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 on May 6.

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)

IT WILL be no surprise to anyone that the SNP’s central policy is independence. Many people ask me whether an independent Scotland would be financially viable and I firmly believe that the answer to this question is yes.

There is a myth that Scotland runs a massive deficit in its finances and so could not exist without London’s help. Why does a wealthy country with a strong economy, booming exports, a highly educated population, and a wealth of natural resources reportedly have such weak finances? It’s simple – the calculations currently evidencing this are not taken from a set of accounts for spending WITHIN SCOTLAND, rather they also contain spending OUTSIDE SCOTLAND which doesn’t benefit the Scottish economy or its people, and so wouldn’t be a factor in an independent Scotland.

For example, a ‘national’ project such as Crossrail, at approximately £19 billion, benefits only London, but Scotland’s expenditure and revenue figures include a contribution to this. Similarly, HS2, which does not even reach Scotland, is a ‘national’ project which most recent estimates price at over £100 billion. We will be billed for our share. The London Olympic Games was a ‘national’ project where we paid our share of the roughly £12 billion cost. Strangely, the Queensferry Crossing was not accepted as a ‘national’ project, so we had to pay from our own meagre revenue budget. Scotland paid £4.5 billion in 2019/20 in interest payments alone towards the UK National Debt to fund mostly non-Scottish expenses.

The daftest thing Scotland could do is decide to keep sending our money to Westminster. Unionists seem to believe that after 300 years of being part of the United Kingdom, Scotland cannot run its own affairs without being propped up from London. In my mind, the sooner we exit this disastrous relationship the better, because clearly we could do no worse running our own country.

Keep Scotland’s money in Scotland. Spend Scotland’s money in Scotland. The only way we can do this is through independence and that’s why I will continue to fight the case for leaving the Union and managing our own finances.

East Lothian Courier:

Stevie Curran (Labour)

WITHOUT bold action, Scotland faces an unemployment crisis that will become a national emergency.

The scale of the problem that confronts us requires an ambitious response.

That is why we are proposing the most ambitious jobs creation plan in the history of devolution – as anything short of that would not meet the needs of Scotland’s recovery.

Taking decisive action now can protect people’s incomes and wellbeing, save a generation of young people from being disadvantaged, and kickstart our economy.

Covid has left the Scottish economy fragile. Job losses and redundancies are likely as furlough winds down. We cannot risk anyone being left behind.

Scottish Labour has an ambitious plan to tackle the crisis head on.

This demands a collective effort from the government, the wider public sector, the private sector and the trade unions to focus Scotland on action in this area.

Our jobs recovery plan focuses on the initiatives and actions needed to achieve this national mission.

One of these initiatives is equal access careers.

We will create a national programme to support individuals disadvantaged within the labour market with specific targeted career support, training and placements, and will extend the job start grant to all young disabled people and double the grant for the young disabled and care leavers.

It’s Labour or the SNP here in Midlothian North and Musselburgh.

We have the opportunity to choose something different at this election.

We can choose not to return to the old arguments.

We can choose to restart our economy and give a jobs guarantee to young people.

We can choose to focus on what unites us as a country, not what divides us.

East Lothian Courier:

Charles Dundas (Liberal Democrats)

MY DAY job is in environmental conservation, so it’s no surprise that I’d like to use this reach out to the readers of the Musselburgh Courier to say a little about how we can pass on to future generations a country in a better condition than it currently is.

We hear a lot about the climate crisis, but there’s a global nature crisis too. In Scotland, more than half of all species are in decline, and experts predict that one in 10 species currently face extinction.

That’s why I am delighted that Willie Rennie has promised that on the first day of a Scottish Liberal Democrat government being elected in Scotland, he would declare a nature emergency.

After that declaration, we should urgently pass a nature recovery law, which would be the first of its kind in Scotland, and would see binding national recovery targets to clean up our air, soils, seas and rivers.

We would also invest more money in nature through plans such as planting 36 million extra trees each year across the country – with at least 50 per cent of these being native species.

Scotland is rich in carbon-storing peatlands; we need to protect and restore these vital elements of our landscape.

At the same time, we should develop a formal strategy for Scotland’s wild land areas so that we can join up efforts to restore our landscapes and work with nature, rather than against it.

That strategy should also set a national target which aims to have one third of all publicly owned land managed for nature.

The government should lead by example.

I want future generations of Scots to enjoy our woodlands, our national parks and our beautiful landscapes.

Taking action now to turn around the nature crisis is our duty, and vital if we are going to do our part in tackling climate change too.

Pledging to plant seven native trees for every person in Scotland every year is a great start, but there’s lots more needing done and we need to elect a government which will take action.

East Lothian Courier:

Iain Whyte (Conservatives)

WHAT we all need most to recover from the pandemic is a real plan to improve our public services. Here in Musselburgh, that is even more critical, with the pressure on those services from a growing population. Last week, I wrote about doing more for health – and education is equally important.

That is why I am so keen to promote my party’s plan to restore standards in Scottish education. The key highlight is a costed plan to recruit 3,000 more teachers and 57 of them would be employed in East Lothian. By concentrating on the STEM subjects, these extra teachers could boost learning and ensure we increase key links to universities, colleges and local employers to get school leavers into quality work.

In addition, our plans would see East Lothian get its share of specific money for education from our proposals for a pupil catch-up premium and a national tutoring programme. These are designed to help pupils and schools recover from the pandemic and catch up with all the lost learning – vital to the recovery, as all parents know.

I am also determined to deliver a ‘fair funding deal’ for East Lothian Council. I want to reverse the years of cuts imposed on local authorities by the SNP, even though they had money from the UK Government to increase funding. The SNP Government’s budget has increased by nine per cent since 2011-12, yet they have hammered local councils across Scotland with an average 17 per cent real terms cut in their revenue funding. In East Lothian, that amounts to £23m or 15 per cent of the annual budget.

The Scottish Conservatives’ proposals would see a guaranteed proportion of the Scottish budget each year enshrined into law to be handed down to councils. For East Lothian, that would mean an increase of almost £40m in funding. That money could be spent on schools. But equally, it could help to increase other local services that are desperately needed as the population of Musselburgh continues to increase.

Here are the campaign updates for weeks one, two and three.