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by Kirsteen Paterson
04 June 2024
Back to the Future: The Scottish former MPs and MSPs standing in the general election

Images: Alamy

Back to the Future: The Scottish former MPs and MSPs standing in the general election

They were in, then they were out. Now a clutch of former MPs and MSPs are vying for their second act. 

This general election could see the return of some familiar faces to frontline politics as the politicians of the recent past bid to come top of the poll in Scottish constituencies. 

And while some have chosen their targets seats carefully, others face a tougher task in winning over the electorate. 

Douglas Alexander

A politician with a formidable CV, ex-Scottish Secretary Alexander was knocked out of parliament by the SNP “earthquake” of 2015. That was in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, where Alexander lost to Mhairi Black as Labour’s vote share slumped by more than 20 per cent. Almost a decade later, Alexander is standing in Lothian East, the successor to the East Lothian seat currently held by SNP-to-Alba defector Kenny MacAskill. MacAskill isn’t running here again, having switched his focus to Alloa and Grangemouth.  

Alexander, whose sister is former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander, was elected as an MP in 1997 and served in both the Blair and Brown governments as a minister of state in the Department of Trade and Industry, the Cabinet Office – in which he became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before becoming Secretary of State for Scotland. He went on to become transport and then international development secretary. When Labour lost the 2010 general election, he chaired David Miliband’s leadership campaign, which ended with David’s brother Ed Miliband as party leader instead.  

The boundaries for Alexander’s target seat have changed since the 2019 election. However, it has swung between Labour and the SNP in each of the past four elections.  

Richard Baker

An ex-MSP rather than MP, Labour candidate Baker aims to win Glenrothes and Mid-Fife. 

Husband to Claire Baker MSP, he served in the Scottish Parliament as a representative for the North East from 2003 until 2016, when he stepped down to take up a role with the charity Age Scotland in what was seen as a surprise move. Once the chief whip for the parliament’s Labour group, he was also a spokesperson on higher education, parliamentary business, justice, sustainable growth, finance, employment and infrastructure – meaning he’s been across a few portfolios in his time. 

Baker, who once ran to become deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, has stood for Westminster before, losing out to the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman in Aberdeen North in 2015. 

Formed in the most recent boundaries review, Glenrothes and Mid-Fife takes in most of what was once the Glenrothes constituency, a slice of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and a fraction of North East Fife. Peter Grant won Glenrothes for the SNP last time around, when voter turnout was north of 63 per cent. 

Jim Eadie

With a background in healthcare, Jim Eadie spent one term as SNP MSP for Edinburgh Southern from 2011 to 2016, when he was defeated at the polls by Labour challenger Daniel Johnson. Eadie’s vote share actually increased in that election compared to the 2011 contest, which may or may not have been much of a silver lining. 

During his time in Holyrood he became parliamentary liaison officer to the first minister, serving also on a number of committees. He stood for Westminster in 2017, coming second to Labour’s Ian Murray. That too was under an SNP banner. But Eadie has since left that party for Alex Salmond’s Alba, which he joined in 2021. Making the switch, Eadie – who, like Baker, also worked for Age Scotland – said the SNP had deprioritised independence. He was Alba’s third-placed candidate on the list for Mid Scotland and Fife and is now running in Rutherglen. 

The central belt seat, which has also undergone a shift in boundaries, turned red in a 2023 by-election called under extraordinary circumstances – the recall of its MP Margaret Ferrier, who had been found to have breached parliamentary standards in a Covid travel scandal. Ferrier had been elected as an SNP member, but was ejected as an independent, having lost the party whip over the row. Any successful challenger here will have to overturn a majority of around 9,500. 

Patricia Ferguson 

Another former MSP, the Labour candidate for Glasgow West was one of Holyrood’s ‘99ers’, elected in the very first parliament of the devolution era. That was for Glasgow Maryhill, which does not come under the scope of the newly drawn Westminster seat she’s now fighting for. 

Ferguson, a trade unionist, served what had by then become the Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn constituency until 2016, when the SNP’s Bob Doris achieved almost 56 per cent of the vote. By then, she had taken on a huge array of roles, from deputy presiding officer to convener of the Scottish Commission for Public Audit. Ferguson became Minister for Parliamentary Business under Henry McLeish and then again for Jack McConnell, who later made her Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport. When Labour lost power, she held a variety of spokesperson roles, covering variously Europe and external relations, culture and the Commonwealth Games. 

A new constituency, Glasgow West is formed from parts of what were the Glasgow North and Glasgow North West seats. The entire city has been in SNP hands in recent years, but polling suggests that is about to change. Work by YouGov suggests it is on the cusp of a return to Red Clydeside, with Labour MPs in every area. Ferguson knows the city well – she’s been a local councillor there for several years. 

George Kerevan

Journalist George Kerevan has history in East Lothian – after all, he was its MP from 2015 until the snap general election of 2017. Now he is seeking election to its successor seat of Lothian East, but much has changed. Not only is he looking at a new set of boundaries, with the western part of Musselburgh outwith the constituency bounds, he’s also swapped his rosette. Once an SNP politician, Kerevan – a critic of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership who said she’d acted to “neuter” the independence movement – left his former party for Alba in 2021.  

This is another area which has swung between Labour and the SNP at every time of asking since 2010. And as one of the two seats held by Alba, it is of particular importance to that party. MacAskill’s majority in 2019 was almost 3,900. But in the election before that, Labour’s majority was around 3,100. This is no safe seat, so can Kerevan – the former associate editor of The Scotsman – keep it for Alba? 

Pamela Nash

At 25, Pamela Nash was the Baby of the House of Commons when she was elected to represent Airdrie and Shotts in 2010, succeeding Labour heavyweight John Reid as he retired. She lost the seat to the SNP’s Neil Gray in 2015, going on to become chief executive of the pro-Union campaign group Scotland in Union. As well as promoting the constitutional status quo, it advocates tactical voting against the SNP to minimise pro-independence representation in the Commons. 

Now Nash is the Labour candidate for Motherwell, Wishaw and Carluke. The new Lanarkshire seat takes in much of the area which has until now been held by Marion Fellows of the SNP, and some which was part of neighbouring Lanark and Hamilton East. Fellows has been an MP for nine years and increased her majority at the last time of asking. But current predictions are that this will not be enough to keep her in post against a resurgent Labour, meaning Nash may well make a return to the green benches. 

Corri Wilson

Another candidate who has switched from the SNP to Alba, Corri Wilson was MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock for a two-year period starting in 2015. Her defection to Alba came in 2021, and her son-in-law Chris Cullen, who sits on South Ayrshire Council, followed suit. 

A psychology graduate, Wilson lost her seat to Conservative candidate Bill Grant in the snap 2017 vote and will now try to win the post back on 4 July. This is one area of Scotland where the boundaries are largely unchanged, and incumbent Allan Dorans, a policeman-turned-politician, aims to retain it for the SNP. If current predictions prove correct, though, neither will come top of the poll. Analysts currently favour Labour for the seat.  

As in all seats, voter turnout will be key. Who will get their vote out most successfully? Who will sway the undecideds? And who will have ensured their supporters are fully registered and prepared to vote with postals, proxies and voter ID, as required? In this election, it’s about more than simple sloganeering.

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