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General Election 2024 – Lynne Lyon – Alba Party – Edinburgh South

Lynne Lyon is the only Edinburgh Alba Party candidate in the upcoming general election, running to replace Labour’s Ian Murray as MP for Edinburgh South.

Alba’s candidate was born and raised in the area, having attended elementary and high school in the constituency, and said she has had the same family doctor her entire life.

Ms Lyon said the constituency was “close to my heart” and her work as a social worker for the Edinburgh South constituency exposed her to the many concerns of voters.

She said: “I get a lot of stuff in my inbox, people’s concerns, living costs, food, mental health, GP services, NHS services, expediting appointments – so before I walk through the doors of the Edinburgh South constituency I know exactly what concerns people are going to raise with me. It’s really important to me because I work really hard to get good results for my constituents.”

However, as a member of the Alba Party, founded by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, Ms Lyon’s main focus is Scottish independence, telling me that a vote for her is a vote for independence. But there has been widespread concern that a vote for Alba, rather than an independence-supporting SNP colleague, would split the independence vote in constituencies such as Edinburgh South. How has the candidate responded to this?

She replied: “No, no, that’s not true. So in the last poll, over 50% of people in Scotland still support independence and 30% of them will vote SNP. The 20% who didn’t have a candidate, before we stood, said they wouldn’t actually vote because they didn’t have anyone to vote for. So obviously independence was the priority, but they didn’t want to vote SNP. I would say we are mobilising the Vote, galvanising it, to get as many pro-independence parties as possible. And to me, that’s not splitting a vote; that’s galvanising it completely.”

So, as MP for Edinburgh South, would Ms Lyon simply take independence issues to Westminster to the detriment of other issues?

She said: “Well, you’re an MP, so obviously you would always raise the case for independence because I believe Scotland would be much better off if it was independent. In terms of the Westminster parties at the moment, Conservative and Labour… ‘Big change’, Labour are saying. I don’t see any change. I see a switch where they’re not going to serve Scotland well. I absolutely don’t see those parties serving Scotland well at all.”

But it will not be an easy task for Alba’s candidate. The constituency has been represented by Labour’s Ian Murray since 2010, who even survived the SNP’s landslide victory in the Scottish seats in 2015. Does Ms Lyons think she can beat him?

She said: “Well, of course you wouldn’t be in it. And the feedback I’m getting on the doors is ‘what has Ian Murray done for Edinburgh South, can you name anything?’ They couldn’t name anything. Some of them are saying, ‘Oh, well, we’ll probably vote as we always do’ and what I found really alarming was people not knowing what’s devolved and what’s reserved. So I spent a lot of time on the doors saying what powers the Scottish Government has at the moment, and what the Westminster Government has, and obviously we don’t have the real powers, the levers, to be absolutely in charge of our own destiny. A lot of people were surprised by that.

“Another conversation I had with two young women the other day was, and I mean no disrespect to these young women, of course, because we were talking about other countries in the world. I mean, you know, like small size, same kind of population size – Denmark, Norway – and they said they didn’t know that Denmark and Norway were independent countries, so for me it’s all about educating voters. So when they’re voting, they have a really informed choice and for me it’s about informing voters. Politics as well, you have to be very truthful with politics. And that’s, for me, what I want to break: truth. Letting people know the facts, so they can make an informed choice. And I think that’s important and that’s what I’ve been doing out there.”

When I asked her how people at the door responded to this strategy and her campaign in general, she told me the reaction was positive.

She said: “I’ve had really good feedback and obviously having lived in the area all my life, you’re opening doors and they’re opening them and saying, ‘Oh! Are you up?’ So obviously listening to their concerns, saying what their aspirations are as well. It’s been really good feedback from the doors.”

Another obstacle for Alba’s candidate is Edinburgh itself: unlike other parts of Scotland, Edinburgh’s rejection of independence in the 2014 referendum was quite decisive. I asked Ms Lyon how she felt about running with this in mind; and whether it was the reason she was Alba’s only candidate in Edinburgh.

She said: “Well, we know that Edinburgh wasn’t a Yes city and when all the candidates were standing I realised that the main city, which is Edinburgh, didn’t have a candidate. We had one in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. I thought, no, I have to stand for Edinburgh and you never know. A lot has happened since 2014. Since Brexit, people’s priorities have changed, of course they have. Mine have changed, not in terms of independence, but my priorities. I’m a grandmother now. I’ve got twin grandchildren. So my priorities are absolutely to have a bright future for these boys growing up and that’s why I’m campaigning.”

Lynn Lyons