Five key SNP battlegrounds to watch as candidate selections announced

The SNP could take every constituency seat in Scotland and with many MSPs retiring, here are the selection battlegrounds to watch.

Edinburgh Central

The most high profile of the selection battles after Joanna Cherry pulled out of a potential race to the finish line with Angus Robertson after the SNP’s national executive changed the rules so that any MP would have to resign their seat if they wished to be selected for Holyrood.

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Ms Cherry has said this “hobbled” her, but Marco Biagi – a former MSP for the constituency before it was lost to the Scottish Conservatives in 2016 and well-liked by grassroots activists – has put his name forward instead and is the closest challenger to Mr Robertson.

Key candidate selection choices are due to be announced by the SNP today.
Key candidate selection choices are due to be announced by the SNP today.

Mr Robertson is viewed by some as a potential successor to Nicola Sturgeon and is a firm ally, but the race has highlighted some of the internal strife facing the SNP.

Whoever wins will have the target of unseating whoever is chosen to replace former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in the seat that is home to Holyrood itself. No pressure then.

Argyll and Bute

The potential replacement for Constitution Secretary Michael Russell will be decided following a bitter internal party war between local SNP activists and councillors.

It has already seen one potential candidate, councillor for the Oban and Lorn ward Julie McKenzie, quit the race having “lost faith in due process”.

Rhiannon Spear, a Glasgow City councillor who also sits on the SNP’s NEC as the national women’s convener, is the most high profile of the remaining candidates.

However, the winner could also come from one of Islay accountant Jenni Minto, designer Breege Smyth, from North Connel, and teacher Sarah Fanet, from Kinlochleven, if members reject Ms Spear.

Greenock and Inverclyde

A classic example of the civil war raging inside the party.

Christopher McEleny, a councillor in Inverclyde, is attempting to deselect sitting MSP Stuart McMillan, who has been in Holyrood since 2007.

Mr McEleny gained notoriety in 2019 after he was booed on the stage of the SNP conference for suggesting an SNP majority at the Scottish Parliament election in 2021 would be enough to be considered a mandate for independence, rather than just a second referendum.

His selection ahead of a sitting MSP would suggest a shift towards a more fundamentalist SNP membership.

Dunfermline

A key ally to Nicola Sturgeon and a current government minister in her role as Social Security Secretary, the potential loss of Shirley-Anne Somerville would be a blow to the First Minister in her attempt to re-consolidate control after the retirement of so many ministers.

Challenged by her 2016 election agent, Rob Thompson, the selection battle is another example of the internal SNP civil war that could deselect a high profile Sturgeon ally.

Cunningame North

Incumbent MSP Kenneth Gibson faces a challenge from activist Osama Bhutta – who is a former aide to Alex Salmond – and ex-MP Corri Wilson, who lost her seat in Westminster in 2017.

Mr Gibson is under investigation by the SNP over allegations he bullied members of his local branch, claims he strongly denies.

Neither Mr Bhutta or Ms Wilson accepted an invitation to join an online hustings due to Mr Gibson’s presence such is the division over the issue.

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