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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Nationalist MSPs face the axe
SNP leader John Swinney
John Swinney hopes his party will increase MSP numbers
High-profile Nationalist MSPs look likely to lose their seats at Holyrood after the Scottish National Party published its rankings for candidates on regional lists.

Outspoken backbench MSP Margo MacDonald and front-line spokespeople Irene McGugan, Fiona McLeod and Andrew Wilson face losing their seats because of their low placing on the regional "top-up" lists.

Several other high-ranking SNP figures look to have narrowly survived by securing rankings which should see them returned if the SNP holds the support it won in 1999.

These include SNP education spokesman Mike Russell, social justice spokesman Kenny Gibson, health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon and deputy Presiding Officer George Reid.

Margo MacDonald
Margo MacDonald: "System is destabilising"

Most of the SNP's members in the Scottish Parliament are elected under the regional "top-up" lists.

And the further down the list candidates appear, the less chance they have of being elected.

At the parliament elections on 1 May, 2003, electors will have two votes on separate ballot papers.

One is for the constituency seat, with election by the first-past-the-post system and the second is for candidates elected from regional lists based on share of the vote.

"Top-up" candidates

At the last parliament election in May 1999, 28 of the SNP's 35 seats were awarded via the regional top-up list.

The most SNP MSPs elected under the "top-up" system in any one of the eight regions was five in Central Scotland.

Deputy economy spokesman Andrew Wilson saw his ranking in this region drop from second to fifth, meaning he could still scrape through if the SNP returns the same number of list MSPs.

In Lothians, where Margo MacDonald is fifth on the list, there were just three SNP "top-up" candidates in 1999.

The SNP's deputy education spokeswoman Irene McGugan has been ranked seventh in North East Scotland, which only returned four SNP list MSPs at the last election.

Deputy presiding officer George Reid
George Reid: Support

And deputy environment spokeswoman Fiona McLeod also faces losing her job after being ranked seventh in the West of Scotland region list, from which only four were returned last time.

Party leader John Swinney has promised to reform the way activists select candidates for elections because of concerns about divisions created by the current system.

However, he said: "We are the first political party in Scotland to have all these internal issues out of the way and I am absolutely delighted we have done that."

Mr Swinney also said he wanted to ensure the party "dramatically increases" the number of SNP constituency MSPs.

Such a result would rescue the political careers of people such as Ms MacDonald, who is standing as the constituency MSP for Edinburgh South against Labour's Angus Mackay.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Brian Taylor reports
"Margo MacDonald blames her rival Kenny MacAskill"
SNP MSP Margo Macdonald
"It is true Mr MacAskill has been anxious that I shouldn't appear on the list"
BBC Scotland's Kirsten Campbell reports
"There is speculation over who will lose out"
See also:

18 Jun 02 | Scotland
01 Jun 02 | Scotland
17 May 02 | Scotland
02 May 02 | Scotland
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