Harvie promises to strengthen Scottish Greens as he takes leadership role

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Patrick Harvie made history last week when he became the first openly bisexual person to lead a political party in the UK.

The MSP for Glasgow is the first LGBT party leader in Britain.

He was elected unopposed as co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party.

Party members still vote if there is one candidate on the ballot – Mr Harvie, who was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2003, was overwhelmingly approved by the rank and file.

He said that alongside co-convenor Eleanor Scott, who is from the Highlands, he hopes to broaden perceptions of the Green party.

Mr Harvie said the Greens, who have two MSPs and have supplied support to the minority SNP administration in Scotland, are “pretty coherent” on policy issues and must concentrate on building up the party machine.

He has had to get used to the press asking questions about his sexual orientation.

“At some point I am hoping people will get over but i have to accept there is a bit of that,” he told PinkNews.co.uk.

“Some of the papers start asking questions because it is something that is not politics.”

During the 2007 Holyrood elections, Mr Harvie was targeted by fundamentalist Christian preacher George Hargreaves.

The founder of the Scottish Christian Party stood against him, claiming that Mr Harvie’s open bisexuality makes him sinful.

Mr Hargreaves has funded the SCP – slogan Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship – with royalties he continues to receive for co-writing and producing the 1980s anthem So Macho, sung by gay icon Sinitta. He took 1.4% of the votes in the Glasgow region.

The Greens hit a high point in 2003 when seven of their candidates were elected to Holyrood – in 2007 they only took two of the 129 parliamentary seats.

“In Scotland over the next four years we are going to come close to constant campaigning,” Mr Harvie told PinkNews.co.uk.

“The party will continue to be battered about by the fortunes of going up or down two or three percent unless we start to build the party machine to fight elections every year.”

He said there are Euro elections next year, a general election likely in 2010, Scottish Parliament elections in 2011 and council elections north of the border in 2012.

“The party needs money, activists and a machine working at a higher level of development,” said Mr Harvie.

“We have got a very clear opportunity to pitch our message in the new economic context. We need to invest in 21st century infrastructure and that is part of the economic recovery.

“We have the most distinctive message in UK politics.”

Mr Harvie is convenor of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Green Party is the fifth-largest party at Holyrood after the SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

Two other LGB people were elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2007 – both Liberal Democrats – gay MSP Iain Smith held on to Fife North East with a 15.9% majority and lesbian MSP Margaret Smith held Edinburgh West.

Mr Harvie is hopeful that the Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill, which he introduced, will become law next year.

It would require the aggravation of an offence by prejudice on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity to be taken into account in sentencing.