I'm backing SNP's MacAskill, says Labour campaigner

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A FORMER Labour party stalwart is backing the SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in his fight to hold on to his Edinburgh seat at the Scottish Parliament elections.

&#149 Phyllis Herriot with Kenny MacAskill

Veteran campaigner Phyllis Herriot, who was once Labour group leader on Lothian Regional Council, said she was supporting Mr MacAskill because he had proved himself "an excellent MSP".

Mr MacAskill won Edinburgh East & Musselburgh - previously a safe Labour seat - at the last Holyrood election with a majority of 1382.

His attempt to hang on to the redrawn Edinburgh Eastern constituency in May is set to be one of the highest-profile and most-closely fought contests in the country as he seeks to fend off a challenge from Labour candidate, former city council leader Ewan Aitken.

Mrs Herriot, 84, who is active in pensioner and community organisations, said she had no plans to join the SNP but was delighted to back Mr MacAskill.

She said: "He has been an excellent MSP and he is a hard worker.

"Any people I have referred to him, he has gone into their whole problem and attended to it. I'm very impressed with his work."

She also backed his decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi. "These things are always difficult, but he was acting on humanitarian grounds and I don't think he had a lot of choice."

The SNP is trumpeting Mrs Herriot's support in a leaflet being distributed in the constituency. A photograph of Mrs Herriot with Mr MacAskill appears on the front.

It describes her as "a well-kent face in East Edinburgh" and praises her "tireless campaigning for the community throughout her life".

It quotes her saying: "Kenny is my MSP and I think he's doing a great job for the area. I know Kenny believes in our community and that's why I believe in him. In May I'll be voting for Kenny"

Mrs Herriot, who was awarded an MBE in 2009, was a councillor in Edinburgh for 15 years until 1982, first as a member of the old town council and then on Lothian Regional Council. She was Labour group leader in Lothian for three years and social work convener for more than a decade.

She said she had quit the Labour Party over the Iraq war.

"I resigned from the Labour Party, so they can't say I'm betraying them. They have betrayed themselves on Iraq and everything else."

She added there were still good people in the Labour Party, not least the veteran former Edinburgh East MP: "I'm a great Gavin Strang supporter - always have been"

Mr MacAskill said: "I am delighted that Phyllis Herriot is backing me.

"She is a wonderful woman who has done great service to this city. Phyllis is widely respected in the Edinburgh community for her long-standing and tireless campaigning for just causes and it's great she is on my side."