With a large number of current MSPs stepping down and others being deselected this May’s election will bring a significant number of new faces to Holyrood. Grayling Scotland has picked out a few names to watch out for.
The Future Minister
Shirley-Anne Somerville, SNP Candidate for Dunfermline
Previously a Regional List MSP from 2007 to 2011, Shirley-Anne is a long time member of the SNP and currently holds the post of Deputy Chief Executive of the Party. During her time in parliament Shirley-Anne served as Parliamentary Liasion Officer to John Swinney.
In 2011 she narrowly lost to Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm in the Edinburgh Northern and Leith constituency which led to her exit from the parliament. In 2013 she stood as the SNP candidate in the Dumfermline by-election after SNP MSP Bill Walker was forced to stand down over domestic violence accusations. The controversy helped Labour’s Cara Hilton secure the seat.
Since then Shirley-Anne has worked as a campaign strategist for the SNP and was Director of Communications for Yes Scotland. Shirley-Anne’s senior position within the party combined with her previous experience as an MSP make her a probable candidate for a ministerial position post-election in an SNP Government.
Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour candidate on the Central Scotland list
Richard Leonard is number 1 on Labour’s list for Central Scotland, ranked above all current Labour list members Mark Griffin, Margaret McCulloch and Siobhan McMahon, as well as constituency MSPs Michael McMahon and John Pentland and Elaine Smith.
Richard is old-school Labour in the Corbyn vein, with a background in grassroots campaigning and trade unions. A member of the party for over 30 years, Richard has previously served as Chair of Scottish Labour and is currently a Regional Officer for GMB Scotland. He is running an anti-austerity campaign for stronger local government and public ownership of services. A former research assistant to Alex Falconer MEP, Leonard also stood for Holyrood in 2011 but was defeated by Adam Ingram in Cathy Jamieson’s former seat of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.
The Young Tory
Douglas Ross, Conservative Candidate on Highlands & Islands list
Douglas’ position as the first ranked candidate on the H&I list makes him a sure bet for election on 5th May.
In the 2015 General Election he stood against Angus Robertson and delivered a strong result for the Conservatives, boosting their total votes by 5,000 from 2011 when he was also the Conservative candidate.
Douglas has served as a Moray councillor since 2007 and was re-elected in 2012. As a councillor Douglas has proved himself a maverick within the Conservative Party. His refusal to toe the party line with the council administration over school closure plans led to a forced exit from the administration group, and he was relieved of his duties as Chairman of the Council Planning Committee. It will be interesting to see if Douglas maintains his non-conformist attitudes in Holyrood.
Outside of politics, Douglas is a FIFA and Scottish FA assistant referee.
The Rising Star
Gail Ross, SNP Candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
Gail is currently serving as a Highland councillor for Wick, where she grew up. She was elected to the Highland Council following a landslide swing from the Liberal Democrats to the SNP in a by-election in 2011.
Prior to this Gail had worked as constituency office manager for Rob Gibson MSP, whose seat she hopes to win when he retires at the upcoming election.
Gail is regarded as a rising star in the party and has gained endorsements from senior party figures including Angus Robertson MP, Keith Brown MSP and Aileen McLeod MSP. Gail is a likely candidate for a PLO role in the next parliament.
The Comeback King
Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour Candidate on Glasgow List
Anas was MP for Glasgow Central from 2010-15 after succeeding his father, Mohammed Sarwar. Having lost his Westminster seat to Alison Thewliss in the SNP landslide at the 2015 General Election Anas Sarwar is staging a comeback by standing to be an MSP. Ranked 1st on the Glasgow list, the former Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour is sure to return to frontline politics, this time at Holyrood.
At Westminster, Anas served on the Select Committee for International Development and was briefly a member of Ed Milliband’s shadow ministerial team. Confident In the media spotlight, we would expect to see him take up a shadow frontbench role in Holyrood after the election.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Lothian List
Ranked 1st on the Lothian list for the Liberal Democrats, Alex Cole-Hamilton is an experienced campaigner in the charity sector. He is currently Head of Policy at Aberlour Child Care Trust. In this capacity he is involved with the Parliament’s Cross-Party Group for Children and Young People. In the past he has also worked at Holyrood as a researcher and policy adviser for the Liberal Democrats.
Alex is also standing in the Edinburgh Western constituency. This seat overlaps with MP Michelle Thomson’s Westminster constituency, who is the subject of an ongoing police investigation into her property dealings. As a result the MP only opened a constituency office in February, 9 months after being elected. It remains to be seen whether this will have any impact on the result in this area.
If elected Alex would be a very capable MSP, however as the Liberal Democrats do not currently have an MSP in the Lothian region, getting elected could prove a big ask.