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Angus Robertson and Joanna Cherry to go head to head for Edinburgh Central nomination

Joanna Cherry outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh - Image credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Angus Robertson and Joanna Cherry to go head to head for Edinburgh Central nomination

Two SNP heavyweights are to go head to head to be chosen as the party’s candidate for Edinburgh Central in next year’s Holyrood election.

Former SNP depute leader Angus Robertson and Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry have both announced that they want to fight the seat currently held by former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

Announcing her nomination on Sunday, Cherry suggested she would be of more use to the independence movement in Holyrood than at Westminster.

She said: “With a large Tory majority across England, the UK is firmly set on a hard Tory agenda for the next decade.

“Scotland will be completely ignored at Westminster, the movement for Scotland to be an independent European nation can only be realised from Holyrood and I want to offer my services where I think they can be of most use.”

Robertson, who was the SNP’s Westminster leader as well as the party’s depute leader until he lost his Moray seat in 2017, announced last week that he intended to put himself forward for selection.

Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News, Robertson said his “national profile, public and private sector experience” and knowledge of the city would enable him to be a “strong voice at Holyrood.

He also emphasised that he would be “a full-time MSP” in a dig at Ruth Davidson, who took a PR job while sitting as an MSP and is now tipped for the House of Lords.

Robertson said: “Edinburgh Central needs an MSP that has a full-time commitment to their constituents and constituency, and the SNP needs a full-time candidate to win this important seat.

“I believe I am best placed to be that candidate. I will not pretend to ­constituents that I can be in two places at the same time.”

But on Sunday, Robertson tweeted a comment, thought to be directed at Cherry, that as Edinburgh Central is a marginal seat, the SNP needed “a full-time candidate”, emphasising his “full-time commitment”.

Cherry, who is the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on home affairs, would be fighting the seat while still a sitting MP at Westminster, but she has said she will stand down as an MP if she wins the Holyrood seat.

Both Robertson and Cherry emphasised their local connection, with Robertson noting that he grew up in the constituency and attended the local school, Broughton High School, while Cherry currently lives in Edinburgh Central and part of it falls within her Edinburgh South West Westminster constituency.

However, they come from different parts of the party in terms of views on how to achieve independence.

Robertson is likely to back Nicola Sturgeon’s call to concentrate on building support for independence and persuading Westminster to agree to a second independence referendum, while Cherry has suggested the Scottish Parliament should try to move things forward by publishing a bill to hold a referendum and wait for Boris Johnson to challenge it legally.

With a majority of only 610, Edinburgh Central is a key marginal seat that will be targeted by the SNP next year.

Ruth Davidson won the seat from the SNP in 2016, who in turn had won it from Labour in 2011 by 237 votes.

Davidson has indicated she intends to stand down as an MSP at the next election in 2021, leaving an opportunity for the SNP to fight against a lesser-known Tory candidate.

However, the formal selection process for new SNP candidates is not expected to begin until April and other people may also put themselves forward to stand once nominations are open.

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