European elections are coming up in May and they will be the most important we’ve ever had. They represent a chance for Scotland’s voice to be heard at last, after repeatedly being treated with contempt in the years since the EU referendum.
Scottish Greens have fought tirelessly for Scotland’s remain vote to be respected. These elections are a chance to prove there is in fact growing support for staying in the EU, but not only that, they are also a chance to show that we reject the hateful ideology at the very heart of the Brexit project and oust those MEPs who’ve enabled it.
Our message will be a simple one: that we must counter the hate of the toxic Brexiteers in Westminster with the one thing that can defeat them: hope.
We’re confident of electing a first-ever Scottish Green MEP to the European Parliament. If we succeed, they will be someone who will stand up for Scotland’s place in Europe. They will fight to extend the hard-won peace and stability, social and environmental protections and rights-based legal framework that are all at threat if we are dragged out of the EU against our will.
They will also be able to champion a new economic vision, one which harnesses the scale and cooperation of the European Union to drive investment in a radically decarbonised economy, creating millions of Green jobs, and lifting people out of poverty. That level of aspiration – for a Green New Deal in Europe – is essential if we are to meet the global threats posed by the climate crisis.
Let’s be clear, that will mean changing mind-sets within the European establishment, away from fixation with austerity and free-market economics, towards transformational public spending and rolling out new forms of public and citizen ownership.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon started to adopt the language of the Green New Deal at the Scottish Trades Union Convention’s annual conference this week – but they are empty words unless they are backed-up with action, and fundamentally, with a willingness to rewire our economic systems to actually make it happen. The Scottish Greens will be making that case in a debate in the Scottish Parliament next week.
A Scottish Green MEP will also work for a welcoming society. They will stand up to racism and xenophobia, defend freedom of movement, which has enriched our society, and campaign for migration and asylum policies which are based on solidarity and respect for our common humanity. That’s needed more than ever here at home, where the UK Government’s hostile environment policy strips people of their dignity, and thanks to the recent Serco court ruling, has created a very real risk to people who’ve been refused their asylum claims of being made homeless. That’s shameful.
European elections are also an important opportunity to address issues which are best tackled through cooperation between member states. That includes protecting the vital importance of democracy against growing authoritarianism, restoring public faith in free and independent media, the rule of law and citizens’ rights, progressing opportunities for a fairer and more equal society and putting an end to corporate tax avoidance.
We will announce our European candidates next week after a ballot of members’ which is currently being contested between 17 hopefuls. I’m pleased that we’ll select a woman as our lead candidate and it’s very likely we’ll have young candidates on the slate, as the generation that has the most to lose both from Brexit and the climate crisis.
There’s a wave of optimism sweeping Green politics across Europe. That’s being seen at the polls – most recently Greens have made big gains in national elections in Finland, following similar success in other members states – but it’s also apparent in the grassroots movement for change typified by Extinction Rebellion and by networks of activists fighting local campaigns on asylum, housing, or against polluting industries in their communities.
So even though the planet is burning and the hard-right is on the rise, across Europe support for the Greens is surging because we offer hope, while others are locked into an out-of-touch, exploitative, centrist view of the world. I’m confident that next month, Scots will join them in realising that now is the time for change, and the party leading that change, for hope over hate,