Green MSP Alison Johnstone in Edinburgh Central bid

Alison Johnstone MSP
Alison Johnstone MSP
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IT was already shaping up to be the most intriguing battleground in the race for Lothian’s seats at Holyrood.

With Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Labour stalwart Sarah Boyack competing for votes, ballot papers in Edinburgh Central will be sprinkled with political stardust.

And now another big-name contender has thrown her hat in the ring – with Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone announcing that she fancies a crack at the constituency too.

The Evening News can reveal today that she will make a bid to replace sitting SNP MSP Marco Biagi.

Favourite to win will be former Scottish Parliament official Alison Dickie, who has been selected to replace Mr Biagi, but the choice of big-hitters is expected to make it far from a stroll for the Nationalists.

The Greens said they had identified Edinburgh Central as a stronghold for votes, pointing to the fact that they took 20 per cent of the regional vote in the constituency at the 2003 election.

And with the party’s membership growing, Ms Johnstone – who will also top the regional list – is confident she can pull off an upset.

She said: “This is an important step forward for the Greens. Our main focus, in Lothian and throughout Scotland, will be seeking Green votes on the regional list where backing from one in ten voters will lead to Green MSPs being elected in every region.

“So we are likely to contest only a small handful of constituencies. And Edinburgh Central is one of them. It is where our votes have been highest in the past and the heartbeat of the Capital.

“We want to give all those Green supporters something extra to get involved in.

“And, as Green MP Caroline Lucas has shown in Brighton, with 42 per cent of the vote in 2015, Greens can win in constituencies.

“There’s a wider political importance too. With Labour and Liberal Democrats all at sea the stage is set for next year’s Scottish election to be all about the SNP as the party of government trying to sprawl across the centre-ground.

“On one side are the Tories, trying to draw them to the right and backwards. On the other side are the Greens, firmly to the left and for a fairer, sustainable future. Edinburgh Central will be a mini-version of that choice and I am relishing the contest.”

Attention on the constituency was ramped up when Ms Davidson announced earlier this month that she was to quit Glasgow and stand in the Capital. She said the move would allow her to run the party’s nationwide campaign from its city HQ.

The Tory leader said that standing in Edinburgh would also give the party a better chance of using her profile as leader to boost its representation in the Lothians, where the Conservatives won two MSPs last time.

newsen@edinburghnews.com