In 2014 Scotland had a vote. No, not that one. Before the independence referendum came the European election. It feels like a lifetime ago. And unlike in 2014, next month’s European elections have a much higher profile. In just under a month’s time, Scots will go to the polls to vote for representation in the European Parliament. It is vital that we have voices who can represent the internationalist, welcoming country that Scotland aspires to be. Where the UK government is saying “stop the world we want to get off”, Scotland wants to take up its place at the heart of Europe, and play its role in making the world better.
So, I am delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to lead the positive Green campaign for a just and welcoming Scotland at the heart of Europe, as the Scottish Greens’ number one candidate.
Having come so close in 2014, I know what is needed to make sure Scotland elects its first Green MEP. Our campaign must help people to see that a better future is possible for Scotland in Europe, if we pull back from the brink of Brexit and commit to the kind of large-scale transformation of our economy that will benefit all of Scotland. The Brexiteers have nothing to offer, just spreading hate and division, and the centrist parties cannot offer anything like the change that is needed as they are too wedded to a failed economic model.
By contrast, the Scottish Greens’ campaign will be positive and offer a clear alternative – one that is increasingly recognised as the only alternative, by a generation growing up with deep worries about the climate crisis and how it will inevitably impact their lives.
Greens have always understood that climate breakdown is a huge risk, but we also know it is an opportunity. The economy we have has left too many alienated. It does not only damage the environment, it damages people and their communities. The economy Greens will create will end the climate crisis. But more than this: it will have people at its heart. A Green New Deal across Europe will give us zero carbon emissions, but it will also rebuild our communities. It will create thousands of high-quality jobs that ensure people can thrive.
The Green MSPs are already leading the change at Holyrood – consistently highlighting the climate emergency. Just this week we got MSPs to back our vision for a Green New Deal, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Scotland and millions more across the continent. We understand and appreciate the scale of transformation required and know that this change is needed urgently.
A Green New Deal has huge potential, but it must be a genuine change of economic direction, not just more of the same austerity and fiscal conservatism we’ve seen from the UK Government and which has also been promoted by the European Commission. That is why, in the context of the announcements this week on Scottish independence, Greens have challenged the contradictions between the First Minister supporting our calls for a Green New Deal policy, whilst at the same time supporting her party’s Growth Commission recommendations. Those proposals, if adopted, would make such a paradigm shift impossible because of the restrictions they would place on public spending. It would be wrong – ahead of any planned citizens’ assemblies – to limit the options for independence like this and I am sure SNP members will also make that case at their party conference this weekend.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be travelling around the country making the case for that distinctive Green approach.
Alongside tackling the climate crisis, which requires cooperation across state boundaries, the Greens’ campaign will be proudly pro-immigration. We will say, very clearly, that EU citizens should never have been used as pawns in the mess that is Brexit. And we will stand up against racism and xenophobia, wherever they rear their ugly heads.
Since the last European elections Scottish politics has been transformed for the better. And with that so have the Greens. With thousands more members, and three times as many MSPs as in 2014 we are in a better place to win a seat in the European Parliament than ever before. With a climate emergency and the future of our economy at stake, it is vital that we do. It is only the Greens who face up to the facts that the fossil age must be allowed to die and it is only the Greens who argue that our future will be secured through huge public investment, not by relying on failed markets.
So, if voters want a MEP who will fight for Scotland’s place at the heart of Europe, who believes in tackling the climate emergency and who stands for hope and a just and welcoming Scotland, then voting Green is the only way to deliver that.