Welcome to a new feature for ScotlandVotes ahead of May’s election. We’re calling it #16for16. 16 candidates that will be making an impact during the campaign and may be making a bigger impact in the Holyrood chamber after the election.
Our fifth profile in this series is the Scottish Greens candidate and co-convener, Maggie Chapman.
What’s your name? Maggie Chapman
Where are you standing? North East of Scotland region
Which party are you standing for? Scottish Green Party
How old are you? 36 years old
What is your current job/role? I am co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, Rector of the University of Aberdeen and I work for Amina – the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre in Dundee managing their Helpline and Development and Refugee Support Projects.
What have been your previous jobs/roles? I was a lecturer in Cultural Geography at Edinburgh Napier University for 8 and a half years, and a Councillor for the City of Edinburgh’s Leith Walk ward for just over 8 years.
Before that I taught and tutored in Geography at Edinburgh University. I worked as a care worker and office administrator whilst at university.
Why are you standing?
I think representative politics needs a good shake up, and I want to do that! For too long we’ve seen politicians become part of the institutions. We need to change parliament, not be changed by parliament. I think I can do that.
I grew up in Zimbabwe – a country scarred by inequality and racism. That gave me a real desire to change things. The transformation of South Africa showed me that politics could make things better.
Of course, representative politics isn’t enough. That’s why I’ve always been involved in organisations that fight for change. I was an active member of EIS – the educational union while I was a lecturer. I enjoyed being a part of the Radical Independence Campaign and I’ve always worked to bring people into politics, through radical democratic projects like £eith Decides which gave participants the right to decide which projects got funding. It now attracts over 1000 participants every year.
Earliest political memory?
My parents moved to Zimbabwe from South Africa and I was born in Zimbabwe just before Independence. My earliest political memories are steeped in living in a Frontline State, as the liberation war – the Chimurenga – came to an end. Renamo, a counter-revolutionary militia from Mozambique frequently raided the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, and our broadcasters always referred to them as ‘Renamo Bandits’. To this day, that word association is imprinted in my brain: you say ‘Renamo’, I say ‘Bandits’.
I was also visiting family in South Africa when the great Chris Hani was murdered. This had a huge impact on me: out of this tragedy a peaceful transition to democracy for South Africa was born.
First election you can remember? I remember my parents going to vote in 1985 – the Zimbabwean elections were around my birthday. However, I remember the 1990 presidential elections very well, mainly because it struck me as odd that Mugabe’s opponent, Edgar Tekere, led the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (or ZUM) – calls for unity in party names have always entertained me – there’s nothing more divisive than a call for unity.
Where do you see Scotland in five years? More democratic, more confident, more equal. I think the referendum campaign has set up huge expectations of what Scotland can be. We need a Parliament that supports that expectation. I want more involvement in politics, more vision about how we can be better, more change and no more excuses about how we can’t do things.
Most importantly, we need to reduce inequality. We know that it is inequality that rips society apart. With new powers that can really tackle this, it’s vital that we are bold and that we live up to the expectations of the referendum campaign.
Favourite campaigning anecdote? No amount of canvassing training can prepare you for the various states of undress in which people answer their front doors, or the fact that being propositioned on the doorstep is not unlikely. But I remember, fondly, the time when my canvassing session turned into a baby and puppy sitting session – I was pleased to be able to help out a young mum for a few minutes, and honoured that she trusted me with her precious charges.
Tell us something not many people know about you I am part of cardiology history in South Africa – as a baby I had open heart surgery in Johannesburg. To this day, I set off some metal detectors in airports and other buildings because of the staples in my sternum.
Biggest vice/guilty pleasure? I love music. My dad was a musician, and I play folk music regularly. I also love singing. Unlike my dad, whose passion was classical music, I’ve got a pretty diverse taste in music – and it is definitely both a vice and a pleasure.
What do you perceive to be the next big issue in Scottish politics? How we find a way to make the economy work for the people of Scotland rather than the people working for the economy, and how we find a way to stand together against cuts. We are in a moment of great uncertainty and change, where it is clear that the orthodoxy of the 1990s and 2000s no longer works for us. But we haven’t yet got to grips with exactly what replaces that. It is very daunting, but also very exciting.
Favourite place in the world? Ooh, there are too many to mention, and I’ve not travelled that widely. I love the south coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal – I spent many happy childhood weeks in Pumula, a little village with a great beach. I love being in the middle of an African thunderstorm. But I’ve made my home in Scotland, and I love being on a Scottish beach, listening to the waves and seabirds, or up a hill in the mist.
How do you relax away from politics? Other than listening to and making music, I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. I love cooking and baking, as long as I’m not expected to follow a recipe to the letter (or at all!).
Other #16for16 profiles: