Five open questions for Edinburgh North and Leith candidates

Signposts of the Water of Leith walkway

Dear Deidre Brock, Gordon Munro, Iain McGill, Lorna Slater and Martin Veart. We would be delighted if you would take part in our friendly online local hustings.

We understand that as candidates for Edinburgh North and Leith you will be working all hours of the day and night in the short time left before the general election on 8 June.

But we would love to learn a little bit more about you and why you are standing for election. There has probably never been a more challenging time for our elected representatives. Many voters do not get the chance to meet their local candidates face to face, and it is often difficult to see the real person beneath the media stereotype.

The aim of this simple questionnaire is to provide an opportunity for you to share your political and personal motivations and inspirations – and for us to meet the human individual who is taking the risk of standing for election and asking for our votes.

Questions

  1. What are the most important issues for people in the constituency? Name, perhaps, three.
  2. How would you use your seat in Westminster to address local issues, using powers not held by the Scottish Parliament?
  3. What or who motivated you to become a politician – were you inspired by anyone in particular and if so what did you admire about them?
  4. Being an MP is a hugely demanding job, how do you like to unwind, relax and recharge your batteries?
  5. Can you share with us a quotation from a favourite poem or song?

Answers can be short and simple – or a little longer if you have time. You can post them as comments or send as a reply to our email. We will publish them here with links to your campaign pages and social media profiles.

Our five local candidates are

[in alphabetical order of first name]

Deidre Brock SNP, standing for re-election after winning the seat from Labour’s Mark Lazarowicz in May 2015 @DeidreBrock

Gordon Munro  Labour, local councillor since 2003, re-elected Leith Ward 4 May 2017  @GJMunro26

Iain McGill Conservative, stood for Westminster in 2010 and 2015, and Scottish Parliament in 2016 @IainMcGill

Lorna Slater Green, engineering project manager, standing for election for the first time @lornagreens

Martin Veart LibDem, formerly employed oil and gas industry, studying for MSc Heriot Watt @Martin_Veart

PS: See below a reminder of reserved and devolved powers (see more on ScotGov website), though it’s important to remember that Scotland will be gaining new powers over welfare spending and delivery.

6 thoughts on “Five open questions for Edinburgh North and Leith candidates”

  1. What are the most important issues for people in the constituency? Name, perhaps, three.

    The number one issue is the threat of another independence referendum – if people back it they’re voting SNP, if they don’t back it they’re voting Conservative.

    Second issue is Brexit – there’s a straight choice – either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn (propped up by Sturgeon) will be at the negotiating table getting a deal for Britain. I know who I trust…

    Third is work that pays. Employment is up 2.9million since the 2010 general election, we’ve taken the lowest paid 1.3milion out of paying tax all together & boosted wages through the new living wage – at the moment worth an extra £1,400 to people on it.

    How would you use your seat in Westminster to address local issues, using powers not held by the Scottish Parliament?

    I’d be using my position, profile, resources and skills to bring change across the constituency & across powers held by council, Scottish parliament & Westminster. An example would be around homelessness – what’s not productive is the shrugging their shoulders & blaming MSPs, MSPs blaming MPs & MPs blaming Councillors – all have the powers to end homelessness – and working together we can – I’ll be working positively across levels of Government & party political splits to end rough sleeping in Edinburgh.

    What or who motivated you to become a politician – were you inspired by anyone in particular and if so what did you admire about them?

    I’ve been motivated and inspired by anyone who ever told me I’d never amount to much, by everybody who ever said that it was to hard to get involved in politics, that parties did not need ordinary working people like myself. I knew that was not true, and I enjoy proving it. Politics is great, and accessible to all – I’d urge you to get involved!
    My motivation was much more to do with seeing were things where going wrong – my backgrounds international aid & development, then working in care & support work in Edinburgh – and constantly seeing campaigns to petition your MP on this or that, demonstrate here or there, I thought to myself if I’m so hacked off about the decisions they make affecting people’s life’s that it might be easier & more productive to kick them out and become the MP myself…

    Being an MP is a hugely demanding job, how do you like to unwind, relax and recharge your batteries?

    Scuba diving is my favourite thing. Nothing relaxes me like being underwater. I’d dive in a muddy puddle if it was the only water around. Thankfully we’ve fantastic diving down in Eyemouth/St Abbs not far from here, and tons of wrecks in Forth.
    Football is also my thing, I follow Hearts home & away, and referee as well to keep fit, and give something back to the game and stay involved. I’ve refereed at every Homeless World Cup since 2005 with it was in Edinburgh – it’s my favourite bit of refereeing.

    Can you share with us a quotation from a favourite poem or song?

    You can get it if you really want
    You can get it if you really want
    You can get it if you really want
    But you must try, try and try, try and try …

  2. Gordon Munro Open Space

    1- the most important issue is poverty . We have 42,100people in work in poverty in this city . We have pensioner poverty , we have fuel poverty , we have nurses using Food banks and 21% of all children in this city are growing up in poverty .
    Secondly we need our Governments to govern . Both Westminster and Holyrood are fixated on different forms of nationalism and while they argue poverty has increased and literacy in schools is dropping and our public services need fully funded .
    Thirdly we need more equality . There are great income gaps here and most working people pay their taxes via PAYE but companies that we buy services from dodge their tax responsibilities . This is money stolen from public services such as schools , hospitals and care for the elderly .

    2- I would use the seat to make sure that benefits and social security are not cut and perform the role that was intended when they were introduced to protect the vulnerable . I would also work to make sure that we creat employment opportunities that are socially useful and rewarding such as the possibilities presented by low carbon energy projects .

    3- I was motivated as a worker who saw workers rights being taken away by the Tory Government of the early 1980’s and chose to join the Labour Party in 1982. Joe Strummer was a big influence on me . He has a great saying ” Without people you’re nothing.”

    4- I like to unwind by reading , swimming , walking, cycling and following Hibernian FC.

    5- ” Most people ignore most poetry as most poetry ignores most people ” . The late great Adrian Mitchell.

  3. What are the most important issues for people in the constituency? Name, perhaps, three.

    I’ve knocked on a lot of doors during the local authority election campaign and there are three main concerns that I keep hearing 1)The increasing costs of rent and availability of housing 2) The quality of life in the area including parks and facilities like libraries, rough sleepers, dirty streets, air-bnbs taking over stairwells, pollution along Leith Walk 3) The complexity and incompentance of the welfare system, having to call premium numbers when the DWP makes a mistake with your paperwork, poorly worded letters, people being housed in BnBs for months and years, even with small children & babies and mistake after mistake leading people to be fearful of keeping a roof over their head and having adequate heat and food.

    How would you use your seat in Westminster to address local issues, using powers not held by the Scottish Parliament?

    I would fight to abolish the bedroom tax and reform our chaotic welfare system. Social security should make people feel secure and hopeful, not terrified. It should be a helping hand to get people back on their feet, not a punishment without end. I would work for a univeral basic income as an entitlement for everyone. A security net that cannot be taken away. A universal basic income is the only way to redistribute wealth in an economy that increasingly relies on automation meaning companies make ever greater profits without having to pay employees. I would pay for this by stopping the tax cuts for the rich and their mega-inheritances, cracking down on off shore tax havens and ensuring corporate transparency and accountability. I would fight against spending another penny on the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station or on Trident.

    What or who motivated you to become a politician – were you inspired by anyone in particular and if so what did you admire about them?

    I never lost my youthful desire to make a difference in the world and to tackle the big issues such as climate change and injustice. In a democracy, politics is the way to make the changes to the world that you want to see. I am inspired by the 4 core principles of the International Green Movement: peace, equality, sustainability and grassroots democracy.

    Being an MP is a hugely demanding job, how do you like to unwind, relax and recharge your batteries?

    I take aerial classes at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith, in silks and static trapeze. It is such a relief to be able to be terrible at something, when it is so important that I’m really good at my job the rest of the time.

    Can you share with us a quotation from a favourite poem or song?

    My favourite quotation is from a Douglas Adams book and is relevant to my job as an engineer: “When something that cannot possibly go wrong, goes wrong, it usually proves impossible to get at or repair.”

  4. Questions
    1. What are the most important issues for people in the constituency? Name, perhaps, three.
    2. How would you use your seat in Westminster to address local issues, using powers not held by the Scottish Parliament?
    3. What or who motivated you to become a politician – were you inspired by anyone in particular and if so what did you admire about them?
    4. Being an MP is a hugely demanding job, how do you like to unwind, relax and recharge your batteries?
    5. Can you share with us a quotation from a favourite poem or song?

    1. Like most places, the major concerns of Edinburgh North and Leith are health, housing and education. With housing, we need about 5,000 new houses city-wide. I know folk who work in the city but cannot afford to live here. Young people can no longer afford to get on the property ladder and homelessness is increasing. What housing there is, is often old and needs upgrading, both the save energy (cutting CO2 output) and save people money on their bills.
    With health care, our GP services are under increasing strain and we need to ensure that new housing sees an increase in medical services. We have many elderly people that require better care in their own homes but instead these services are being cut. Likewise education: college places have been cut across Scotland. Although there has been a rise in full-time courses aimed at the 18-25 year age group, many part-time places has been cut, effectively ending Scotland’s tradition of life-long learning.

    2. Theresa May called this election to gain support for her vision of an uncompromising departure from the European Union – the so-called “hard Brexit.” Edinburgh is a welcoming and international-facing city with the vast majority of us voting to stay with the EU. I am standing to oppose the Brexitiers’ vision of an isolated Britain and the SNP vision of a divided UK. Regardless of what happens in the future, it does not make sense for Scotland to have barriers with either the rest of the United Kingdom or the European Union. Liberal Democrats would protect the rights of Scottish people to work and live across the EU and the rights of the EU citizens already here. People are not pawns to be traded in some game. Our young people should have the same opportunities to work, study and travel abroad as I, and many others, have enjoyed.

    The Liberal Democrat commitment to raise income tax by a penny, and ring-fence that for spending on the NHS, will see more money delivered for Scotland overall. Unlike over parties, our spending plans are costed and realistic.

    3. There are two reactions to trouble: duck for cover or stand up and tackle the problem. A lot of people in politics, regardless of party, react in the latter way. You see something wrong: you want to fix it. I guess my political awareness started early but formed when I became aware of the disjoint between what is said and what is delivered. Britain is a pretty good place to live – believe me I have seen a lot worse – but also we could do a lot better for people. Just look towards our near neighbours in northern Europe. We can start the process right now with the powers available to us. Why wait?
    As for heroes? No, I don’t do heroes. Everybody has strong points and weaknesses. I admire humanity as we are and, outside the movies, I don’t look for super people. We all have the potential to do remarkable things.

    4. Spare time? Asking about that in the middle of an election and that seems like a distant memory. Beyond studies and family responsibilities, I like to travel (when I can afford it), country walking and I have joined the local rowing club which, I hope, will become a regular thing for the weekends. I confess I am a sucker for some Ch4 television shows: First Dates and Gogglebox being particular vices.

    5. Songs. Perfect Day by Lou Reed means a lot to me. It is a song so full of sadness, of yearning and lost innocence. The beauty of moments that can only be preserved in memory. It also contains a warning that all in public life would do well to remember:

    “You’re going to reap what you sow.”

    I think that if we encourage people to think, to act upon evidence and have confidence in themselves, we have a chance of reaping good things in the future.

    Martin Veart
    Scottish Liberal Democrats

  5. 1. What are the most important issues for people in the constituency? Name, perhaps, three.

    Answer: There’s a huge list of things that are incredibly important for people in the constituency. There’s the horrific poverty caused by Westminster’s austerity cuts that have driven families to foodbanks and left parents in despair because the benefit cap means they might lose their homes, for example, or the rising cost of living sitting beside wages that aren’t rising at all forcing more people into poverty. Working parents are having to queue at foodbanks – that’s simply not right in one of the richest countries in the world.

    Then there’s the rape clause – families with more than two children will have to prove that the other kids were the result of rape to claim tax credits for them. That would be people struggling to manage on a low wage caused, in part, by UK government policies being denied the help they need to survive. The Tories have been saying that people who can’t afford children shouldn’t have children – that’s an appalling attitude to have about a child who is here already. It also ignores the fact that people may well have been able to afford to have four kids before they lost the good wage they were on, perhaps because Brexit means the company they work for moves operations overseas or an austerity recession causes lower wages. This is a government that is simply inhumane.

    Immigration, too; we’ve been enriched by immigration, especially from EU countries – people who have come here and started businesses, got into work, contributed to the economy and to our culture, made Leith, Edinburgh and Scotland richer in all kinds of ways. Brexit will make it more difficult for them to come here and it will also be more difficult for kids growing up here to go abroad to study, work and live if they want to. I want to preserve, protect and enhance freedom of movement – I guess that’s going to be pretty difficult with a Tory Government that’s obsessed with stopping people coming here but it’s important. I think, that we’re not cut off from the world.

    Pensions! The Tory manifesto says they’ll cut pensions protections – including the triple lock that was only introduced by David Cameron a few years ago – and the winter fuel payments are to be cut along with some other pensioner benefits. I’ll fight these cuts to the money that our older folk have to live on – people who have worked all their lives deserve some dignity in old age.

    I could go on all day about the problems that are facing people but you’ll know most of them already – there’s a bucketful of work to be done on each of the issues and a whole lot of people who don’t want us working on them.

    2. How would you use your seat in Westminster to address local issues, using powers not held by the Scottish Parliament?

    Answer: What do you mean by local issues? There’s such a range of issues that have a local aspect to them that it’s almost odd to think of any issue not being local. Being an MP gives you a powerful voice to use on people’s behalf, you can act as an advocate for people, facilitate meetings with the police, intercede with housing associations and utilities companies, prod the council, jab government departments with a big stick, get some action for people. I’ve been doing that over the last two years, moving things on for people, getting results, making people’s lives a little better or at least getting things started.

    3. What or who motivated you to become a politician – were you inspired by anyone in particular and if so what did you admire about them?

    Answer: My daughters were and are a big influence – I want them to inherit a better world and a better country and I want young people to have every chance to enjoy life and do amazing things. I’m sure everyone claims that their party leader is a big inspiration and it probably looks like you’re sucking up if you mention them like that but Nicola Sturgeon really impresses me – she remembers people she meets during First Minister visits, she learns from everything she sees, she’s got great political instincts, she’s friendly, and she keeps her political beliefs and principles with her all the way through her job. Beyond that there are my parents-in-law who have been quietly ploughing an SNP furrow for decades – even in the times when it was a very lonely furrow indeed. They, and lots of people like them across the country, carried the party through some very hard times. They were never elected to anything and never sought fame nor riches nor glory for their work but we owe so much to them all. One last person worth mentioning is my old boss from Holyrood, Rob Gibson (who was an MSP but is now retired) – he’s been a land reform campaigner his whole life, he was instrumental in moving land reform centre stage in Scottish politics and his belief in social justice and in equality has always remained strong.

    4. Being an MP is a hugely demanding job, how do you like to unwind, relax and recharge your batteries?

    Answer: Look, keep this a secret and don’t tell Dougie but he’s a top bloke, always at ease and relaxed who cooks great food so I often finish my day in the office and walk home to a cracking dinner and then he’ll play the guitar and I can just let all the stress flow away – I really miss that when I’m down in London. Funnily enough, I like cooking, too, and I like having friends round for a bite and a chat. Dougie’s a joiner and he’s always doing something, building something or making something and I find the smell of newly cut or sanded wood really relaxing, oddly. There’s one other thing – I love films. I don’t often get to the cinema these days but I enjoy films at home with a cup of tea or a glass of wine. I think we should all get out and support independent cinemas if we have the chance and the money, though – the Filmhouse, the Dominion and the New Town Community Cinema, for example (also the Cameo although it’s not really an independent). I’ve always wondered why an independent cinema didn’t survive in Leith, I would have thought that Leith was a perfect place for it.

    5. Can you share with us a quotation from a favourite poem or song?

    Answer: I’ll give you a couple –

    There’s the tender love in Jackie Kay’s poem, George Square –
    And off they went, my two parents
    to march against the war in Iraq,
    him with his plastic hips. Her with her arthritis,

    The other one is a MacDiarmid poem, Edinburgh, that has a bit that goes
    Edinburgh is a mad god’s dream
    Fitful and dark,
    Unseizable in Leith
    And wildered by the Forth

    For a bit of fun, though, google for James Robertson’s The News Where You Are

  6. Thank you all for very interesting responses. I’m on limited wifi right now so just a quick reply to say all the latest answers will be uploaded to the website with links as soon as possible.

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