Labour’s Lochaber candidate hopes it will be fifth time lucky at the polls

Local Labour Party candidate John Erskine, right, and Labour's Westminster leader, Sir Keir Starmer. NO F52 John Erskine and Keir Starmer
Local Labour Party candidate John Erskine, right, and Labour's Westminster leader, Sir Keir Starmer. NO F52 John Erskine and Keir Starmer

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Scottish Labour Party activist John Erskine is hoping it will be fifth time lucky at the ballot box, with news that the ex-adviser to former Holyrood party leader Kezia Dugdale has been selected as Labour’s candidate to fight the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency seat at next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections.

It was announced last week that members of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Constituency Labour Party (CLP) had unanimously selected Mr Erskine as their candidate after a virtual hustings and selection meeting before voting online.

In the 2019 General Election, Labour Party members in the equivalent Westminster constituency selected Mr Erskine to take on the ultimately victorious SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford.

However, Inverness-born Mr Erskine could only manage fourth place in a packed field of seven candidates, trailing Mr Blackford by almost 17,000 votes.

Prior to that, Mr Erskine stood as Highland Labour’s youngest candidate at the 2012 local government elections, narrowly missing out on election to the Dingwall and Seaforth ward, before then standing for Scottish Labour at the 2015 General Election in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, followed by the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections for the Highlands and Islands Regional List.

This time round, he is also seeking to be selected as Scottish Labour’s top regional list candidate for the Highlands and Islands Region ahead of next May’s poll.

Mr Erskine currently works for retiring Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart, Iain Gray MSP and the Co-op as a Member Pioneer for the Dingwall area supporting local good causes.

Asked why he thought he would be successful at the polls this time round given his lack of success to date, Mr Erskine told us: ‘2019 was the Brexit General election, fought along constitutional lines which played into the hands of the SNP and the Tories.

‘Next year’s Holyrood elections will be an opportunity to highlight the SNPs 13-year record of failure in government, the scandal of Covid-19 care home deaths, the chronic underfunding of our local services, our failing education system and their centralising agenda that has been so damaging to Fort William and Lochaber.

‘Under the new leadership of Keir Starmer, the Labour Party is now credible again and able to present a genuine alternative to the SNPs obsession with independence and the Tories damaging welfare and Brexit policies.

‘It’s all to play for and I’m determined to help return Labour MSPs for the region to Parliament next year to hold the SNP to account and oppose another divisive referendum at a time when we should be coming together.’

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Constituency Labour Party Chair, Les Hood, added: ‘I am delighted that John Erskine will be challenging Kate Forbes for Scottish Labour as our candidate for the Holyrood elections.

‘John is an excellent local candidate and campaigner, grounded in the constituency and he will challenge the SNP and Tories at every turn, always putting the Highlands and Islands first above party politics and constitutional turmoil.

‘Local members and I will look forward to campaigning with him over the coming weeks and months.’

Raised in Ross-Shire, Mr Erskine attended Maryburgh Primary school and Dingwall Academy before going on to study for a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Politics and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Strategic Public Relations from the University of Stirling.

After university, Mr Erskine worked for the Highlands and Islands Scottish Labour MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart in the Inverness regional office between 2012 and 2015, before going on to work in the Scottish Parliament as an advisor to Kezia Dugdale MSP during her time as Scottish Labour Party leader.

Last year, he left his job with the Law Society of Scotland to stand, albeit unsuccessfully, as a candidate against Mr Blackford.