Following Iain Gray’s decision to retire from the Scottish Parliament, members of East Lothian Labour Party have chosen Martin Whitfield as the party’s candidate for next year’s Holyrood election.
Having been the county’s MP between June 2017 and December last year, Mr Whitfield will bring a wide range of experience to the task of retaining the constituency for Labour.
Mr Whitfield, who is currently a teacher at Dirleton Primary School, began his professional life as a lawyer before retraining as a primary school teacher. He worked at Prestonpans Primary School for several years prior to being elected to the House of Commons.
His work as MP included campaigning against the Government’s disastrous Universal Credit welfare system, leading parliamentary efforts to promote the ‘Any Disability Sign’ first devised by constituent Grace Warnock, pushing for improvements in local rail services and broadband, fighting for fairness for WASPI women and supporting local industry and business.
Speaking after the result was announced, Martin Whitfield said:
“Firstly, I want to thank local members for again putting their faith in me to be the party’s candidate and hopefully go on to represent this wonderful constituency at Holyrood. When local people gave me the opportunity to serve in the House of Commons, I always put East Lothian’s interests first. If I am successful next year, I give the same promise to stand up for East Lothian and fight our corner.
“After 13 years in power, the SNP are more focussed on constitutional issues than delivering on their promises. We cannot afford to waste any more time on the SNP’s obsession with independence when poverty is increasing, unemployment rising, attainment flatlining and hospital waiting times lengthening.
“Recovering from the impact of this grim pandemic must be the top priority next year, which is why my focus will be on tackling the issues that matter to people in East Lothian. I’ll continue to oppose the Nationalists’ obsession with another referendum to break up the UK, and fight Tory attacks on the poorest in our communities.”
Mr Gray, who has been the MSP for the East Lothian constituency since 2007, was the first to congratulate Mr Whitfield on his selection:
“I am delighted that Martin has been selected – the County’s Labour Party could not have a better candidate. We all know Martin well from when he was an outstanding MP for us and I am very pleased that members have picked him to succeed me as the Labour candidate next year. His legal and educational experience, as well as his time standing up for the county in the UK Parliament, make him perfectly suited to the job of representing East Lothian in the Scottish Parliament.
“I’ve always sought above all to be a champion for East Lothian and stand up for its interests, and I know that Martin will do that too, always putting East Lothian first. I look forward to joining him on the campaign trail and doing everything possible to ensure we retain a strong Labour voice at Holyrood after the election.”
Colin Yorkston, Chair of East Lothian Labour Party, also welcomed Mr Whitfield’s candidacy:
“Martin was an outstanding MP who demonstrated great commitment and integrity, as well as the ability to campaign on important local issues and help constituents with a wide range of problems.
“This experience makes him a ready-made candidate who is ideally placed to continue where Iain Gray leaves off. I look forward to campaigning with him in the months ahead.”