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Andy Wightman to stand as independent on Highlands and Islands list

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ANDY Wightman has confirmed that he will stand as an independent at the next Holyrood election.

The MSP, who quit the Greens at the end of last year, announced on Saturday night that he was moving to Lochaber and would run on the Highland and Island regional list.

He said a focus of his election campaign would be a “Land for the People Bill to reform Scotland’s antiquated land laws and democratise the ownership and use of land and property”.

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Wighthman said Holyrood needed “more independent voices”.

He plans on starting a crowdfunder in the next few days before formally launching his campaign.

“It is very hard to be elected as an independent candidate. I will need 12-15,000 votes across the Highlands and Islands,” he said.

“I will be relying on a grassroots campaign of supporters who are able to mobilise voters by word of mouth and social media.”

The Greens’ sole MSP for the Highlands and Islands, John Finnie, is due to retire at the next election. 

Wightman was elected on the Lothians list for the Greens in 2016. He left the party last December, accusing them of shutting down debate on transgender and women’s rights.

He said his decision to leave came after MSPs overwhelmingly backed an amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill to allow the survivors of rape and sexual assaults to pick the sex rather than the gender of the person examining them after an attack.

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Only the LibDems and the Greens voted against.

Wightman spoke in the debate, saying at the time that the change in wording would make no real difference to the implementation of the law. He argued that the courts would interpret legislation in line with what the intentions of parliament were.

But in a letter to Green co-leaders, Patrick Harvie and Laura Slater, he revealed that he had wanted to vote for the amendment.

However, he was told by the party he would “face complaints and disciplinary action leading to possible suspension, deselection or expulsion”.

In a later interview with Holyrood magazine, Wightman accused the leadership of taking a “very, very censorious attitude” towards members who question its stance and being unwilling to “tolerate dissent”.

Slater later hit back at Wightman, putting his claims of being silenced down to wounded “male privilege”.

She told the Scotsman: “Andy has very specific followers, but most people have no idea who he is. There’s a bit of a niche following there, but I don’t think it is a general issue.”

She said she “absolutely did not” recognise the accusation of intolerance in the party.

Slater said: “He didn’t even try to talk to us, so yeah, I don’t know where that comes from. He didn’t even try to talk to us about that.

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“Does it come from a kind of male privilege where anyone who thinks differently than you is somehow silencing you? I don’t know, I’m a little unclear on that myself.”

The Scottish Green politician said it was “honestly a mystery” as to why Wightman resigned, saying she personally wrote to him asking him to stay and that he never approached the women’s network within the party to discuss the issue.

She said: “It was presented as a done deal and we offered to discuss the matter with him, I myself wrote to him to ask him to stay and talk to us, endless hours of discussion happened between our parliamentary group and our parliamentary staff and he would not be persuaded to continue the discussion with us.

“Andy at no point approached the women’s network to ask us why we have the policies we have, over why we feel the way we do over trans rights. At no point did he engage with any of our trans members of the Rainbow Greens.

“So that’s why it came as a shock because if someone really wants to learn about those issues, we have those party bodies and discussing those things is pretty much what we do, that’s why we exist, and I really wish that when we had reached out to him to come and talk to us that he had taken us up on that.”

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