First Green Party councillor looks to the future

The Green Party is set to be a force on Scottish Borders Council in the future, the party’s first ever councillor believes.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 13th May 2022, 3:31 pm
Updated Friday, 13th May 2022, 3:32 pm
Neil MacKinnon, the first Green Party member to be elected to Scottish Borders Council.
Neil MacKinnon, the first Green Party member to be elected to Scottish Borders Council.

Neil MacKinnon made history when he was elected for the Galashiels and District ward in this month’s Local Elections.

His success was a significant moment for the party – which succeeded in attracting more than eight per cent of the vote across the region.

And with younger voters increasingly interested in the green agenda and concerned about climate change, father-of-three Mr MacKinnon, 55, a service engineer for an American scientific equipment company, sees a bright future for the party’s electoral hopes.

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He said: “I was lucky. It was just an accident of arithmetic that I was elected. There were other very good Green candidates that didn’t get in. I polled nine per cent of the vote in Galashiels but overall in the Borders the party polled over eight per cent.

“We are really buoyed by the results. If it was completely proportional representation we would have three councillors. People are waking up to the green issues, particularly young people and hopefully we can build on this.”

A member of the party for six years, he had always raged about political issues and his kids eventually told him: “shut up dad and go do something about it.”

Now he’s aiming to be a champion for the environment and social justice in the council chamber.

He said: “I have been reading New Scientist for the last 30-odd years and every week there are stories in there about climate change and the destruction of nature and it’s terrifying and someone has to try and do a wee bit about it.

“The planning department should insist that all new homes have solar panels, air source and ground source heat pumps. There’s the Warmer Homes initiative from the Scottish Government and the Borders could maybe promote that more because not enough people are aware of the grants available for cavity wall and loft insulation and new windows.

“Given that the poorest people in society are going to suffer most from climate change and the cost of living crisis if you could cut people’s heating bills it would be a good thing.

“I think the council needs to ensure that anything they build, such as the new school in Galashiels, should be net zero and strive to make council buildings net zero, with more electric vehicles in the council’s fleet.

“There’s certain areas in Galashiels where there is a lot of deprivation, as there is in places like Eyemouth and Hawick, pockets all over the Borders, and I think a society is judged by how it looks after its least fortunate and Scottish Borders has been failing a wee bit.”