Election 2016: when the dust settles

Newly re-elected Green MSP Alison Johnstone reflects on the Scottish Parliament election and what it means for the new term.

Elections are usually bitter-sweet. I am, of course, delighted to be back in the Scottish Parliament and even more delighted to be joined locally by new Green MSP and radical land reformer, Andy Wightman. It is very pleasing to have recorded the highest ever Green vote in Scotland; to have formally overtaken the Liberal Democrats as Scotland’s fourth party. And to have shown, with results here in Edinburgh Central and over in Glasgow Kelvin, that the Greens will be a force to be reckoned with in future constituency battles.

Manifesto LaunchBut I am also really sorry that my Green colleagues Maggie Chapman, Zara Kitson, Sarah Beattie-Smith and Kirsten Robb will not be further swelling our larger Green group of 6 MSPs. And, here in Lothian, it is a loss that Jim Eadie of the SNP and Sarah Boyack of Labour will no longer be MSPs, as I found both to have genuine passion for making Scotland and the capital greener and fairer.

Once again Edinburgh, and the wider Lothian region, has shown itself to be the heartland of Green support in Scotland, a tradition that goes all the way back to the election of Robin Harper, as the UK’s first Green parliamentarian in 1999. I am so grateful for all 34,500 voters locally for placing trust in Andy and me.

But what of Scotland as a whole? With the SNP, in defiance of almost all opinion polls, short of an overall majority by two seats, the final result had barely been read out before speculation was rife that the SNP and Greens should work more closely together.  Indeed, during the election campaign, Green candidates always said that we would engage constructively with an SNP-led government on issues on which we agree, such as Trident weapons of mass destruction, a nuclear-free, renewables-led energy revolution; and rejection of some of the most damaging of welfare cuts. But we also said we’d champion policies well beyond the SNP comfort zone: on a fracking ban, for example, or much more radical land reform; or wholescale changes to the way councils are funded.

As in 2007-11, the SNP will lead a minority government in which I am sure that these opportunities will ebb and flow. For now, it is time to thank my party colleagues, thank all those voters again and start charting the way to a better Scotland through a bolder Holyrood.

Alison Johnstone is one of two Green MSPs in Lothian