THE Scottish Greens must not fall victim to a Tory surge at May’s council elections, a leading candidate says.

Councillor Martin Bartos, co-convener of Glasgow City Council’s Greens group, predicts Ruth Davidson’s party will make gains across the country in the local government vote.

Speaking to The National, he said his pro-independence party must not lose out in the process.

The comments come as the party, led by Patrick Harvie MSP and Maggie Chapman, unveiled their biggest ever council campaign.

The party will field more than 200 candidates – more than double the 80-strong group who stood in 2012.

Leaders hope the push will yield gains in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeenshire, Midlothian and Stirling, building on previous electoral successes.

It is also hoped that it can achieve a presence in “many” of the other 27 local authorities and even “hold the balance of power” in some.

Launching the push in Edinburgh, Harvie said his team can push the dominant SNP to go further and achieve more, stating: “Our councils need more voices speaking up for good jobs and strong public services.

“Green MSPs have demonstrated their commitment to protecting local services by securing an extra £160 million from the Scottish Government for councils to spend on local priorities. It’s this bold and constructive approach that more Green councillors will bring to our local authorities.”

Currently the Greens have five councillors in Edinburgh, four in Glasgow, and one in each of Aberdeenshire, Midlothian and Stirling. The Glasgow and Edinburgh branches are standing candidates in every ward across their cities, but have identified 11 target areas in which resources will be focused.

Christy Mearns, candidate for the target Anderston-City ward in Glasgow, said: “People are quite happy to see another party who aren’t just the usual suspects and who will challenge the SNP, but people recognise that we can be constructive with them.”

However, Bartos says success is far from assured, adding: “It’s a blindfold rollercoaster election. Who honestly knows if we’ll be up or down or thrown around in everyone else’s wake?

“Everyone is predicting that there will be an increase in Tories. I am too, I don’t want that at the expense of Greens.”

Candidates will meet at the party’s spring conference on Saturday as campaigning ramps up with just eight weeks to go until the historic election, which will see 16- and 17-year-olds participate for the first time.

Chapman, a former councillor and MSP who is currently rector of Aberdeen University, said: “More people than ever will have the opportunity to elect Green councillors this May.

“All our candidates are dedicated local campaigners and believe strongly in putting power in the hands of local people. I have no doubt that more Green councillors will mean more support for vital public services such as schools, social care, leisure and culture.”

At the campaign launch at the social enterprise Edinburgh Remakery, local candidate Susan Rae said: “Greens are delighted to have the Remakery in Leith Walk, but then it is the perfect place for an innovative social enterprise to be. It has a strong sense of identity and abounds with creativity, expertise, artists, business folk, makers and radical thinkers working within the community to strengthen and grow it – the essence in fact of Green thinking.

“We need more Green councillors to drive our initiatives forward, to prioritise housing, support community groups, continue to fight for higher wages and encourage a bold and radical approach to strengthening our community, and our city.”