Marco Biagi to face Angus Robertson in bid to be SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central

Marco Biagi announced he plans to seek the nomination for Edinburgh Central.
Marco Biagi will stand for selection to be the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central.Marco Biagi will stand for selection to be the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central.
Marco Biagi will stand for selection to be the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central.

An ex-Scottish Government minister will go up against a former depute leader of the SNP for the party's nomination in a key Capital seat at next year's Holyrood election.

Marco Biagi announced he plans to seek the nomination for Edinburgh Central, the seat he held between 2011 and 2016.

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Angus Robertson, who was depute leader of the party until 2018, having lost his seat in the Commons at the 2017 general election, also plans to stand in the constituency.

Former local government minister Mr Biagi stood down from Holyrood for health reasons, but said he has been persuaded to stand again.

Announcing his decision, Mr Biagi tweeted: "Edinburgh Central SNP needs a candidate who can bring members together; one who knows the constituency and its issues inside-out.

"Above all, we deserve choice. Activists have been asking me to stand again for the seat I used to represent. I have now agreed to put my name forward."

His decision comes a day after SNP MP Joanna Cherry said she will not be running for Holyrood in next year's election barring a change in circumstances, having previously said she wanted to contest Edinburgh Central, blaming a "particularly unreasonable" demand from the party.

Writing in The National, Mr Biagi said: “I believe we desperately need a candidate who can bring activists back together. The local members who have encouraged me to come forward include many former supporters of both Joanna Cherry and Angus Robertson. I hope that by entering the process I can reassure all that democracy is indeed alive and well in the party."

He added: “We need someone who can contribute like this to the ongoing debates of the party – not least the need to maintain impetus behind the push toward our ultimate goal – and do so constructively. To this end, I offer myself as a unity candidate, beholden to no factions other than the cause of independence.”

It comes after suggestions that the SNP's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) could bring in a new requirement for sitting MPs wishing to stand for Holyrood to secure at least £10,000 of funding towards the subsequent by-election campaign.

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It is further reported that any MP who wants to stand for Holyrood will have to resign their seat before the Scottish election.

With politicians such as Alex Salmond having previously served as both an MP and an MSP, Ms Cherry said: "It is unprecedented in our party's history of dual mandates to demand that a parliamentarian make themselves and their constituency staff unemployed in order to be eligible to be a candidate.

"It is particularly unreasonable to demand this in the middle of a pandemic. I am not prepared to do it and so unless circumstances change, I won't be seeking nomination for Holyrood in this election."

An SNP spokesman said: "The NEC backed an approach that will guarantee constituents a full-time commitment from day one, and minimise the disruption to voters."

SNP branch members in Edinburgh Central will choose the party's candidate for the seat - currently held by former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

She is stepping down from Holyrood next year to join the House of Lords and the seat is a key target for Nicola Sturgeon's party as it bids to win a record fourth term in power at Holyrood.

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