While English and Welsh seats are being sifted into target and non-target, and shortlists compiled for the former group, the Scottish Conservatives have got an early headstart in the process of selecting their candidates for the General Election.
John Lamont MSP was reselected last night to fight the Borders seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (BR&S) – Lamont stood there in 2005, 2010 and 2015, being pipped to the post by the SNP at the last General Election by just 328 votes. He currently holds the overlapping seat in the Scottish Parliament, and BR&S is the most marginal Westminster seat in Scotland, so it’s easy to see why they’ve reselected someone with a local track record and name recognition on the doorstep.
What’s also notable is the way in which the Scottish Conservatives have been able to make this selection so quickly: Lamont was the only candidate up for selection.
Whereas in England and Wales there’s a competitive process for most Tory-held and target seats (unless CCHQ and the Association agree to automatically reselect the 2015 candidate), the Scottish Conservatives have opted to make it the norm to offer every association a single, centrally chosen candidate.
Any local association has the right to reject that offer and go for the longer competitive route, but, to quote the Scottish rules:
“It will be emphasised to the association chairman that the process needs to be as efficient as possible and [approving a nominated single candidate] is the preferred option for selection.” [The full rules, sent to Scottish candidates a few days ago, are published at the foot of this article.]
This allows an even swifter selection process – and, of course, even greater control by the leadership – than is the case elsewhere in the country. Many candidates have already been chosen by the Scottish Conservative Candidates’ Board, and have been accepted in principle by local associations, meaning a lot of single-candidate approval meetings are going to take place today and tomorrow.
For example, all five Edinburgh constituencies will be meeting to vote for their proposed candidates this afternoon, in back-to-back meetings. Those up for selection in Edinburgh are as follows:
- Edinburgh East: Katie Mackie – who fought Falkirk in 2010.
- Edinburgh North and Leith: Iain McGill – who fought the same seat in 2010 and 2015, and the equivalent Scottish Parliament seat in 2016, and stood for the European Parliament in Scotland in 2014.
- Edinburgh South: Cllr Joanna Mowat – an Edinburgh City Councillor, who is defending City Centre ward in the forthcoming local elections.
- Edinburgh South West: Miles Briggs MSP – Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothian region, who contested North East Fife in 2010 and Edinburgh South in 2015, before running in the Edinburgh Southern constituency in the 2016 Holyrood elections.
- Edinburgh West: Steph Smith – who is standing in Edinburgh City Council’s Liberton/Gilberton ward in the forthcoming local elections.
Others nominated include:
- Aberdeen South: Ross Thomson MSP – Member of the Scottish Parliament for the North East Scotland region, who secured a 19 per cent increase in the Conservative vote last year in the overlapping Aberdeen South and North Kincardine Scottish Parliament constituency, and stood for Westminster in Gordon in 2010.
- Moray: Douglas Ross MSP – Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Highlands and Islands region, who stood against Angus Robertson for the Westminster Moray seat in 2010 and 2015 and fought the Moray Scottish parliament seat in 2011 and 2016, gaining an 18 point increase in the Conservative vote there last year.
- Perth and North Perthshire: Ian Duncan MEP – Member of the European Parliament for Scotland since 2014, and who has written several times for this site.
With the Sunday Times reporting that the Scottish Conservatives are now on over 30 per cent in the latest polls – estimated by John Curtice to be enough to take as many as 12 seats – these are exciting times for Ruth Davidson’s party. No doubt we’ll hear a lot more candidate names very soon.
Full Scottish Conservatives General Election 2017 Selection Rules
‘1. The Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Candidates’ Board (SCCB) in conjunction with Chairman of the Party and the Director of The Party in Scotland will agree a list of people to be asked to stand as candidates. This will include those already on the Approved Candidate List.
2. To stand in any constituency the candidate must be an Approved Candidate.
3. The Secretary to the SCCB will ascertain whether individuals on that list are willing to stand and particular seats they are interested in.
4. The Director will then take initial soundings from constituency chairmen, and where there is a match the association will adopt that candidate at a General Meeting held within four working days. Scottish Conservative Central Office (SCCO) will send notice of said meeting to all qualifying members by first class post.
5. Where there is more than one suitable and interested candidate there may be a contest. The successful candidate will be selected by General Meeting of qualifying members. SCCO will send notice of said meeting to all qualifying members by first class mail. No more than two candidates may go forward to a General Meeting.
6. It will be emphasised to the association chairman that the process needs to be as efficient as possible and point 4) is the preferred option for selection.
7. The Management Board shall have the final say on all these matters to ensure all 59 candidates are selected within 10 days of the election being called.’