General election 2019: SNP welcomes decision by Greens not to contest key marginal seats

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SNP candidates have welcomed a decision by Scottish Greens not to contest several marginal seats at next month's general election, following an online backlash from pro-independence supporters that it could split the vote.

The environmentalists will not stand in North East Fife - where Stephen Gethins is defending a majority of just two - and Perth and North Perthshire, where veteran Nationalist MP Pete Wishart has a majority of just 21.

Pete Wishart is defending a majority of 21 in Perth and North Perthshire, a key target seat for the Scottish Conservatives. Picture: PA

Pete Wishart is defending a majority of 21 in Perth and North Perthshire, a key target seat for the Scottish Conservatives. Picture: PA

The Greens branch in Angus has also confirmed it will not stand any candidates in the constituency - and will instead focus its campaigning efforts on unseating Conservative Kirstene Hair, who has a majority of 2,664.

But the decision was branded "cowardly" by the Scottish Conservatives, who view Perth as one of their key target seats at the ballot on December 12.

It was welcomed however by Mr Wishart, who said: "I am really grateful to the Perth and North Perthshire Greens for not standing a candidate against me. I hope that I can repay this generosity with my work in Parliament."

READ MORE: Scottish Greens to contest more than 20 constituencie

The Scotsman revealed Greens are planning to stand in constituencies across Scotland at the election due to concerns among members that the climate emergency had slipped down the list of issues being debated.

Asked if there was concern that Green candidates could split the pro-Remain vote in some constituencies, MSP Ross Greer said last week: “If the SNP or Lib Dems are concerned about the vote being split they are more than welcome to stand down in our favour.

“Political parties stand in elections. We have just as much of a right to stand as everyone else.”

Responding to the news the Greens would not contest several marginal seats, a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: “This is a cowardly move from the Scottish Greens, who are clearly terrified of upsetting their paymasters in the SNP.

“The SNP has repeatedly played Patrick Harvie and it is getting embarrassing to watch.”

Other Nationalist candidates are now demanding the Greens stand aside in other seats. Douglas Chapman, who is defending a majority of 844 in Dunfermline and West Fife, called for the party to step as their candidate "wants all the same things that I've been campaigning for in this parliament".

But Mags Hall, who is contesting the seat for the Greens, replied: "I think you’re mistaken Douglas, I don’t want continued North Sea oil extraction, or a third runway at Heathrow, or more war ships built at Rosyth. Maybe a little less of the entitlement and a little more campaigning if you’re worried about your majority?"

A spokesman for the Scottish Greens said: “The decision about whether to stand in individual seats is for local Green branches and are taken for a number of reasons, including looking at resources for fighting the 2021 Holyrood election. However, all over the country Scottish Greens will be putting pressure on all the establishment parties to recognise the urgency of the climate emergency.

“This is the first general election since UN climate scientists gave us just ten years to turn it around, and the loudest and clearest way to demand climate action is to vote Scottish Green where possible.”