Residents to choose Conservative candidate

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservative party in Scotland, visited our newsroom to explain her plans for an 'open primary'.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservative party in Scotland, visited our newsroom to explain her plans for an 'open primary'.

Tens of thousands of people in north east Fife will be given the opportunity for the first time to choose an election candidate for Westminster.

The Scottish Conservatives will be holding an open primary in the constituency to select the party’s candidate for the 2015 General Election.

All those registered to vote in the area can take part in the selection process, along with local party members.

Some 62,969 people in the area were eligible to vote in the last election in 2010.

Parliamentary candidates are normally chosen by party members living in the constituency. But the Scottish Conservatives are opening up the process to the public.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said: “This is a unique opportunity for the public to have a bigger say in the democratic process.

“The Scottish Conservative Party is changing and we want candidates who have real resonance in the communities they serve.

“Candidates are normally chosen by local party members, but we’re opening up the selection process to thousands of people in the North East Fife constituency.

“We believe by holding an open primary contest, candidates with a greater appeal will be selected to stand. The party still decides who gets on the initial shortlist, but people in the constituency will then get the chance to give their verdict on who they want as their Scottish Conservative candidate at a special hustings event.

“We hope this new process will be embraced by voters, making politics more transparent and helping to restore confidence in public life.”

The Scottish Conservatives have already held two open primary contests, one in the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency and the other in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. The first in the Borders was attended by 300 local people, while Aberdeenshire contest was attended by 200 people.

The majority of people who turned up were ordinary people who were not party members and had nothing to do with politics in the past.

Ahead of the open primary in north east Fife, which is due to be held in the constituency in June, adverts will be placed in newspapers such as the Fife Herald and St Andrews Citizen inviting “electors” to pre-register for a hustings meeting.

Those attending will be given a vote at the end of the event once the applicants have been quizzed on their suitability for selection as a candidate. The winner will be declared at the end of the event and will go forward as the party’s candidate for the North East Fife.

As for the candidate going on to become an MP, Ms Davidson believes there is a good chance of “turning the area blue again”, despite having to overturn a 9000 majority.

North East Fife’s current MP, Menzies Campbell, will not stand at the next election, and she hopes this will create an opportunity for her party.

“Menzies Campbell has been a good MP and has been a distinguished servant in parliamant for the people of North East Fife,” she said.

“However, I hope we can find someone to do just as good a job, but from the Conservative benches, not the Liberal Democrat benches.”