ANGUS Robertson has won the selection contest to be the SNP's candidate in the party's key target seat of Edinburgh Central in next year's Holyrood election.

The former SNP deputy leader beat Marco Biagi and Lee-Anne Menzies in the high profile race which ended at noon today.

Robertson, a close ally of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will now try to oust the Tories from the prime seat which is currently held by Ruth Davidson.

The Tory Holyrood group leader is standing down from the Scottish Parliament ahead of the poll next May to take up a seat in the House of Lords. Her party is yet to announce who their Edinburgh Central candidate will be.

Robertson said: “Many thanks to grassroots Edinburgh Central SNP members for selecting me as their candidate for the next Scottish Parliament elections. I’d also like to thank my fellow nominees and look forward to campaigning with them and local activists to win the seat from the Tories.

“It is a huge honour to be selected to run in the constituency where I grew up and where I live with my family. I understand the different issues that matter to communities across Edinburgh Central and will work hard to represent them and all constituents if I am elected as MSP.

“At present the Tories hold the seat with a tiny 610 vote majority, and I believe we can win here with the support of voters of all parties who don’t want to see the area represented by a pro-Brexit MSP that opposes Scottish democracy."

Biagi, a former local government minister, was MSP for Edinburgh Central for five years before standing down in 2016.

He congratulated Robertson on his victory.

He said: “Thanks to all who voted for me.

“It was a memorable contest and now it’s vital we all come together to retake the seat and win indyref2.”

Activists Lee-Anne Menzies and Mridul Wadhwa also contested the selection battle.

The SNP has confirmed 70 of its 73 constituency candidates for the Scottish Parliament election on 6 May 2021.The party is on target to have a gender balanced list of candidates.

The final list of 73 constituency candidates will be in place in time for SNP conference later this month.

SNP depute leader and campaign director, Keith Brown, said: “The Holyrood election six months from today will be the most important in Scotland’s history, and will determine our country’s future.

“Effective leadership during the global pandemic is proving a real boost to support for an independent Scotland. The SNP will continue to focus on what’s important to the people of Scotland, and each and every day we will work hard to retain the trust placed in us.

“Tory governments at Westminster that we didn’t vote for, led by the likes of Boris Johnson, can’t be trusted to work in Scotland’s interests.

“Our outstanding field of gender-balanced candidates will be proud to stand on the SNP’s strong record in government, and the right for people in Scotland to decide their own future.”

Robertson entered the race early with Biagi throwing his hat into the ring after Joanna Cherry, the Edinburgh South West MP, pulled out.

Cherry withdrew from the contest after the party's national executive committee controversially changed its "dual mandate" rule requiring an MP to stand down if he or she was standing for Holyrood.

Following the selection contests for constituencies, the SNP will then decide on candidates for the Holyrood list seats.

Robertson was the SNP MP for Moray from 2001 to 2017, losing his seat to the Tories' Douglas Ross in the snap General Election.