THE SNP’s aim for Scotland to be an independent European nation can now only be realised from Holyrood, Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry has said.
In an article headed “Why I’m standing to be MSP for Edinburgh Central” she said in the wake of Boris Johnson’s general election victory, Scottish interests were “ignored or ridiculed” at Westminster.
She said: “I want to offer my services where I think they will be of most use.”
And, writing in The National, she claimed she was already shouldering a growing workload for Edinburgh Central because the current MSP, former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson was “largely absent from the constituency”.
Ms Cherry announced last weekend she would put her name forward to become the candidate in Edinburgh Central at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections. Her declaration came just days after the SNP’s former Westminster leader Angus Robertson said he would be seeking the nomination in the same seat.
The contest between the two senior party figures, both of whom have been mentioned as possible successors to Nicola Sturgeon, is being seen as a battle over the future direction of the SNP. Mr Robertson is a key ally of the First Minister while Ms Cherry has pressed for a bolder approach on a second independence referendum.
In a separate article for The Times, Ms Cherry argued the Lord Advocate, as Scotland’s chief legal officer, should “proactively” refer a Bill for a new independence referendum to the Supreme Court.
"If they found the bill to be within competence, then the legality of the referendum would be beyond doubt," she wrote. "If they did not then I do not believe we would be any further back than we are now.”
In her National piece, Ms Cherry said despite scoring “an emphatic win” in the general election, it had not succeeded in locking Boris out of Downing Street.
“With a large Tory majority across England, the UK is now set firmly on a hard Tory agenda for the next decade. Scottish interests are ignored or ridiculed at Westminster. The movement for Scotland to be an independent European nation can only be realised from Holyrood.”
And she said: “Competition for candidacy is a healthy part of our democracy and our party. Just as no one questions that it is good for our democracy to debate ideas, so it is good for the SNP to do so.”
Ms Cherry pointed out Edinburgh Central overlapped a considerable part of her Westminster seat, including Gorgie, Dalry, Haymarket, Fountainbridge and part of Bruntsfield/Tollcross.
And she went on: “Since the SNP lost the Holyrood seat to the Tories in 2016, the workload for me and my team has increased because Ruth Davidson is largely absent from the constituency, does not hold surgeries or provide the kind of help and support that I do.
“My weekly surgeries and my mailbox are full of people who have concerns which their MSP should be addressing at Holyrood. So over this time, I have built up a knowledge of devolved issues.
“Unlike Ms Davidson, I have proved that it is possible to have a high profile on the national stage while also working hard in the constituency. My victories over the Tories in the 2017 and 2019 General Elections are testament to my reputation as a hard worker who gets things done. My seat was one of the top Tory targets in 2017, yet I held on through hard work and bucked the national trend with a majority of 1097. At last year’s election I increased that majority to nearly 12,000.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "Joanna Cherry is clearly rattled by the backlash she's received for telling her Edinburgh South West constituents she wants to quit just two months after re-election, but she really should know better than to spread blatant untruths.
“Ruth is a diligent constituency MSP who holds multiple surgeries a month and whose constituency staff do a power of work on behalf of Edinburgh Central residents. It's Ruth's capacity for hard work which helped her win the Edinburgh Central seat off the SNP in the first place."
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said the Lord Advocate testing Holyrood’s powers to hold a referendum on independence would waste tens of thousands of pounds of public money.
She added: “Joanna Cherry is so desperate for Nicola Sturgeon’s job that she is proposing this to win favour with a hardcore minority of nationalists, and clearly doesn’t care about stripping cash from public services to pay for it.”