AN SNP victory in Edinburgh Central at next year’s Holyrood election will be crucial in delivering independence, according to the party’s former deputy leader.

Angus Robertson has thrown his hat into the ring to be selected as the SNP candidate for the key seat which his party are hoping to take from the Tories, who have a slim 610 majority.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson currently represents the marginal constituency and she is stepping down ahead of the 2021 poll.

The SNP and the Scottish Greens need to win the election to heap further pressure on Boris Johnson to grant a second independence referendum.

He has rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a new vote following the Westminster election in December saying the SNP victory did not amount to a mandate for a new referendum.

The National: Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth DavidsonFormer Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson

Speaking to The National, Robertson said: “Edinburgh Central is hugely important because if one wants to secure a pro-independence majority in parliament there are very few seats where you have an automatic net gain.

“There are only two in the whole country and one is Edinburgh Central. [The other is Jackie Baillie’s Dumbarton seat]. The SNP have no list seats in Lothian so it means that if the SNP win in Edinburgh Central and the Tories lose, the SNP doesn’t lose any seats on the list. It’s a net gain.”

He added: “We can’t take the election for granted. We need a full-time candidate. Someone who is here throughout the week and that whoever is elected is a full-time MSP.”

Asked if he thought there would be an independence referendum this year, he replied: “I think the chance remains of having an independence referendum this year which is the preference of the First Minister and which I support.

“Anything I have heard from Downing Street thus far is that they will continue to ignore the democratic wishes of people in Scotland, but the democratic contest they cannot ignore in the short term is the impending Scottish Parliament election which is why it is crucial for us to do everything we can to win the election and win every seat we contest – and Edinburgh Central is absolutely crucial in securing a pro-independence majority in the parliament.

“Edinburgh Central is a seat the SNP has held in the past, there is only a 610 seat majority.

“I believe there are many people who have voted Labour, Liberal Democrat and even Conservative who believe people in Scotland should be able to determine our own future. So in a straight electoral contest between the SNP and Tories in Edinburgh Central, we have to make sure the SNP wins and the best way of achieving that is making sure the SNP has a full time candidate working between now and the election to secure that win.”

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His declaration was welcomed by senior figures in the SNP.

Andrew Wilson, the author of the SNP’s updated blueprint for the economic case for independence, was among the first to support him. “Best of fortune to my good friend who would be a superb MSP,” wrote Wilson on Twitter. MP John Nicholson and MSP Kevin Stewart “liked” Wilson’s tweet.

Chris Law, the Dundee MP, tweeted: “Brilliant news Angus, you will not only be the ideal candidate for beating Ruth Davidson, but also an excellent Edinburgh Central MSP and perfect fit in leading the Scottish Government towards independence.”

The National: Chris LawChris Law

Catriona Matheson, the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s chief of staff, also welcomed the announcement.

She wrote: “As @theSNP ’s Leader in Westminster, Angus took the party from 6 to 56 MPs, firmly establishing us as parliament’s 3rd party and a strong opposition, keeping the UKgov on its toes. He’ll be a huge asset to Holyrood.” Robertson said he was encouraged by the support he had received from party colleagues.

Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News, the former Moray MP accused Davidson of putting “other career interests in London ahead of the people she still represents at Holyrood” and argued that constituents “deserve better”.

Edinburgh Central was won from the SNP by the former Scottish Conservative leader at the last Scottish Parliament election in 2016.

Announcing his bid to become the SNP’s candidate, Robertson highlighted his links to the capital, having grown up in Stockbridge, and said: “Edinburgh Central deserves a full-time MSP who will put the interests of their constituents first. At present, the heart of Scotland’s capital city is represented by somebody who would prefer to be in the House of Lords and pursuing a career in public relations.”

“Edinburgh Central needs an MSP that has a full-time commitment to their constituents and constituency, and the SNP needs a full-time candidate to win this important seat. I believe I am best placed to be that candidate,” he added.

“I will not pretend to constituents that I can be in two places at the same time.”

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The former SNP leader in the House of Commons has been linked with standing to become an MSP after losing his Westminster seat to the Conservatives’ Douglas Ross at the 2017 general election. He has since worked as managing director of pro-independence think-tank and polling organisation Progress Scotland.

Before becoming an MP, Robertson worked as a journalist, including for the BBC World Service as a foreign correspondent, before becoming European and international affairs adviser to the SNP group at Holyrood.

Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, was last year also discussed among SNP members as a possible candidate to unseat the Tories. Councillor Alison Dickie, the SNP candidate defeated by Davidson in 2016, is considering standing for the nomination too.