Lorna Slater autumn conference speech 2023
Party co-leader Lorna Slater discusses the humaniarian situation in Gaza, climate action, and the importance of the copperation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government while speaking to the Party's autumn conference in Dunfermline.
Over the last three weeks we have seen unimaginable horror.
On October 7th 1000 people were murdered in Israel. Children. People young and old. Families. Innocent civilians had their lives taken from them in an abhorrent act of terror and cruelty.
It was a dark day.
Since then, that darkness has only deepened.
We have seen a brutal bombing campaign on Gaza, and the collective punishment of two million people.
Thousands of innocent civilians are being killed.
Millions are being starved of food, water, and electricity. I know there are people in this room who have family and friends in Gaza. You must be worried sick.
It’s not enough to call for restraint. All Governments must actively work for an urgent and lasting ceasefire and an end to the siege.
Conference, I want to pay tribute to the work of our First Minister, Humza Yousaf.
Despite the awful situation facing his family in Gaza, he has demonstrated real leadership, strength and empathy at a time when far too many leaders have done the opposite.
The killing must stop. The bombing must stop. The war crimes must stop. The occupation must end.
Conference, the Greens are a voice for peace the world over, and that voice is needed now more than ever.
We are a party of compassion.
Over the last two years it has been our privilege to put these values into practice.
To roll up our sleeves, and take action - for people and for planet.
That’s what Scottish Greens do each and every day.
In our Parliament, In town halls across our country and in our communities.
Conference, it has been a year since we met in Dundee, and what a year!
We more than doubled the Scottish Child Payment, supporting families all over Scotland and lifting 90,000 children out of poverty.
We inflation-proofed Scottish benefits at a time when Westminster has been attacking the most vulnerable.
We delivered the biggest expansion of the living wage since devolution and ensured worker representation as a condition for Scottish Government funding.
We delivered a rent cap and protections for tenants that go far beyond anywhere else in the UK.
The Greens are delivering for the Scottish people. And we are delivering for our planet too.
At COP 2026 in Glasgow I announced a new Nature Restoration fund.
Conference we made that happen, and since that day I have overseen record investment in nature restoration across Scotland.
To date over £30 million has gone to restoring wetlands, expanding Scotland’s rainforests and saving threatened species.
We delivered a historic ban on fox hunting - and are consulting on our proposal to ban cruel snares.
We are the first and only part of the UK to have banned permission for new incinerators.
670,000 young people are enjoying free bus travel.
We are rolling out 20 mph speed limits, bike lanes, and low traffic neighbourhoods.
We brought ScotRail and the Caledonian sleeper into public ownership.
We scrapped peak rail fares. Making public transport cheaper for all.
Ending the two-tier pricing system and saving thousands of pounds for people who have no choice about when they travel.
These are not just important changes, crucial changes. They are Green changes.
Policies that we can only deliver in government.
These changes have never been more urgent. We are putting money into people’s pockets during a cost of living crisis and we are taking action on the climate.
Conference, the climate crisis is here. It is now. It threatens all of us.
We saw it last week when large parts of our country were under water.
Homes were flooded. Families evacuated. Lives lost.
Flood defences built less than ten years ago that were meant to stand unbreached for centuries, failed.
Climate breakdown is moving faster than we ever thought it could in Scotland, and across the world.
What was once unthinkable is the new normal.
The action we take now is vital to protect ourselves and future generations.
Behind this action lies a huge opportunity. An opportunity to build an inclusive, equal and vibrant economy in Scotland that is based on the green infrastructure and technologies we need to build.
That’s why, in Government, we have focused so much effort on the three key pillars of a green economy: green transport, green homes, and green energy.
Free buses and cheaper trains help households with their bottom line, but they also increase mobility and create economic opportunity. Alongside this, we are making record investments in active travel, and expanding and decarbonising our railways.
Greens in government are using the powers and resources available to us to create the modern, European transport system we need.
Greens are also investing in homes across Scotland. Patrick Harvie, as the minister responsible for zero carbon homes, will tell you more shortly about how his work is upgrading homes the length and breadth of the country.
Finally, the third pillar - green energy. With Greens in government, the green energy sector is growing.
Already there are over 28,000 jobs in green energy, and last year renewables in Scotland grew at almost twice the rate as they did in England.
Greens in government are champions for green energy. Focused on growing this essential industry and ensuring local communities and Scotland as a whole benefit.
Last month, the Scottish Government published the onshore wind sector deal. An agreement that will see the onshore wind industry double in size and make big investments in local communities and the supply chain.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan will commit to a bold deployment ambition of at least 4 - but up to 6 - gigawatts of solar power by 2030. That’s ten times our current solar generating capacity.
This ambition will be contingent on the industry committing to an appropriate level of community benefit and ensuring biodiversity standards are met. It will give Scotland’s growing solar industry the confidence they need to invest, create jobs, and help us accelerate the transition to green energy.
Green Transport, Green homes, and a Green Energy transition require money to pay for them. The Scottish Greens support the principle of progressive taxation.
In Scotland, most people pay less tax than those in England while those who can contribute, pay more. We made that happen.
Our income tax changes have meant that a billion pounds more every year is being invested in public services across Scotland. We all benefit from that - better schools, hospitals, libraries.
We are empowering councils to double council tax for second homes, and have introduced legislation that will allow councils to charge a levy on overnight stays by tourists.
Greens in government mean fairer taxes, more investment in our public services, and making polluters pay, as any party who is serious about the climate crisis should be.
That’s why today I am announcing that the Scottish Government will take forward two key new proposals for tax powers for our councils to raise revenue and take climate action.
We will work with our partners in Local Government to empower Councils to charge visiting cruise ships a levy.
This will mean communities that host cruise ships get the investment they deserve, and it is my intention is to ensure that Councils are empowered to charge the most polluting ships more.
This is essential – a typical ship produces the same amount of carbon emissions as 12,000 cars; operators have been allowed to get away with polluting for too long.
A cruise ship levy will empower councils to help tackle this global problem.
The second new power for councils has its origins in the passing of the landmark climate change act in 2018. Our climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell used that bill to secure the creation of Scotland's Climate Assembly.
In government, we are acting on the recommendations made by the Assembly.
The Climate Assembly proposed a carbon land tax to help drive forward critical changes like woodland creation and peatland restoration.
The John Muir Trust have since developed this into a proposal for a local tax.
Conference, we are taking the first step towards a carbon land tax.
I’m pleased to announce today that the Scottish Government will, in partnership with colleagues in Councils, explore a local carbon land tax and other policy options to create a fiscal incentive to restore peatlands and create more woodland, with a view to consulting on the preferred option.
Before I was elected to Parliament I was a project manager in the renewables sector
I was on the team that launched the world’s biggest tidal turbine into Scottish waters.
In that time I worked with people across Scotland and Europe - 11 companies in 6 European countries. It was a great feat of engineering and a tribute to the immense skills that we have here in Scotland.
In that role I was on the front line of the green energy revolution in Scotland.
I used to build the turbines, now I’m helping build the energy strategy for the whole nation.
In this position it has become clearer to me than ever before, how being a secondary government to Westminster strictly limits our ability to do things differently.
We are using the powers and budget available to us to build a green, inclusive and vibrant economy. But on so many of the key decisions, our hands are tied behind our back.
Conference, that is why the movement for our planet and the movement for independence are so linked.
It is only with independence that we can have the economic levers that will make the biggest difference.
So that we can protect ourselves from Rishi Sunak and his climate climbdown.
So that we can stop the environmental catastrophe of the Rosebank oilfield.
It is only with independence that Scotland can re-join the European and international communities and help drive forward the global action we need.
The challenges of Government are not just a result of the limits of devolution and the Tories disrespect for the Scottish Parliament.
A coalition of powerful interests who profit from the status quo have emerged to fight back against green policies.
A coalition who would sacrifice our common future for another day of profit at the planet’s expense.
A coalition against change.
I’ve seen their full force in the chamber, in the right wing media and on social media.
I experience their bile every day.
I’ve seen the depths of contempt that they hold for women in politics.
They say that they care about our climate - our future.
But they oppose action every step of the way.
When I tried to introduce a can and bottle recycling scheme they acted as if the world was going to end.
They said it went too far. They said that all we had to do was wait for a UK scheme with no details, no dates and no plan.
Conference, the coalition against change all lined up together. All of them. The Tories, Labour, and all of the vested interests and their friends.
They lined up together and they tried to remove me.
It did not work.
Because this isn’t about me. It’s about all of us. It is about our movement.
They failed. And they will continue to fail, because the Green movement has the momentum.
Our movement is the future.
Conference, the Westminster parties are part of the coalition against change.
They are dropping even the most basic climate action.
Simple low emission zones? too bold
Saying no to new coal mines and new oil and gas drilling in a climate emergency? Unthinkable.
So many of the steps we are taking here in Scotland are the steps they’ve told us are not possible.
That is why they are trying to roll back devolution. That is why they are trying so hard to overturn Scottish democracy.
The Tories know that they can’t win here. They know that the people of Scotland have rejected them and that we will reject them time and again.
They can see the climate chaos that we are in but are doubling down on the fossil fuels that are causing it.
The world is burning. What could be more reckless than granting permission for the Rosebank oil field?
And as for Labour, they can’t even bring themselves to oppose it.
They would rather keep the big decisions on climate with the Tories than with Scotland.
Does anyone really believe that Sir Keir Starmer would change anything?
Whether it’s Brexit, Rosebank, the two child cap, or trans rights, Starmer is forcing Labour members into line behind the Tories.
My message to Labour supporters is simple. Join us.
Help the Scottish Greens build a movement that stands for peace, equality and climate action. We can do that together.
Conference, I know the scale of the task and the challenge ahead of us and I know how little time we have to do it.
But when I look around this hall today, when I think of our movement, I am so proud. Proud of our Party, the journey we are on, and the impact we are having in our communities.
Our Dumfries and Galloway branch, for example, are leading the change in their community.
They have been at the forefront of saving local bus routes. And next week they will host the first meeting of a new Bus Users Forum, uniting communities to push for a bus network that has people at heart.
And then there are our incredible Scottish Green councillors.
In Glasgow, Green Councillors stopped the Tory and Labour coalition against change from wrecking the Low Emission Zone. They protected LGBT+ inclusive education, and now every school is set to offer TIE training.
And, to make our schools safe and welcoming spaces for trans and non-binary pupils and staff, further specific training is being rolled out for teachers.
Kirsten Robb in South Lanarkshire has secured inclusive and accessible places to play.
Alex Armitage has led the campaign in Shetland against new oil and gas developments off their coast, making clear the link between the climate and health
While Kristopher Leask is leading Orkney’s community wealth building task force and driving forward the just transition to a wellbeing economy.
Our councillors - delivering the change we need in their communities across Scotland.
Conference, after 20 years in our Parliament and at the forefront of our movement, I could not have a better ally, friend and colleague than Patrick Harvie.
He has taken the voice of tenants into the heart of government, and is delivering warmer, greener homes for people and families all over Scotland.
I am delighted to introduce him as your next speaker.