Why 'Yes' Vote Would Be Great for Rest of the UK, As Well as Scotland

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

By Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales

Natalie Patrick Green Yes tea

At one level, answering why the Green Party of England and Wales supports a “yes” vote in the Scotland independence referendum is easy.

You might have noticed the name; our members in Scotland chose independence in 1990, and since then we’ve agreed that on issues specifically relating to Scotland, the England and Wales party will take its lead from the Scottish Green Party.

And the Scottish Green Party is throwing itself heart and soul into the Green Yes campaign, part of the broader “radical yes” campaign that we mightn’t have heard much about south of the border, where the limited focus has all been on the SNP and Alex Salmond’s “really, it’s no big change at all” approach, rather than on the campaigners who see this as a chance to build an exciting, new, different, fair and equitable society.

But our support for a “yes” vote isn’t just a matter of passively following the lead of the Scottish Green Party, nor is it even just our no-comprise respect for the principle of self-determination, the right of peoples to decide their own future.

First, we see the exciting possibilities of a new state in Scotland. It’s a country whose voters have never been neoliberal, never voted neoliberal, where active espousal of the privatisation, austerity agenda that’s done so much to protect and enhance the position of the rich in our society has got the Tories to where they are today north of the border, which is nowhere at all.

There’s clearly a great possibility of rebuilding the welfare safety net that this government has so rent asunder, or stopping and reversing the privatisation of the NHS, of taking advantage of the tremendously rich renewable energy resources that our current government is determined to ignore as it rushes to appease the Ukip anti-wind lobby and the oil and gas companies that help to fund the Tories (and for whom so many of their MPs work).

It could be a great model for England and Wales to follow.

It’s a pity that so much of the debate has been around not such exciting possibilities, but political posturing on the currency and membership of the EU, when it is obvious these are issues that need to be negotiated after a “yes” vote, rather than caught up in less than honest statements in the campaign before the vote.

And there’s a second reason for the Green Party of England and Wales to enthusiastically back a “yes” vote: we see exciting possibilities for what will be left of the United Kingdom. I was a few months ago at a public meeting and a unionist in the audience pointed out, correctly, that there’s been very little discussion of the constitutional implications for “the rest” if the Scots do vote “yes”. “Won’t there be constitutional chaos?” he asked.

My response was: “Yes, isn’t that great!” We badly need some creative chaos, to reshape, to focus on our failing political structures – constitutional structures that haven’t basically changed since women got the vote. We’ve got nearly a century’s worth of stalled reforms to deliver.

There will be strong pressure to produce a written constitution, and many of the oddities, the corruptions, the sheer anachronism of our current arrangements would surely not survive the cold light of exposure, from our banana republic-style House of Lords to the dangerous privileges of the City of London Remembrancer.

Real change in our method of government – introducing more, much more, democracy, guaranteeing the transparency of what’s all too often done in secret, seeing how Scotland, already with a proportional representation election system, can create real change when set free to make real choices – would provide if not everything we need to restore our democracy, certainly some big steps in the right direction.

And to those who fear the maths that in previous elections, without Scotland, the figures show many more Conservative victories, draw comfort: change is coming in politics, real change. The future isn’t going to be like the past, whatever shape takes. It makes no sense to think that everything else would change, and voting patterns stay the same … indeed they are already very clearly changing.

Natalie’s blog first appeared on the Huffington Post


Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Activists from the Scottish Green Party have produced their own beer for the final weeks of the campaign. ‘Hoptimistic Future’ is a very limited edition IPA to quench the thirst of members after they knock on doors across the country promoting the party’s vision of a fairer and greener Scotland.

Beer group

Patrick Harvie MSP, a CAMRA member and beer enthusiast said:


“Only the Yes campaign is offering a positive vision for the future of Scotland. This is a small reward for our activists on the streets campaigning for a fairer and greener country with a Yes vote. In a world of many challenges, Scotland has this one opportunity to do things differently, which is why we can be optimistic about our future.


“There are brilliant small breweries opening up right across Scotland but we could do more with control of our own taxation system to challenge the dominance of the big brewers, who are more interested in volume than quality.”

Meeting Our MSPs As A New Member

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

New Scottish Greens member Ross Craig attended a “meet and greet” day with the Green MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. Here, he shares his thoughts on the day with us.

As a recent new member of the Scottish Greens I was delighted to be invited to a meet and greet with Alison Johnstone and Patrick Harvie at the Scottish Parliament. Arriving early I was welcomed by Scottish Greens staff who warmly welcomed me and other new Greens. We were in time to sit in the gallery and observe a hotly debated motion on the future of Trident in Scotland. The motion was put forward by Patrick and was successfully argued! The chamber was full and it was a pleasure to witness democracy in action especially on such an important issue. Patrick was by far and away the best orator on the subject and he handled the dissenters very well. I was delighted when the parliament carried his motion.

After the debating action we were guided by the staff to a meeting room where we held exclusive audience with Patrick and Alison. Both were very genuine and welcoming. It was only at this point did I see the huge turnout from new Green members. The meeting room was full and there was standing room only! New Greens from all sections of society numbering over 50. It was fantastic to hear all the points from like minded people.

After 30 minutes or so we left the parliament and went to a nearby pub. I got the chance to speak to lots of the new members and to Patrick and Alison too. The enthusiasm for our Green Party is infectious and I left feeling very positive about the upcoming referendum and the annual conference.

It’s hard to believe that such a landmark vote is happening in such a short time. A vote where we can really shape our future and take responsibility for ourselves. Like a young person leaving the family home we won’t be abandoned by our commonwealth cousins and nor are we to blame for breaking away from years of Union. It’s time to go it alone and the Greens are ready to participate in a modern and revitalised Scotland. Ready to abandon the old values and fears behind nuclear capability. Ready to allow local people to make decisions that affect local communities. Ready to look after our environment and society with greater conscience than ever before.

Amongst the absentees from the debating chamber was First Minister Salmond. Remember that September’s vote isn’t about him or the SNP it’s about Scotland looking out for itself. Don’t mistake the referendum for a personality contest but as an opportunity that future generations will be grateful for.

Glasgow 2014: An Inspirational Games

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

From the moment I arrived in Glasgow to watch the hockey, I could feel the city embrace the Games and as my family and I have travelled back and forth these past few days this feeling of pride and enjoyment in what the city and its people are adding to the sporting spectacle has grown.


I’ve been fortunate enough to see track cycling, netball and several athletics sessions and the warmth, humour and desire to help visitors and spectators is abundantly clear.

Those delivering the Games have learnt much from the London blueprint. Those Games were a huge success as are Glasgow’s. Glasgow2014 has brought people from across the globe together. While spectators cheer on their countrymen and women the applause for each and every athlete from all parts of the crowd is testament to the generous and knowledgable Scottish audience.

The train announcer at Mount Florida rail station should have his own stand-up show, or perhaps a double act with the guard on the Central Station to Edinburgh 2239 on Wednesday. London was slick but these characters belong to Glasgow. Ashton Eaton, Olympic Champion and world record holder in the decathlon seemed to be enjoying the banter as he stood back, anonymous in his hoodie.

The athletics crowd defy definition. From babes in arms to our oldest citizens, folk of all shapes, sizes and nationalities have cheered every individual effort regardless of outcome.

I’ve no doubt that many people, young and old, will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of those they’ve cheered on this week. There have been sports for all ages and inclinations on show.

There are questions posed by the Games. How can our part time netball and hockey players compete with full time professional athletes? Which sports should receive more funding? We need to look at formal links with coaches and educators in our schools. Physical education and games aren’t the same thing and we need to invest in physical literacy for our young people as this will pay dividends in terms of long term health and well being.

I’ve been thrilled by Eilidh’s silver, by Mark Dry’s bronze. Guy Learmonth’s personal best in the 800m final is a highlight. Eilidh’s McColgan’s gutsy run, Beth Potter’s 5th place and the determination of Lynsey Sharp in reaching the 800m final and Emily Dudgeon who narrowly missed out after a fantastic performance. And there’s more yet to come.

The challenge now, if we’re to deliver a meaningful legacy, is to make sure the facilities and coaches are in place for this to become a reality, and that no one is priced out of a more active lifestyle. Investing in sport is money well spent.

Edinburgh Airport And The Economy

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The American politician, Charles Erwin Wilson, is popularly credited with saying that what is good for General Motors is good for the USA.

That supposed umbilical link between the fortunes of a private commercial company and those of a state or city remains seductive today. Until recently it was commonplace to state that the apparent unending growth of RBS was naturally good for Scotland.

The ongoing troubles of RBS should be a warning. But it seems that, in other cases, critical faculties remain sluggish. Take for example, Edinburgh Airport, whose energetic and articulate chief executive, Gordon Dewar, spoke at the City Council’s Economy Committee this week.

Edinburgh Airport is a thriving commercial business – volumes are up on every count, new routes are being developed, more investment in facilities is planned. Mr Dewar had the good grace to acknowledge the challenges that airports pose to carbon emissions but, sadly, I am not sure his shareholders will be worrying too much about that.

Cllr Gavin Corbett

And so each new press release about new routes and higher numbers is greeted as unambiguously good by press and politicians. What is good for Edinburgh Airport is good for the city and the city region, it seems. As I argued this week, however, such a one-dimensional narrative does a disservice to a more discerning debate. What is the actual net economic impact of the airport? Who gains? What kind of business airport business generates what kind of economic impact and what policies does the city pursue to maximise benefits? Indeed, what is the optimal size of the airport?

There’s a world of economic difference between domestic flights (and 45% of Edinburgh Airport business is domestic, much of which could be handled by train) which result in boozy weekends causing mayhem in “party flats” and long term inward investment which enhances skills and jobs.

Now, I’ll not pretend that we got into all of those questions at the committee. But I hope that we started to look at both sides of the equation. For example, we know, from official air passenger data, that Scotland as a whole runs a passenger value deficit of almost £1 billion each year – in other words the total spending by people leaving Scotland on flights exceeds that of in-bound passengers by £900 million. That is an economic cost, not a benefit, yet how often do you see that statistic cited? We don’t have those data for Edinburgh alone but I hope that an economic impact study being commissioned this year will examine that local dimension more fully.

Edinburgh airport’s footfall (or “wingfall”?) is 60% tourist and 40% business, and the same net effect might be imagined for business decisions. Academic studies have suggested that flight connectivity is by no means the most important factor in locating a business (quality and skills of employees typically comes top) but, of course, it must play a part. But for every business which decides it can invest “in”, it is equally possible that businesses can use connectivity to exit and run a business more remotely. After all, it must be more tempting to shift production to a country which does not bother so much about pesky stuff like a minimum wage or working conditions, if there is a flight door to door. Equally, how about the capital exits from those wealthy enough to run second homes in France or Spain and lubricated by cheap flights?

Let’s keep perspective. Edinburgh thrives on being an international city. We benefit from being a city which is open to the skills and insights of people from around the globe. Equally, our citizens are enriched by being able to experience at first hand other cultures (and climates). I’ve not been at the airport, personally, for quite a while but I’d include myself in that latter category (at least by the time my kids nag me about being able to go abroad for a holiday at last – apparently, over the sea to Arran does not count).

But, as Mr Dewar recognised, there is no hiding place from the cold arithmetic of carbon reduction. Technology may improve but volume needs to be managed as well. And, maybe just maybe, the depth of the experience offered by international travel would be enhanced by being it being a bit less frequent and a bit more special.

So, given that environmental imperative, it is important that we also get to an economic debate which sees air travel in a rounded way and acknowledges that the sky will not fall in on the city economy in a lower-carbon future.

I’m looking forward to that evolving discussion.

How can we build a better media for all?

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Does Scotland’s media serve it’s democracy, asks Scottish Greens member Dominic Hinde.

The recent European elections were a tough time for Greens. Despite beating the Lib Dems into last place around the country, people who vote Green or campaign for either of the UK Green parties feel hard done by because both before and after the election the media refused to give Green politics coverage. (more…)

The early days of a better nation

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation

This post first appeared on Bella Caledonia.

I’m writing to say thank you to the 108,305 who voted Green last Thursday. Thank you so much for your warm welcome around the country, for your kind words throughout and after the campaign, for the political discussions you have had with friends and family. Thank you for voting with hope and ambition, for a Scotland that provides for the many not just the rich, welcomes new Scots from around the world, and stands for peace.

Thanks especially to the many volunteers who gave up their time, energy, and in some cases sleep for the campaign. Your work delivered the Greens’ biggest ever share of the vote across Scotland, and (if I can be selfish for a moment) made me feel overwhelmingly supported and proud, and hopeful for the future.

By voting Green in such numbers you have shown that there is a great and rapidly growing demand for a Green future. We’ve proved that more and more Scots want a nation that beats back poverty and inequality, that reclaims power from big business and returns it to the people, and in which our own generation and those to come can expect happy, secure and creative lives. But more than that: despite politicians’ insistence that ‘there is no alternative’, and the never-ending counsel of despair from the media, we’ve proved that we still believe that nation can be made real.

We can’t escape the grimmer news that this election returned a UKIP MEP, the first election victory in Scotland, at any level, for the far-right party. The vision of UKIP and their fellow travellers is the polar opposite of ours, a vision of fear, hatred and greed.

To drive UKIP from Scotland, we have to take them head-on. The pandering and cowardice of the big UK parties, first to the BNP and now to UKIP, is what got us in this position in the first place. We must not apologise for defending freedom of movement or the right to refuge; we will not join the reality TV assault on the casualties of inequality and poverty. We must defy, loudly and often, UKIP’s attempt to blame the victims.

But there is blame to be carried. It’s just in the wrong place. People are angry about the way in which our common wealth is withheld from them, and scared about a future they have been told is nothing but austerity and decline. UKIP’s politics of nihilism and division is sown in that soil, and its job there is to ensure that we never point the finger at those who are really to blame: the same people who fund UKIP handsomely to do that job.

While wages have stood still and bills have risen over the past 6 years, Britain’s wealthiest 1000 people have seen their fortune rise by £100bn during ‘austerity’. Cuts to the top rate of tax and to corporation tax, cut-price privatisation giveaways, and the ‘help to buy’ scheme have all added to the wealth of the already rich. We must make sure that people know this is where their money has gone. The crisis is due to the rich, the owners of of our economy; not the low paid, the unemployed, or the immigrant.

This is not a message we can just rely on the media to communicate. Almost all of the big papers are owned by the same moneyed interests who are leading the victimisation of the vulnerable. And in any case, a message of equality and democracy is ill-suited to being preached from a high media pulpit. Instead we need to build a mass movement, communicating that message one to another. In workplaces, around kitchen tables, at pubs throughout the country – that’s where we’ll make the case for redistribution of wealth, for a safe and healthy environment, and for the right of people to live where they wish.

I think we can see the beginnings of that movement in the Radical Independence Campaign, and we can find many of the ideas we need to respond to the immediate crisis in the Common Weal. The Greens can add a long-term vision that goes beyond what politicians from the establishment parties are comfortable with right now, pushing them forward. And Greens can provide the opportunity to support those ideas at the ballot box, form oppositions that challenge governments to meet our hopes and ambitions every day, and, where given the opportunity, put these ideas into practice directly.

To do that we need always to be unapologetic about what we stand for. Managerial politicians can slink into office without anyone really noticing, tinker with a few details while they’re there, and retire into obscurity. But radical democratic change needs people who will fight for their ideals and values. We can’t expect people to rally to a banner that has never been raised.

The independence referendum is our first opportunity to proclaim the Scotland we want. If we are bold in this campaign, and after the victory as negotiations begin and a constitution is drafted, we have the opportunity for a country shaped by and for the people. If we mumble, ashamed of dreams we have been told we don’t deserve, it will be shaped by the officials and the lobbyists.

As well as playing an active part in Yes Scotland, Radical Independence, National Collective, Women for Independence and the other parts of the diverse Yes community, Greens will be running our own Green Yes campaign that will be a standard-bearer for that distinct, progressive vision. The SNP’s timid approach of trying to sneak out of the union without alarming corporate bosses, NATO strategists or the Royal Family is not for us.

We are going to win the referendum. But even if the vote is lost, the genie of Scotland’s radical ambition that the referendum has released will not be put back in its bottle. Win or lose, the referendum is just the start of the fight for the Scotland we deserve.

Again, thank you. You’ve done so much, but now I have to ask you to do a little more. I believe another Scotland is possible and I think you do too, so please join the Scottish Greens and help us make it a reality.

We are living in the early days of a better nation, so let’s get to work.

To the 108,000 who voted Green in Scotland: thanks!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Co-chair of the Green European campaign, Gavin Corbett, offers his final thoughts on the 2014 elections.

Election campaigns are clear cut, in lots of ways. You win or you don’t. In 2014 I believed we had a good chance of electing the first Scottish Green MEP. In the end we fell a little short, despite posting our best-ever result – our first time over 8% – and beating the Lib Dems for the first time.

A result at that level would see 9 Green MSPs elected in 2016 and dozens of Green councillors in 2017 – on both occasions when the relevance of UKIP to specifically Scottish elections is much diminished, indeed barely registered.

In Edinburgh, the party scored over 16% and there were other highs in Stirling, Shetland, Orkney and Glasgow. In Glasgow Kelvin the party was neck and neck with Labour and SNP on 26% and in Edinburgh East on 21%. In England, our MEP numbers rose for the first time since the European breakthrough in 1999, with the election of Molly Scott-Cato in SW England.

Thousands of people voted Green for the first time, drawn by the message of hope not hate and by a positive campaign: of a welcoming Scotland; pro-public services; and pro-peace, sitting alongside the trust they place in us on issues like climate change and radical democracy. As Scotland’s leading political commentator, Iain McWhirter, said: “The Greens put up a hell of a fight, using social media to great advantage and were the only people who tried to make a constructive case for a reformed Europe.”

So, to the 108,000 who voted Green in Scotland: thanks!

But, of course, I am disappointed. It is well within our capability to get the 10.5% we would have needed to get that sixth MEP seat, even on a budget of £30,000 (compared to UKIP’s millions). My councillor colleague Maggie Chapman would have made an excellent, reforming, challenging MEP and Scotland would have been spared the embarrassment of UKIP’s David Coburn who is already making a mockery of the responsibility which has been placed on him.

So, we have work to do. Work to ensure that the many new members who have joined us in recent weeks quickly find a way they can help build support. Work to build our local branches so that all areas can match the kind of results which the hotspots mentioned above posted. Work to communicate to those looking for positive political vision that the Greens are their natural home.

And no time to lose. Usually, after an election, there is a pause. But with the path to the referendum on 18 September now clear ahead, it is all about getting over our exciting and forward-looking Green Yes vision. Let’s get our sleeves rolled up.

Personally, I cannot wait.

Gavin Corbett is a Green councillor in Edinburgh

A treaty for big business

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Tobacco companies could sue governments for losses caused by a law that stops children taking up smoking. Government could be prevented from taking Royal Mail into public ownership again. Keeping East Coast railways in public hands would become illegal. All of things are will become possible if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty passes.

Currently being discussed by the European Union, the treaty would substantially increase the protection enjoyed by corporations from regulation, taxation and the public interest. It would be a charter to profit at the cost of all of us.

Of all the major political parties, only Greens have been campaigning against these powers being handed to corporations. The Westminster parties are caught in a bind on this – they’ve long since been bought by those corporations that will benefit from this and their interests. From direct political donations to the currying favour with the corporate press, these political parties are totally in hock to the corporate pound.

A political class that is paid for by corporations will, of course, act for corporations. That’s why they were so slow to crack down on big tobacco. That’s why they are all in favour of privatisation and tax cuts for the rich. That’s why our democracy has been hollowed out. It’s why government doesn’t act for us.

For too long our politicians have flogged public assets like water and electricity and destroyed our public services. This treaty will allow a substantial acceleration in the plunder of our shared wealth.

So it’s something we must oppose. But while stopping the treaty is a daunting prospect it is a campaign we can win.

Given the huge powers that corporations stand to gain from this treaty it is only the latest occasion on which a similar proposal has been put forward. On each occasion it has been defeated by doughty campaigning.

In fact it was a previous proposal to strip government of its power to regulate business, stop workers being exploited and frankly, to govern that sparked my interest in politics. In the late 1990s the Multilateral Agreement on Investment contained many of the proposal in TTIP. We defeated this Agreement by campaigning to elected politicians. We voted for politicians who opposed it. And we worked hard to make sure everyone was aware of the potential impact of the Agreement.

This time we can do the same. Freeing ourselves from the corporate-dominated Westminster political elite will make this all the more possible. And having a Scottish seat at the table will allow us to have more of a voice. Only independence allows us to make this case at the top table.

The TTIP would destroy any chance for us to give people more control over their lives. It would destroy democracy and it would create a corporate dystopia. The criminal loss of life caused by the tobacco industry and asbestos will pale in comparison with the loss of life caused by corporations set free from the rule of law.

We must raise this issue as part of the referendum debate with our already elected representatives. We need to talk about it to our friends and colleagues. We need to get on the streets to oppose it. I will ensure that this issue is at the heart of campaigning, and I will do all I can to stop it.

It’s time Scotland had its own Green MEP

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

People who have been at the many events at which I have spoken in this campaign will have picked up, if they have a fine-tuned ear, that I was not born in Scotland. I’m originally from southern Africa, where my early attitudes, politics and instincts for justice were forged in the great struggles of that part of the continent these last 50 years.

I came to Scotland in 1998 and have chosen to make this my home ever since. For the last seven years I have represented the people of Leith here in Edinburgh as local Green councillor and I’ve worked in the universities of our capital city where I see daily the enormous benefit to our economy, society and culture, of institutions which welcome staff and students from across the planet.

So when I say that I passionately believe that the movement of people between countries is good for our society and economy, you better believe that I mean it. As Scotland’s Green MEP I would stand up for a Scotland which welcomes people, and challenge those who peddle damaging anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Scotland also needs a voice in Europe to say no to the Cold War relic that is NATO, and no to illegal wars and military aggression. I will be that voice.

And we need a campaigner who comes with a track record of fighting to keep public services in public hands. As someone who battled, in the capital city, to prevent care services for vulnerable people being privatised, I have that track record.

So the Green manifesto sets out a vision for a revitalised Scotland in a reformed and reforming European Union.

A Europe where Scotland leads by example in rejecting weapons of mass destruction and outdated military alliances in favour of leadership in peace-keeping and peace-making.

A welcoming Scotland where the free movement of people is celebrated as an asset to our economy and enriching for our culture.

A nuclear-free Europe which harnesses the complementary renewable energies of the continent: the wind and tides of the north and the sun in the south.

A Europe where public investment is seen as a force for good, both in our own communities and globally; where the priority is to tackle corporate tax avoidance and evasion, not punishing the poor for a crisis they did not create.

A Scotland where core public services – from the post we receive to the railways on which we travel – lie in public hands.

A co-operative Europe where shared protection for land, seas and animals leads to higher standards and improved conditions; and where there’s action, not words, on climate change.

An exemplar Europe which exercises its diplomatic and trade muscle, not on behalf of corporations, but in support of human rights, indigenous people, impoverished nations and expanding the reach of equalities protections.

A Europe where protection of workers’ rights and pensions is seen as the mainstay of a thriving economy.

A more democratic Europe, driven by elected institutions and reasserting the principle of handing power to the most local level.

It builds on a strong track record of Green MEPs in Europe, stretching back to the early 1980s and, in the UK, to the first election of Green MEPs in 1999.

Those MEPs have pioneered limits on bankers’ bonuses, championed action on climate change, stood up for rights of minority groups – and acted as a force for progress.

It’s time Scotland had its own Green MEP: to stand up for Scotland’s interests in an increasingly interconnected world.

Our manifesto sets out the priorities which I, as that Scottish Green MEP, will follow.