An already intriguing battle for the Edinburgh Central seat in May 2016 has been given a new twist with the news that Green MSP Alison Johnstone is to contest the seat.
Ms Johnstone, who has been a Lothian MSP since 2011 and a Green councillor before that, was confirmed as the Greens’ candidate last Thursday (27 August). She also tops the Lothian list for the Greens.
Sitting SNP MSP and government minister, Marco Biagi, is standing down, and former minister Sarah Boyack, for Labour and Tory leader Ruth Davidson are already lined up. So Edinburgh Central is shaping up to be, arguably, the highest-profile battleground in Scotland.
Although Edinburgh Central has not been contested by the Greens for the Scottish Parliament before, it has long been identified as the part of the capital with the highest Green vote. As far back as 2003 the Greens took 20% of the regional vote in Edinburgh Central, beating all other parties. With the contest wide open and Green support and membership growing, the Greens say they are confident of mounting a serious challenge.
“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% 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.”
The Greens have confirmed that Edinburgh Central is the only constituency seat which they are contesting in Lothian.