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Alison Johnstone: A look at the career of Holyrood’s new Presiding Officer

·2-min read

Alison Johnstone has been elected by MSPs as the Scottish Parliament’s new Presiding Officer.

She replaces Ken Macintosh in the role, acting as the speaker of the chamber and the head of the Parliament’s corporate body.

As the role is expected to be non-partisan, the former co-convener of the Scottish Greens will give up her party affiliation.

Ms Johnstone’s latest role comes after a 10-year career at Holyrood as a Lothians MSP, and she has also represented the Meadows/Morningside ward on City of Edinburgh Council.

Scottish Government’s Stage 1 budget
Ms Johnstone will have to renounce her party affiliation to become Presiding Officer (Jane Barlow/PA)

She is a qualified athletics coach and previously held the East of Scotland titles for the 800m and 1500m.

Some of her earlier campaigns as a parliamentarian included Fans First, a push for fan ownership of football clubs.

She also proposed a ban on fracking and campaigned against benefits sanctions in devolved employment schemes.

Ms Johnstone became co-leader of the Scottish Greens’ parliamentary party in 2019, though she has now been replaced by Lorna Slater.

One of her most prominent campaigns was against the killing of mountain hares.

Mountain hare study
A campaign on mountain hares led to a change in the law (Andrew Marshall/RSPB)

In 2019, she said: “Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and the public will be outraged that the Government continues to drag its feet on ending animal cruelty.”

Her interest in wildlife issues also includes a call to end loopholes around fox hunting.

A consultation on her proposal to protect the animals led to nearly 10,000 responses from the public.

In March this year, it became illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take mountain hares without a licence.

The changes were part of the Scottish Government’s Animals and Wildlife Act, following pressure from Ms Johnstone’s campaign.

In the last session of the Scottish Parliament, she was a member of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, though Andy Wightman later took over her membership.

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