TWO new contenders yesterday joined the fight to be the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central at the Holyrood elections next May after a controversial rule change derailed MP Joanna Cherry’s campaign last week.

Marco Biagi, who held the Edinburgh Central seat from 2011 to 2016, entered the contest yesterday afternoon. He was joined last night by Women for Independence board member Lee-Anne Menzies.

Menzies last stood for selection in the Westminster seat of East Lothian last year, when she was narrowly defeated by former minister Kenny MacAskill.

The Edinburgh Central seat has become one of the most prized seats in Scotland and the subject of a bitter battle over who will try to win it for the SNP. Cherry and Angus Robertson had both announced their intention to seek to be official candidate for the 2021 Holyrood election in a head-to-head seen to represent a clash between two sides of the party.

That ended on Friday when Cherry withdrew over a rule change by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) the previous day which would have forced her to quit Westminster and make staff redundant.

The move sparked a fierce backlash and suggestions of a coronation for Robertson, the former MP for Moray, leader of the party’s Westminster group until he lost his seat in 2017 and depute leader of the party from 2016 until 2018.

READ MORE: Marco Biagi: This is why I want to reclaim my Edinburgh Central seat

Writing in this newspaper today, 37-year-old Biagi says he will stand as a “unity candidate beholden to no factions other than the cause of independence” after “many requests” from local members. He said: “We desperately need a candidate who can bring activists back together. The local members who have encouraged me to come forward include many former supporters of both Joanna Cherry and Angus Robertson. I hope that by entering the process I can reassure all that democracy is indeed alive and well in the party.”

Ruth Davidson took the seat when Biagi stepped down at the 2016 election. He was the first SNP politician to hold the seat. His departure from frontline politics was a surprise move and he later disclosed that this had been driven by poor mental health.

Biagi said it had been “one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make”.

MENZIES told the Sunday National “there is a need for better representation of ordinary members”. She added: “I don’t want to say it’s entitlement but it is all about the well-kent faces throughout the country who are the ones who are chosen.

“I don’t see working-class women seeing that they are being represented and that can be off-putting for ordinary members.

“As a working-class woman, I have two jobs, working part-time in a supermarket and also for MSP Ash Denham. If by me standing I can persuade one other woman to step forward then the game is won.”

Robertson tweeted last night that the party’s NEC ‘‘had made the wrong devision and must ensure the widest and fairest contest’’. He told the Sunday National: “I welcome a contest for the Edinburgh Central SNP nomination. Local members deserve to choose from the broadest range of talent in the party. We have to win the seat to secure a pro-independence majority.”