Robin Harper

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Robin Harper
Harper in 2008
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Lothians
In office
6 May 1999 – 22 March 2011
Personal details
Robin Charles Moreton Harper

(1940-08-04) 4 August 1940 (age 81)
Thurso, Caithness, Scotland
Political partyScottish Greens
Alma materUniversity of Aberdeen

Robin Charles Moreton Harper, FRSSA (born 4 August 1940) is a Scottish politician, who was a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Lothians region (1999–2011). He was co-convener of the Scottish Greens (2004–2008). Harper became an MSP in the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the first ever elected Green parliamentarian in the United Kingdom.

Early life and career[edit]

Harper was born in Thurso, Caithness. He was educated at St Marylebone Grammar School and Elgin Academy, Moray. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1962. He worked as an English teacher in Kenya, then a Modern Studies teacher at Boroughmuir High School, Edinburgh.[1]

Harper was a member of Lothian Children's Panel 1985–1988 and Lothian Health Council 1993–1998.[2]

Political career[edit]

Harper joined the Ecology Party's Scottish branch in 1985. At the time, the branch only had 35 members, and its AGM that year was held in his flat. He was elected unopposed as its convenor and secretary, and remained a leading figure as it became first the UK-wide Green Party, then the independent Scottish Greens.[3]

He stood, unsuccessfully, as a Green candidate for Edinburgh Pentlands in the 1997 United Kingdom general election.[4]

Scottish Parliament[edit]

Harper stood for election at the first ever Scottish Parliament election in 1999, and was elected as an additional member for the Lothians region, becoming the first ever elected Green Party parliamentarian in British political history. In an emotional speech, he promised to be a critical voice on the environment in the newly created devolved Parliament.[5] He criticised the Scottish Executive's decision to split ministerial responsibility for the environment in 2001.[6] He served as his party's sole representative in the first Parliament (1999–2003) until the 2003 election,[7] when the Scottish Green Party won another 6 seats in the regional lists.[8][9] Harper was sworn in by giving the formal affirmation, also adding: "On behalf of the Scottish Green Party I wish to affirm that our priority will be to serve the people of Scotland who are sovereign in this land."[10] He was the party's spokesman on education and young people.[11] In 2004, he was a member of the Scottish Parliament team in the TV general knowledge show University Challenge: The Professionals. He and fellow team members Richard Baker (Labour), Stewart Stevenson (SNP) and Jamie Stone (Lib Dem) who was captain, beat a Welsh Assembly team by 110 points to 75.[12]

In January 2007, The Scotsman reported that Harper was being considered for the next Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. Harper stated that he did not know of this story, but said "it would be an honour even to be considered".[13] Following the 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament, Harper was returned as a list MSP for the Lothians,[14] this time one of only two Green Party members elected.[15] After an agreement with the Scottish National Party, the party with the largest mandate from the election, the Green MSPs including Harper voted for Alex Salmond to become First Minister of Scotland but the Greens declined to enter a formal coalition with the Scottish National Party. As part of the deal, fellow Green MSP Patrick Harvie was nominated to head the Holyrood Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.[16] In 2009, Harper and Harvie voted to reject an SNP government budget.[17] He did not seek re-election in 2011.[18]

After Parliament[edit]

In 2011 his autobiography was published, written with journalist Fred Bridgland.[19]

In September 2014, Harper became chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.[20] He remained in that role for three years.[21]

At the beginning of December 2013, Harper announced that he would "absolutely vote no" in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, going on to say that he would be happy to help the Better Together campaign and that there was a "significant minority" of Greens who were opposed to independence.[22]

In August 2021, Harper criticised the deal that the Greens had struck with Nicola Sturgeon's government, claiming that his party had failed to take tougher action on North Sea oil, marine protection and taxation.[23]


Harper has been a patron of many organisations including LGBT Youth Scotland, an organisation dedicated to the inclusion and advancement of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people in Scotland. He was an Honorary Vice-President of English-Speaking Union Scotland. He served as Rector of the University of Edinburgh 2000–2003.[24] Harper was an Honorary President of the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group.[25] He was elected as Rector of the University of Aberdeen in 2005.

He was President of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts 2008–2011.[26]


  1. ^ Black, Andrew (13 September 2008). "Constant force calls it a day". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  2. ^ "CV: Robin Harper". BBC News. 2 April 2003. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  3. ^ "A Short History of the Scottish Green Party". Scottish Greens. 2 July 2015. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Vote2001: Results & Constituencies > Edinburgh Pentlands". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Historic Green victory". BBC News. 7 May 1999.
  6. ^ "Greens see red over executive shake-up". BBC News. 21 March 2001.
  7. ^ "Previous MSPs: Session 1 (1999-2003): Robin Harper". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  8. ^ "Vote 2003 > Scottish Parliament election > region > Lothians". BBC News. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Greens in seven heaven". BBC News. 2 May 2003.
  10. ^ "Oath protest as MSPs start work". BBC News. 7 May 2003. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  11. ^ "Previous MSPs: Session 2 (2003-2007): Robin Harper". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Scots win in 'Paxo' challenge". BBC News. 28 June 2004.
  13. ^ "Harper tipped to be Presiding Officer". Scotland on Sunday. 28 January 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Previous MSPs: Session 3 (2007-2011): Robin Harper". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Smaller parties suffer at polls". BBC News. 4 May 2007.
  16. ^ "SNP and Greens sign working deal". BBC News. 11 May 2007.
  17. ^ "Scottish budget rejected by MSPs". BBC News. 28 January 2009.
  18. ^ Black, Andrew (22 March 2011). "Scottish election: MSPs bidding farewell to Holyrood". BBC News.
  19. ^ Bort, Eberhard (2013). "Dear Mr Harper: Britain's First Green Parliamentarian, Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2011". Scottish Affairs (84).
  20. ^ "News: Former Green MSP becomes Trust Chairman". (Press release). Scottish Wildlife Trust. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  21. ^ Smith, Susan (4 January 2017). "Major conservation body seeks new chair". Third Force News. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Robin Harper to vote No". The Scotsman. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  23. ^ Carrell, Severin; Brooks, Libby (26 August 2021). "Former Scottish Greens leader criticises 'disappointing' agreement with SNP". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  24. ^ "New rector pledges to cut suicide rate". The Herald. Glasgow. 12 May 2000. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  25. ^ EUSOG. "the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group". Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  26. ^ "Past Presidents". Royal Scottish Society of Arts. Retrieved 22 June 2020.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Principal Speaker of the Scottish Greens
with Marian Coyne 1999
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Preceded by
New position
Convenor of the Scottish Greens
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New position
Co-Convenor of the Scottish Greens
with Shiona Baird 2004–2007,
Alison Johnstone 2007–2008

Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Rector of the University of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Preceded by Rector of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by