Scotland politics

Election 2017: Scottish Greens to stand fewer than 10 candidates

Patrick Harvie and Scottish Greens MSPs Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish Greens won six seats in last year's Holyrood election - but have never had an MP

The Scottish Greens expect to stand fewer than ten election candidates - but deny it is to encourage tactical pro-independence voting.

There had been calls for Greens to stand aside in SNP seats which are being targeted by the Conservatives.

A full list of where the party is standing is expected on Wednesday, but sources confirmed they were not looking to contest more than ten seats.

The decision means the party will not qualify for party election broadcasts.

But it is expected that co-convenor Patrick Harvie will still take his place in a Scottish leaders' debate hosted by BBC Scotland, political correspondent Nick Eardley said.

The Scottish Greens fielded 32 candidates at the general election in 2015 but failed to win any seats. They currently have six MSPs at Holyrood, and won 19 seats in last week's council election.

Asked by the Press Association whether the Scottish Greens plan to stand fewer than 10 candidates in next month's general election, a party spokesman said: "That's the way it's looking."

He said the party had written to a broadcaster saying it will not be supplying a party election broadcast.

To qualify for a party election broadcast for the election, the Scottish Greens must stand in at least 10 constituencies.

The spokesman added: "By targeting resources in key constituencies, such as Glasgow North where Patrick Harvie will be our candidate, we can build on our strong support to win Scotland's first Green MP, offering a bold alternative to the other parties."

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP incumbent candidate for Edinburgh East, had previously called on the Greens to avoid splitting the pro-independence vote in key constituencies.

He said: "They will want to stand some candidates as they are a national party and will want to put their case to their base, but in deciding which seats to contest and not to contest I think they should be mindful of not splitting the pro-Yes vote and certainly not splitting the anti-Tory vote."

Image caption Tommy Sheppard had called on the Greens not to "split" the pro-independence vote

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused the Greens of "propping up" the SNP.

He said: "This is the Green Party reaffirming themselves as a pointless presence in Scottish politics.

"The propping up of the SNP is embarrassing and a complete disservice to their voters. Quite simply, they might as well not exist.

"If they are so determined to become the SNP, they should disband and merge with the nationalists."

The Greens had earlier confirmed they would not be fielding any candidates in the Highlands and Islands in the election on 8 June.

The seats affected include Moray, which is held by the SNP's deputy leader Angus Robertson but which has been identified as a key target by the Tories.

The Greens made breakthroughs on Highland and Orkney councils in the recent local elections, winning seats in the area for the first time, and has a list MSP at Holyrood from the region in John Finnie.

Highlands and Islands Greens Convener James MacKessack-Leitch, who stood in Moray in 2015, said the party would instead seek to push other candidates "on a progressive path", without directly endorsing anyone.

He said: "At any normal election we would be proud to field candidates and run a positive campaign, however, this is no normal election. This general election has been called for naked party political purposes as the Tories attempt to crush Labour in England and Wales.

"This immature behaviour has no relevance in the Highlands and Islands, let alone Scotland or Northern Ireland, but will only serve to increase voter apathy and anger at the way politics is conducted in this country, at a time when there are far bigger issues at stake."

Scottish Labour's general election campaign manager, James Kelly MSP, said: "This embarrassing revelation makes a mockery of the Greens' claims to be a credible party.

"Patrick Harvie has only decided to stand in Glasgow North himself in a desperate attempt to prove that he really isn't just a backbench SNP politician - and now it emerges his party could stand fewer than 10 candidates."

Willie Rennie said only his Liberal Democrats could "save the Highlands from the SNP", saying most seats in the area were "a straight choice between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP".