ANDY Wightman may be standing for election for the first time, but he is no stranger to Holyrood.

The Scottish Green candidate first appeared at Parliament in 2006, his evidence on common good land beamed in by video link from the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The first question he fielded was from a certain Tommy Sheridan, recently triumphant in his defamation case against the News of the World and then a member of Holyrood’s local government committee.

Mr Wightman, thousands of miles from Edinburgh, was not a member of a political party, far less a budding politician.

But as Sheridan could testify, much has changed since then.

After returning from Africa, where he had moved after his wife took a job there, Mr Wightman joined the Greens in 2009. Despite rejecting previous invitations to stand for the party, the 52-year-old reconsidered in late 2014, saying he had become frustrated with the timidity of Holyrood, and finds himself second on the party’s list in Lothian.

If opinion polls are to be believed, the Greens are on course to improve on their 2003 result, when it won two MSPs in Lothian and seven overall. Such a result would leave Mr Wightman as a central figure in a far more influential group of Greens, with party strategists ambitiously targeting as many as 10 seats.

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Land, its history, ownership and relationship with power and money is Mr Wightman’s specialist topic, an interest that dates back to his days studying forestry at Aberdeen University.

“I just developed an interest, realised nobody was really looking at it so I started reading,” he recalls. “It’s all about power and how it’s distributed and exercised. I wanted to make people aware of that.”

When a friend told him, over a drink in 1995, that Canongate was interested in updating John McEwen’s groundbreaking but decades-old attempt to sketch Scotland’s landowning geography, he made a successful pitch to the publisher.

His book Who Owns Scotland came out the following year and he has continued with the project ever since, running an online, searchable database of land ownership. The Poor Had No Lawyers, Who Owns Scotland (and how They Got It), published in 2010, was widely acclaimed and partly responsible for land reform rising to prominence over the last Holyrood term.

The Herald: Andy Wightman

Mr Wightman branded the SNP’s recent land reforms, passed in March, a missed opportunity and says he may bring forward his own Bill if elected. With the SNP grassroots agitating for far more radical measures, the move may force the next Scottish Government out of its comfort zone.

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But he insists he would not be a single issue politician. Devolution of power to local communities would be a priority, as would making the case for meaningful local tax reform. As the Green representative on the Commission for Local Tax Reform, tasked with examining fairer taxation systems, he says he was angry to see the group’s findings effectively ditched by a cautious Nicola Sturgeon.

“I spent weeks and weeks negotiating to get a decent report,” he says. “The initial conclusions were very poor. I threatened to resign, to put in a minority report, after mainly arguing against the SNP to get something genuinely bold and ambitious.

“To then see the response of the party likely to form the next government – sticking with the council tax and tweaking the multiplier of a system most regard as ridiculous – was surprising and frustrating.”

Mr Wightman believes the Greens can work across party lines, saying tribal divides have hampered effective policymaking. He names Kezia Dugdale, Willie Rennie and even Murdo Fraser – one of the most vocal opponents of the land reform agenda in the last parliament – as politicians he is friendly with.

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Independence, he admits, is not a “core belief” for the Greens. While Mr Wightman voted Yes, he says the No victory was “pretty decisive” and does not believe a second referendum will happen any time soon. He is critical of the “failed” SNP approach in the 2014 campaign, saying many aspects, such as answers over the currency, were “not credible”. He says a “much more honest, more radical” case should be made if the question of independence is put again but he would prefer to spend the next five years “focusing on using the powers of the parliament to achieve a radical transformation”.

His only daughter, Isla, recently started a Green group at Oxford University, where she is studying music. The 19-year-old will be attending tonight’s count and is “excited” at the prospect of seeing her father elected.

Mr Wightman says he has “no problem whatsoever” with the SNP’s relentless campaign to dissuade its supporters from lending others their second votes but claims the message has not gone down particularly well outwith the party’s hardcore enthusiasts.

“I think people are beginning to realise that one party with an absolute majority is not necessarily what they want,” he adds. “If I was in the SNP, I would want a good, strong parliament full of principled voices. With that comes robust policy. People deserve that.”