EDINBURGH Central is within the SNP’s grasp as Angus Robertson puts international voters at the heart of his campaign to take the seat that has been Ruth Davidson’s for the last five years.

The right to vote was extended in Scotland in February last year to include foreign nationals and refugees, and there are around 7200 of those newly registered in the capital. Robertson thinks this is key to taking the seat from the Tories, who only won by a margin of 610 votes in 2016.

The National spoke to Robertson in the Meadows, which became a hub for those in the city while coronavirus restrictions were in place, to talk about the constituency and his bid to be an MSP.

READ MORE: Key battleground: SNP going all out in Ayr to finally topple Tory

Brexit, Robertson said, is a big factor in this election for voters in Edinburgh Central as the City of Edinburgh voted 74.4% to Remain in the EU during the referendum.

He explained: “Edinburgh Central is the most marginal Tory-held seat in Scotland and the overwhelming majority of people here do not support the Tories. If people want to make sure they have a progressive member of the Scottish Parliament who supports us being able to determine Scotland’s future then they have to vote for me in the election. Not just people who are traditional SNP supporters who hopefully will all turn out on election day, but people who might in other circumstances vote Green, LibDem, Labour or independent candidates, they need to be aware that they will inadvertently be supporting the Tories if they don’t vote SNP in Edinburgh Central in this election.

“We’re also working quite hard with other voter groups like young voters, EU and international voters, of whom there are more than 7200 in Edinburgh Central and for them it’s a pretty straight choice between a pro-Brexit candidate from Boris Johnson’s party or a pro-European candidate from Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP and that’s me. So if people want Edinburgh and Scotland to get back into the European Union as a priority then vote SNP.”

On Ruth Davidson, who has stood down in this election and is headed to take up a seat in the House of Lords in Westminster, Robertson believes the area needs change in representation.

He said: “Edinburgh Central has been neglected for the last parliamentary term, with a Tory MSP in Ruth Davidson who barely held any advertised surgeries and was largely absent from community organisations, and I think in the first instance people deserve to be represented by a member of the Scottish Parliament who will work for all of them. So the choice in this election is between me who will do that, and a party that hasn’t done it for the last five years.

“Beyond that, Edinburgh Central is a very diverse constituency with very significant wealth disparities and so there are different needs, interests, concerns and expectations in different parts of the seat. I think one of the advantages of coming from the area, it’s where I went to school and it’s where I live, I understand what the different dynamics are.

“Edinburgh Central obviously is the centre of our national government and democracy, and so when the independence referendum comes I think it’s going to be very interesting to be able to run on a proposition which will literally transform our capital city and bring advantages to the rest of the country, the centre of our capital into becoming the capital of a sovereign state brings all kind of incredible advantages that we need to better communicate.”

Independence, Robertson said, could bring 50 to 60 embassies to the capital “overnight” and could have a “hugely beneficial” impact on tourism when it opens up again.

And, when we spoke to voters in the Meadows, even the ones who were undecided were concerned about the EU and the impact of Brexit. Ryan Nealon, 18, is a first-time voter who moved to Scotland from Portugal when he was four, and says Brexit is the biggest issue for him in this election. He said: “I’m undecided at the moment, I really don’t know too much about who I’m voting for, I want to know a bit more about the candidates.

The National: From left: Ryan Nealon, Samuel Webb and Ruaridh O'HareFrom left: Ryan Nealon, Samuel Webb and Ruaridh O'Hare

“I do support independence. We’ve left the European Union, and I’m from Portugal so I need to get my Portugese passport so I can travel across Europe. I’ve got a Scottish passport because I moved here when I was four, but that is a really big factor for me.”

For Ruairi O’Hare, 22, a student in Edinburgh, he has no concerns over whether or not Scotland could go it alone as an independent nation.

He said: “I’m voting for the SNP because at the end of the day regardless of little issues that I may personally have with the SNP with regards to Covid restrictions like a lot of people may have, it’s a one-issue kind of vote. This is a vote about independence and putting Scotland first, you don’t want to put the rest of the UK Parliament [in charge], they don’t care about Scotland. It’s not their priority and that’s my perspective on it, regardless of the little tiny issues and stuff, that’s something to be figured out after, but voting for SNP is a vote for independence first and foremost. I think the Scottish Parliament is pretty good, I think it makes pretty good decisions and it could do well on it’s own.”

Samuel Webb, 19, a maths student in Edinburgh who is originally from England, said he would be voting in the election but was undecided, and believes that recovery from Covid should come first.

On an independence vote, he said: “I don’t really know, as a British person living in Scotland I have never really felt it was my place but I can understand why Scotland would want independence and I can also understand why some people would want to stay, I’ve always felt it’s not really my place to speak.”