously as physical health in the next Parliament and I promise to do just that.

East Lothian Courier:

Iain Whyte (Conservatives)

AS I HAVE been out and about campaigning this week, I have been contacted by a number of people who have concerns over access to GP services.

As the Courier has reported, this is a major issue at Riverside Medical Practice but is also affecting others across the constituency.

I am extremely concerned that Musselburgh’s housing and population have been allowed to expand so much in recent years without increasing the GP provision to cope.

This had led to some patients describing the feeling that they are without a GP service because they simply cannot get an appointment.

I fully understand everything the Riverside practice are doing to recruit extra staff but I don’t believe this is enough on its own.

What is needed is that we train more doctors in Scotland for the future and that we attempt to attract more to live and work here now.

After 14 years in charge, we can see that the SNP Scottish Government’s decisions to cap doctor training numbers at universities has had a negative impact when we have a growing and ageing population.

We Scottish Conservatives have committed to an ‘NHS escalator’, which would increase the annual budget for the NHS in Scotland by £2 billion over the course of the next Parliament.

This would give NHS Lothian long-term security and allow them to protect local services in the future – especially as NHS Lothian is underfunded compared with other areas of Scotland based on the Government’s own formula of need.

I agree with the local campaigners who have started a petition to ask the Health Minister to intervene to improve GP services in Musselburgh.

I am also happy to commit to make this the topic of my first Parliamentary question if elected.

In the meantime, I am happy to raise talk to the practice about their plans but the long-term needs are obvious: more GPs in Musselburgh and across the constituency.

This issue has been ignored for too long and it’s time the health board and the Scottish Government stepped up to help.