Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
First there was Devo Max, the brand of devolution everyone had heard of but whose secret ingredients were carefully guarded. Then there was The Vow, a commitment to new powers that was supposed to be bold and clear. Next came Home Rule, a nostalgic return to a reassuring old brand identity even if nobody could quite remember who still owned the copyright.
Now Gordon Brown has, apparently in all seriousness, launched The Vow Plus. Yes folks, it’s new and improved, with added goodness, because you’re worth it.
Honestly, this is really starting to get silly.
Given the promises which had been made by various people on the Better Together side in the final stages of the referendum, the issue of deeper devolution had to be dealt with. And even though the breakneck timescale which had been set out was absurd the Smith Commission did offer the political parties the chance to lay out their ideas and see what common ground might exist.
Given that Labour’s heels were dug in deeper than anyone else’s, it’s pretty astonishing to see them now try and take credit for devolution in areas like employment and welfare. These were exactly the areas where they had to be dragged kicking and screaming.
Indeed even Labour’s colleagues in the trade union movement seemed dismayed at their position, with the STUC setting out some very constructive ideas about “workplace devolution”, including employment law, the minimum wage, health and safety, equality and trade union law. If Labour had agreed, at least some of that lot would have made it into the Smith Report.
Even the newly rebranded position announced this week seems more than a little confused. The LibDems and Tories have a lot to answer for in their destructive and cruel welfare policies, but to blame the coalition policy of introducing Universal Credit for the limited progress on welfare devolution is absurd. It was Labour who were most rigidly opposed to new powers on welfare, and their own position at UK level is merely a three month pause on Universal Credit – the very policy Gordon Brown is now denouncing as a straitjacket.
I’m sure most voters are quite capable of seeing through the shallow posturing, on both sides of this debate, just as we all take commercial adverts with at least a pinch of salt. But it really does politics as a whole no credit to have the issues treated in this way. There can be little doubt that for Scotland to resist UK austerity policies and take our own economic path will take serious additional powers. But that can only happen on the basis of meaningful and detailed proposals, not cheap gimmicks and empty slogans.
Friday, November 14th, 2014
Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman set out some Green reflections on the 2015 Westminster election in Scotland.
The Scottish Greens believe that Scotland’s best interests – and those of the UK as a whole – are best served by Scotland becoming an independent country. We believed that on 17 September. We believed that on 19 September. And we still believe that.
This is because we want to see Scotland flourish. We are not alone in that of course, nor in some of the priorities which come from that aspiration. We share a rejection of Trident nuclear weapons, for example; we want to see public services adequately funded, not starved or flogged off to the private sector; we want to see an end to demonising welfare and immigration policy and instead a citizen’s income which brings dignity to social security and a welcoming Scotland which recognises the benefits brought by migrants. Indeed, we recognise that these priorities are also held by many people who voted No in September.
So, an inevitable backdrop to this election is the question of more powers for Scotland – as we argue in our submission to the Smith Commission. The scale of ambition for a deeper form of self-government is testament to the success of the Yes campaign in galvanising a positive, forward-looking vision of Scotland and the way it rocked the complacency of the Westminster establishment.
At the same time, there have been various suggestions that members of Yes-supporting political parties should seek to stand for the next Westminster elections in May 2015 on a single cross-party ticket, sometimes described as a Yes or Independence Alliance. While an election is of course very different to a referendum, we have always been a party that sees the value of cooperation in politics, and we have been open to exploring whether it would be possible.
However, the SNP have, in the meantime, become the first party to publicly rule out such inter-party cooperation, and are instead looking to select non-SNP members to stand, in some places, at next year’s Westminster election, under an SNP banner. This position was endorsed at the SNP’s November annual conference. Whatever we think about the pros and cons of a cross-party approach, without the SNP this is no longer an option.
Of course, as a political party we have significant differences with the SNP – on sustainable energy, on a just economy, on radical democracy, on low carbon transport, and on a defence approach centred on peace-building rather than outdated military alliances: to name just some examples – that is, after all, why we are different parties! It is why we ran a distinctive Green Yes campaign, converging on the need for independence but diverging on what that independence should look like. People told us they liked that distinctive Green vision. We think they deserve to hear that distinctive vision still.
So – people have told us that they want Green candidates to do well in these elections. They want to see Green MPs elected in seats like Edinburgh East, where we’ve selected Peter McColl to be our candidate, to serve with the same distinction as Caroline Lucas, the first Green MP, elected in 2010. We’d be an odd sort of political party if we too did not want that.
And if, as we contend, voting Green in the 2015 election is part of wider momentum for further change, further reform, further powers for Scotland to be the greener, fairer, more democratic country it needs to be – then that is something in which we will enthusiastically play our part.
The authors are co-convenors of the Scottish Greens: Patrick Harvie is a Green MSP, Maggie Chapman is a Green councillor.
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
By James Thornbury, Lanarkshire Branch
How can you make a difference in politics? How can you contribute more than money and loyalty? How can you really matter, right from the start?
Join the Scottish Green Party. I’m proof.
I helped the Yes Campaign during the Scottish Independence Referendum because, like many people, I felt my contributions could make a real difference. Up until that point, I believed the door to political reform was closed to ordinary people. I believed that I needed a background in business, law, economics or political theory to meaningfully contribute. I had none (although I was interested in those subjects).
I wasn’t promising political party material. I had no relevant qualifications, no connections, and until the Referendum, no hope.
With the Referendum, I saw the chance to act. I wasn’t much of an activist, but I spoke passionately to the people in my area, and come the day I stood outside a polling station, wearing blue and smiling. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
After, I felt the need to keep contributing, even if my efforts would be overlooked. I considered joining the SNP out of popular pragmatism, but in the end I felt my efforts had to serve something higher: principle. Only one other credible political party had stood for the Yes vote and delivered on their principles in Hollyrood, and I found the Scottish Green Party to be braver and more visionary than the alternative.
I emailed my local Party Branch, and then joined on Wednesday the 24th of September. That date is important: please keep it in mind.
The Branch Convenor invited me to the scheduled Branch Meeting the next day. There I met many other new members, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Branch’s structure wasn’t hierarchical: the office-bearers had administrative roles, assuming responsibility for our collective decisions, but did not make decisions. All matters were freely discussed, and new members had equal say in the direction of the Branch compared to the established members.
At the end of the meeting, our Convenor suggested a new member come with her as an official delegate from the Branch to the National Council of the Scottish Green Party. Not knowing exactly what this was, but keen to learn, I volunteered.
On Saturday the 27th of September I sat in a room with Patrick Harvie MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP, multiple Councillors from various Local Authorities, several candidates for upcoming elections, Branch representatives and representatives from the committees that oversee party business. Several issues were discussed, particularly the direction the party would take after the Independence Referendum, and during these discussions I participated as an equal, with my contributions judged on their value alone.
And I wasn’t the only new member there.
Since then, I have attended the annual Green Party Conference, and I’m now being encouraged to stand for an internal position within the party. Depending on the will of our membership, I could soon be helping to compile the party manifesto for upcoming elections, reform the party’s operating structure for our increased membership, or establish a working group to formalise the editorial process for publications. Furthermore, I and all other attending Conference members were called upon to actively debate, amend and vote upon motions on our party policy for the year ahead. I spoke on multiple occasions, just by putting my hand up.
Most political parties explain how their members can participate; the Scottish Green Party asks, and listens.
If you want to join the Scottish Green Party, click here and do it today.
Friday, September 19th, 2014
This has been a unique time in Scotland’s history. Over the last two years we have had an opportunity which billions of people across the world can only dream of – an opportunity to imagine a better country.
The result is close but clear, and naturally we accept the decision the people of Scotland have made. In the Green Yes campaign we sought to give a distinctive vision of Scotland as a beacon of social, economic and environmental progress. I argued that Scottish independence was far more likely to deliver that vision than the backward-looking and increasingly broken British state centred on Westminster.
Many people share that vision, and are angry about the broken political system but are clearly not yet ready to set it aside and build a new one.
Our job, in Green Yes then, was to make this a campaign of hope and aspiration – not without risk and uncertainty, of course – but where we were driven by our ambitions for a fairer, greener country. I believe we did that – as did many of the people in the Yes movement; tens of thousands of them, many of whom had never engaged with politics before. Scotland is immensely the richer for that.
All those people who have been energised in that way are not going to be content with a return to business as usual. We can be immensely proud of the way the Yes campaign has forced the UK Government and the UK parties, belatedly and confusedly, to begin to acknowledge the failings of the centralised British state, not only as to what powers Scotland has, but how the UK itself forms its relationship with the people and communities it is supposed to serve.
So where does that leave Scotland and the Scottish Greens? The party has seen a big boost to our membership levels, and we’ve gained new supporters up and down the country. More important than that, we’re clearer than ever before about our purpose as a party: the transition to a sustainable economy and a fair society has never been more urgent.
As regards the handing to Scotland of new powers, this can’t be allowed to become just another stitched-up deal between the leaders of the three UK parties. Genuine public engagement is critical if they want to earn the trust of Scotland, not just the 55 per cent who voted No. I, and the Scottish Greens, will work constructively over the months ahead if others are able to do the same.
But let’s be clear; the phrase “more powers” is not a simple one. Scotland needs the ability to set its own course, not just the responsibility to manage Westminster’s austerity on its behalf. And beyond Scotland, a recognition is long overdue that there is something rotten in the state of Britain itself: unelected lawmakers; an unrepresentative voting system; the post-imperial addiction to weapons of mass destruction as a symbol of virility; the corporate capture of the political and media landscape. Reform in those areas matters throughout these islands, and it will need a grassroots movement every bit as creative and inclusive as the Yes movement has become.
And here in Scotland we must have real progress: no more timid inching forward while retaining real power in London.
So no more foisting on Scotland punitive welfare attacks on council tenants and disabled people: Scotland must be able to make welfare choices which cherish dignity.
No more watching helplessly as our people bob like corks on the latest wave of boom and bust economics: Scotland must have the real fiscal and economic levers to create jobs and prosperity in a modern green economy.
No more taking a back seat as the imperative of a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren is squandered: on transport, energy and land Scotland needs to have powers to set our own course to that future.
But, if we have learned anything over the last two years, it is also about the need to prise power away from political and corporate elites; to let the energy and talents of the grassroots movement be the driver of future change, not whatever crumbs fall from the Westminster table.
So that work starts now. In three weeks the Greens hold our annual conference in Edinburgh. Our aim there and in the weeks and months after, is building a greener and fairer Scotland now. Not in the future. Now. We have drawn speakers from charities, community organisations, small businesses, trade unions, local authorities, churches and other political parties all of whom, I believe, share a common hunger for a better Scotland. They are the Scotland-shapers, not the day-tripper politicians or the boardroom elites.
We will use that to widen our movement for change. I’m asking you to join us in doing that: to share your experience, insight, skills and aspirations. Scotland has changed utterly. And it remains a unique time in Scotland’s history.
Let’s seize that opportunity together.
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
By Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…)