Andy Wightman: Green voices vital in Westminster

Lorna Slater is the 
Green candidate in Edinnburgh North and Leith

Lorna Slater is the Green candidate in Edinnburgh North and Leith

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As the city council sits down to its first full meeting, the voters of Edinburgh are already being canvassed for their opinions and votes for the forthcoming general election. Unlike the local election where Greens put up candidates in every ward in Edinburgh, we are only contesting three seats across Scotland, one of which – Edinburgh North and Leith – is in the Capital.

Our decision to do this has attracted much ill-informed comment. Let me put the record straight. In 2015, we stood 31 candidates across Scotland. In the aftermath of a membership surge and a Holyrood election just a year away, this was a valuable exercise in speaking to many voters and giving members and activists useful campaign experience. General elections are contested on the first past the post system, however, which makes it difficult for smaller parties to achieve the level of representation they deserve. As a result, we lost almost all our deposits. For this general election, we took a pragmatic approach. There’s not another election due until 2021, we have very limited funds and the electoral system is unforgiving.

Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman

Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman

So, contrary to the views of other political parties who pretend to know our mind better than we do, let me say unequivocally that there is no electoral pact or arrangement with other parties.

The Scottish Green Party is a very democratic party and the decision to put up candidates is for local branches to decide on and they have made their decisions for a wide range of reasons.

In Glasgow North we hope for success in electing Patrick Harvie as Scotland’s first Green MP, and in Edinburgh North and Leith we hope to build on our strong support base to elect Lorna Slater, a renewable energy engineer and tireless Green campaigner in numerous elections and referendums.

Edinburgh North and Leith gave us our best result in 2015 and is represented by Green councillors Chas Booth and Susan Rae, with Susan topping the poll in her ward earlier this month.

The UK election has been called for naked political expediency by the Tories. It won’t achieve anything in relation to the difficult EU negotiations ahead and will seal the fate of the UK for decades to come. It is however vital that we get a Green voice for Scotland into Westminster to challenge the Tories’ desire to dismantle our hard-won social and environmental protections.

Andy Wightman is a Scottish Green MSP for Lothian