The Liberal Democrats became the third main party to announce they have selected a woman to stand in the Dunfermline by-election, with Fife councillor Susan Leslie to lead the party’s fight.
The decision follows pressure on the main parties to choose a woman in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding Bill Walker, who quit the seat after being found guilty of a string of assaults on his former wives. Labour and the SNP have already selected female candidates to contest the seat.
The selection was formally announced by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore in his speech to Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow yesterday. Ms Leslie is a university lecturer who was elected as a councillor in 2007.
She said she will “get things done” for the area if elected. “We need action on the Victoria and Queen Margaret hospitals, action to create more jobs, improved childcare and a reversal of the cuts to the college,” she said. “The SNP have let the area down.”
Ms Leslie has pledged to work with Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie at Holyrood to make sure Dunfermline and West Fife “gets the service it deserves”.
Mr Rennie said: “Susan’s record and commitment to Fife is impressive. We’re going to work hard for every vote and remind people how powerful a force Lib Dems are for their community.”
Calls for the parties to select their candidate from all-women shortlists were first made by Susan Dalgety, a former spokeswoman to ex-Labour first minister Lord McConnell, and independence campaigner Kate Higgins in The Scotsman.
In a joint article, they said the move would send out a “strong message” about the role of women in society and politics.
Labour has selected Fife councillor Cara Hilton to stand and the SNP has selected former Lothian MSP Shirley-Ann Somerville. The Conservatives have chosen James Reekie to stand in the seat with party leader Ruth Davidson insisting she wanted the best candidate regardless of gender. The by-election will be held on 24 October.
Walker, 71, was elected on the SNP ticket in 2011. He will be sentenced tomorrow after a trial earlier this year resulted in
23 convictions, including assaults on his ex-wives.
The row surrounding his candidacy looks set to feature heavily in the campaign with rivals claiming the SNP did not do enough to investigate his past, after it emerged relatives of one of his ex-wives warned the party about his abusive background.
Labour immediately called on Ms Somerville to apologise over Walker’s selection.