Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone has been elected as Holyrood’s new Presiding Officer, after being the only candidate which saw her win 97 votes, with 28 against.

There were also two abstentions and one MSP spoiled their paper in the secret ballot.

The Presiding Officer, the equivalent of the Speaker in the House of Commons, relinquishes party affiliation and sits as a non-partisan MSP for the duration of their term.

Ms Johnstone’s ascension to the role, taking the place of Ken Macintosh, will mean the SNP draws even in the number of Holyrood seats, with all opposition parties combined on 64.


But who is the Scottish Greens MSP and how has her career led her here?

Athletics coach

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.

Co-leader of the Scottish Greens

Ms Johnstone became co-leader of the Scottish Greens’ parliamentary party in 2019, though she has now been replaced by Lorna Slater.


Mountain hares and fox hunting

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

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.

Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints

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

Presiding Officer - May 2021


In her role as newly-elected Presiding Officer, Ms Johnstone must remain politically impartial in everything that she does.

One of the most obvious responsibilities of the presiding officers is to chair plenary sessions of Parliament in the Debating Chamber.

The Presiding Officer's role also includes the selection of questions to be asked at the weekly First Minister's Questions, as well as the selection of supplementary questions and amendments.

The Presiding Officer also has three other roles - namely chairing the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and the Parliamentary Burea, and representing the Parliament at home and abroad.