Just three weeks into 2016 and already we’re in election mode. While I’m relishing the prospect of turning strong polling numbers into more Green colleagues at Holyrood, including the redoubtable Andy Wightman here in Lothian, I also find myself reflecting on my experience of being an MSP. The past four and three-quarter years has been a whirlwind, and it can be easy to lose sight of progress made in the hurly-burly of politics.
As someone who began by campaigning on a local greenspace issue and then served as councillor, I know how important it is to give communities a real voice. I was pleased to help the residents of Allan Park oppose the demolition of a house for an access road and continue to work with them in light of the developer’s appeal, and was relieved at the rejection of the Royal High luxury hotel proposal. One of my earliest achievements as an MSP was getting Scottish ministers to exempt Waverley market from legislation on long leases, leading to it remaining in public hands. The threat of over-development in and around Edinburgh is a constant one.
Last year I spoke at countless public meetings on the threat of coal gasification and fracking, and while a moratorium is good it’s not the permanent ban we need to truly protect our communities and our climate. Divestment from fossil fuels is a growing issue, as the students at Edinburgh University showed with their sit-in. I secured a pledge from the Finance Secretary that the public pensions agency would improve transparency so at the very least pension holders can see if they are supporting fossil fuels.
Last week saw a flurry of activity around my Fans First campaign to win the right to buy for football supporters. I got the principle into legislation last summer and now the government is deliberating whether to go ahead. Fan ownership is the norm elsewhere and could help end the ups and downs of the game we’re so familiar with in Scotland. Hearts, for example, are on the mend but the kind of crises Tynecastle supporters have experienced can be avoided if we give fans control to begin with.
I’ve relentlessly pushed Scottish ministers to invest in walking and cycling. The public health benefit is clear. Professor David Newby at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has shown that our city’s poor air quality means we’re more at risk of heart attacks. One of my first acts as an MSP was to lead Holyrood’s first-ever debate on cycling, and I established a cross-party group to keep this issue on the agenda.
I’ve been taking the bus and cycling to and from parliament and hope to continue doing so after May. Unlike some, I don’t rely on wealthy backers and corporate donors so I’m grateful to those who are contributing to my online crowdfund: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/re-elect-alison-johnstone.
I’m determined to keep speaking up for Edinburgh and Lothian region in parliament. A bolder and more diverse Holyrood has never been more important.
Alison Johnstone is Scottish Green MSP for Lothian