Ex-Scottish minister to contest Edinburgh Central seat

Marco Biagi plans to go up against former SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson for the key Holyrood seat.

Ex-Scottish Government minister Marco Biagi will go up against Angus Robertson for the SNP nomination in a key seat at next year’s Holyrood election.

Biagi announced he plans to seek the nomination for Edinburgh Central, the seat he held between 2011 and 2016.

Angus Robertson, who was depute leader of the party until 2018, having lost his seat in the Commons at the 2017 general election, also plans to stand in the constituency.

Former local government minister Biagi stood down from Holyrood for health reasons but said he has been persuaded to stand again.

Ruth Davidson won the seat for the Scottish Conservatives in the 2016 election.

She is stepping down from Holyrood next year to join the House of Lords and the seat is a key target for Nicola Sturgeon’s party as it bids to win a record fourth term in power.

Announcing his decision, Biagi tweeted: “Edinburgh Central SNP needs a candidate who can bring members together; one who knows the constituency and its issues inside-out.

“Above all, we deserve choice. Activists have been asking me to stand again for the seat I used to represent. I have now agreed to put my name forward.”

His decision comes a day after SNP MP Joanna Cherry said she will not be running for Holyrood, having previously said she wanted to contest Edinburgh Central.

It follows the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) suggesting it could bring in a new requirement for sitting MPs wishing to stand as an MSP to secure at least £10,000 of funding towards the subsequent by-election campaign.

It is further reported that any MP who wants to stand for Holyrood will have to resign their seat before the Scottish election.

Cherry said that would make it “impossible” for there to be a “fair and open contest” to select a candidate for the constituency.

With politicians such as Alex Salmond having previously served as both an MP and an MSP, she said: “It is unprecedented in our party’s history of dual mandates to demand that a parliamentarian make themselves and their constituency staff unemployed in order to be eligible to be a candidate.

“It is particularly unreasonable to demand this in the middle of a pandemic.

“I am not prepared to do it and so unless circumstances change, I won’t be seeking nomination for Holyrood in this election.”

Robertson criticised the NEC over Cherry’s effective exclusion, saying local SNP members “have been let down with some feeling their choices being restricted”.

He added: “The SNP NEC has made the wrong decision and must ensure the widest and fairest contest.

“We need the best candidate to win the nomination without any interference.

“As former SNP depute leader and business convener of the party it disappoints me that we are distracted from delivering independence.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The NEC backed an approach that will guarantee constituents a full-time commitment from day one, and minimise the disruption to voters.”

It comes after the party’s NEC reverse another controversial selection decision in the seat of Glasgow Cathcart.

Current MSP James Dornan announced in February he would not be standing for re-election in the 2021 Holyrood contest, but changed his mind last month.

This week, the NEC decided to apply an all-women shortlist rule to his seat, reportedly due to Dornan’s relatively late shift in position.

Dornan said he had since been informed that the “ludicrous” decision had been reversed as it had been “deemed unconstitutional”.

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