It was an informative, entertaining and often lively evening at the Leith Walk by-election hustings in St Mary’s Parish Church on Thursday, writes the Bellevue Observer.

There were two dramatic late-arrivals, heckling, laughter and applause. There was occasional outrage and almost an ejection. Perhaps Spurtle should have charged on the way in.

Ward 12 will shortly make history with two candidates being elected as councillors to the Council at a by-election. Popular wisdom goes that the SNP will easily take one of the seats, but that the second seat is entirely up for grabs. 

No wonder there was a good turnout of (60–70) politically engaged  or simply curious constituents ready to put their questions.

There were no particularly rubbish questions (apart from the two disqualified by the Chair for irrelevance), or rather no questions about rubbish or dog muck. These were serious questions for serious times, about: engaging the local community, managing time between the role of councillor and a full-time job, the minimum wage, budgets, deficits, 20mph speed limits, council redundancy policy, lack of female candidates and statutory notices.

Mo Hussain for the Scottish Liberal Democrats was unavoidably detained at the last moment and could not attend. John Ferguson Scott (Independent) is only standing to annoy his friends and does not campaign.

Here are some of the highs and lows for each candidate.

Marion Donaldson — Scottish Labour Party

High point: Donaldson spoke passionately about the local work she does for a food bank and on the Leith Central Community Council, where she has implemented a number of ideas which help to engage the community.

Low point: She often seemed (and looked) isolated at the end of the row and wasn’t fully on-topic with some of the questions. 

Tom Laird — Scottish Libertarian Party

High point: Laird was honest and forceful in his answers, and stood firm. He admitted that there was little chance that he would be elected and didn’t pander for votes.

Low point: His comparison of paying tax to rape was met with outrage.

Alan Gordon Melville — UK Independence Party (UKIP)

High point: When Melville agreed with the left-leaning candidates rather than being against everything they said, it showed he wasn’t all about being controversial. Perhaps he felt comfortable not being the most divisive candidate in this election.

Low point: Saying he’d use his own body to stop the trams going down Leith Walk. ‘Go on then,’ replied one audience member.

Gordon Murdie — Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

High point: Murdie was passionate and informative when talking about statutory notices, and he had professionally informed advice for one concerned constituent.

Low point: Trying to distance himself from the Conservative Party, when he is clearly standing as one of their candidates, didn’t go down well with the audience.

Susan Jane Rae — Scottish Green Party

High point: Rae came across as most passionate when talking about women’s rights and why there are not enough female candidates standing. Another high point was confronting Tom Laird (Scottish Libertarian Party) on his comments about tax and consent.

Low point: The shock confession that she doesn’t cycle may have scuppered her Green credentials.

Natalie Reid — Scottish Socialist Party

High point: Reid was out of the country, and she possibly benefited as a result. Her stand-in Calum Martin had nothing to lose. He was passionate, relevant and funny. He clearly drew the most applause and laughter from the audience, and even the other candidates agreed with some of his points and occasionally clapped his answers.

Low point: He was not Natalie Reid and we will not be voting for him. Although he did a stellar job as stand-in, it would have been better to hear from the actual candidate. 

John Lewis Ritchie — Scottish National Party (SNP)

High point: Ritchie was articulate and has a varied CV, including full-time work for a charity and experience as an aide to an MSP.He surprised Susan Rae when he mentioned his PhD, which is about gender equality in politics.

Low point: With many critical of the capital coalition, it felt like it would be business as usual with Ritchie. He had the right sound bites but – on this evidence – not a lot of original substance.

Bruce William Whitehead — Left Unity

High point: Whitehead led with a powerful opening speech and he didn’t hold back. He was confident and told the audience to vote for a genuine socialist party. 

Low point: His support for Jeremy Corbyn begged the question: What will happen to Left Unity if Corbyn wins?


Follow #EHhustings on Twitter for observations from the floor, and go to Independence Live for a webcast made on the night. 

Got a view? Tell us at and @theSpurtle and Facebook

[Platform photo courtesy of Chas Booth.]


 Roberta Buchan It was good to have a hustings, especially as each voter has two votes. I came away with a clear idea of the extent of grasp of local issues each candidate has and their practical ideas or otherwise of how each would make a difference in Leith Walk Ward. Also some sense of whether/how we voters would be able to know that the ones elected are doing what they said they would do.

 Patrick Hadfield Thanks! Sorry I couldn't attend last week - Festival commitments had first call... I've just voted - by post! 

 Annie Baird As a long-time Labour voter I was intending to cast my vote for Marion Donaldson but on the night she was a bit unsure on some topics. and I thought the Green's Susan Rae stole the show. So for me the hustings was worthwhile as it made me think hard about my vote choice. I'm voting #Green1for Susan Rae and a strong local woman for Leith !

.@theSpurtle A very accurate synopsis. At least having two candidates to vote for will help balance the moral with the practical.

Broughton Spurtle on last week's hustings: "Rae came across as most passionate when talking about women’s rights"!

@EdinburghGreens @SGPWomen ........ but scuppers her green credentials by not being a cyclist

@CityCycling @EdinburghGreens Shame that other forms of transport, like walking, aren't mentioned! Never mind!

Lizzie Rynne ‏@CityCycling 

@SGPWomen @EdinburghGreens this is true. So lets rephrase the question: how does @susan4leithwalk travel? @theSpurtle

@SGPWomen @susan4leithwalk @theSpurtle but I am keen to have cllr who understands the range of challenges faced by ordinary folks on bikes

 SGP Women ‏@SGPWomen 

@CityCycling @susan4leithwalk @theSpurtle Yes, totally agree. I for one am forever moaning about it, and have definitely bent her ear!

Lizzie Rynne ‏@CityCycling 

@SGPWomen I can lend @susan4leithwalk a bike til she gets the feel of whats good and whats bad. No special clothes required. @theSpurtle

Many thanks to @theSpurtle for organising these Hustings:  However you intend to vote next Thursday - PLEASE DO VOTE.

Great #EHhustings sypnopsis from @theSpurtle 

Pleased to see @The_SSP_'s @CalumMartin1 getting a great review by the Spurtle. Great stand-in for @Ms_N_Reid.

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