I once went to the leaving dinner of one of Edinburgh University’s Vice Principals. The retiree had been a senior climate scientist, on the UK government climate advisory panel, and the IPPC – as well as a slew of other bodies.

As he circulated the room, said something to one of my friends there, about a mutual acquaintance they were discussing: “Ah, yes, Maggie Chapman. Frighteningly intelligent – in fact, the brightest person I have ever met.”

The Vice-Principal had met and worked with Maggie through the various university committees she sat on as Students’ Association post-graduate rep. And this has always been my impression too.

Maggie is now Green Party councillor for Leith Walk, and our representative on the health, social care and housing, economic development, finance and resources committees. When I tell people how bright she is, they often express surprise – for most, she is gentle, kind, and a good listener.
Whenever she meets my friends, they quickly reveal things to her that they haven’t told me in years of friendship – such is the faith that they place in her.

And this rare mix of skills have been impressively deployed as a councillor – with community groups in Leith Walk talking about how she came and listened to them, and understood their problems, and then worked out – with them – how to secure funding to save their project giving young people in deprived communities things to do. It’s no surprise that it was Maggie who listened to, and understood, the problems faced by carers in Edinburgh when re-tendering was proposed – and that it was Maggie who, amidst a vast load of casework, led the insurgency campaign against the administration which defeated them for the first time.

It is no surprise because Maggie’s willingness to listen, and ability to understand mean that she has gained enormous respect from local community groups, and from councillors across the political spectrum. She manages to win campaigns without ever falling out with her opponents. And she manages to do it while sitting on an astonishing number of committees – mastering a wide range of briefs.

And primarily, this is why I’m hoping Maggie will top the Scottish Green Party list in the Lothians. Because she isn’t frighteningly clever, she’s reassuringly clever. When she makes the case for a policy, it’s on the basis of a deep understanding. When she works with constituents, they know she has heard what they have said. When she
articulates a vision of a better world, she knows how to get there, and she understands how to take people with her.

Adam Ramsay

About Adam Ramsay

Adam is Co-Editor of Open Democracy UK and a green activist based in Edinburgh. He co-founded Bright Green in 2010.