Green councillor Gavin Corbett looks back on the Scottish election campaign in Lothian.
The Greens in Lothian set out to elect two Green MSPs in the region and we did just that, with Alison Johnstone re-elected and joined by land reform expert, Andy Wightman as regional list MSPs. 34,500 people in Lothian voted Green – 10.6% of the total regional list votes but rising to 18.1% in Edinburgh Northern and Leith. It was a double-win built on the back of hundreds of tireless activists working their socks off.
We also contested a Scottish Parliament constituency seat for the first time, with Alison Johnstone standing in Edinburgh Central. From a standing start, a Green victory was never the most likely outcome first time around. But over 4,600 votes and 14% vote share has shown that the Greens can be competitive in these contests too and will be much more so in the future. Indeed, that 14% was the best-ever showing by the Scottish Greens in a parliamentary seat, only surpassed an hour later by Patrick Harvie coming second in Glasgow Kelvin with 24%. Looking at the trajectory of the Greens taking a Westminster seat in Brighton – 10%; 22%; marginal win; increased majority – then it looks like it is only a matter of time before the Scottish Greens start winning constituencies.
What of the underlying arithmetic? Well, it was close. That seventh and final regional list seat was very tightly decided. If any one of the Lib Dems, Labour or Tories had not won the seats of Edinburgh Western, Southern and Central respectively, then the seventh seat would have gone to them and the Scottish Parliament would have been denied the presence of Andy Wightman, which, judging by comments since Friday, all but the most tribal members of other parties would consider a loss. As it was, Andy came only just ahead of Labour’s Sarah Boyack and the SNP’s Jil Murphy.
Rather predictably, some SNP supporters have pointed to their loss of Edinburgh Central as being linked to the Greens 14% vote share there, conveniently forgetting that the Greens chose not to stand in Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Western and these were also SNP losses. The wiser SNP members understand the limitations of this argument. While the Tory gains in Lothian came as surprise – even to the Tories – even if the SNP had retained Edinburgh Central, Ruth Davidson would still be in Parliament and there would still be 4 Tories from Lothian. The only difference would be no Andy Wightman in the Parliament: hardly a triumph for the progressive, radical politics that we hope to see in Scotland’s future.
Looking beyond Lothian, it is, of course, heartening to see 6 Green MSPs elected, to allow the Greens to overtake the Liberal Democrats in Holyrood. I am disappointed that top list candidates Sarah, Maggie and Kirsten did not quite get over the line in South, North-East and Central respectively or, indeed, that Zara and Isla in Glasgow and Highland did not quite make it either. Any one of them would have lit up Parliament. From the point of view of a Green councillor in Edinburgh it was pretty obvious to me that Green support was highest where Greens had already established a track record over a long period of running effective campaigns and showing themselves to be hard-working, listening, people. So the best thing that we can all do, throughout Scotland, is pause, take breath, and then get to work in winning council seats from top to bottom of Scotland in 2017.
Meantime, the neglected garden badly needs weeding