Mon 3 Jun, 2019

Alison Johnstone MSP

Lothian
Health & Sport, Social Security, Children & Young People

Website

The outstanding success for the Green movement across Europe in last week's European elections is truly a cause for optimism.  Green parties finished second in Germany and Finland, made major breakthroughs in France and Ireland, polled 11% across the continent, and increased the Greens/EFA bloc in Brussels from 51 to 70 MEPs.

The result is that Greens are in pole position to hold the balance of power in the 751-seat assembly, given that the main centrist groups combined can no longer command a majority, and the Greens offer an infinitely more attractive partner than the populist far-right groups led by Matteo Salvini. It's clear their campaign for hope to triumph over hate has been delivered.

Our European colleagues have already set out their stall that serious action to tackle the climate emergency will be the price of their support. That means EU-wide carbon pricing, curbs on aviation growth, and radical overhaul of agriculture policy. It will require stepping up action right across the policy spectrum to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reengineer the economy.

To make that happen, they will also need to take on the concentrated power structures, economic conservatism, curbs on state intervention, and free market ideology that has meant European nations have thus far contributed more than their fair share of global emissions. For those advocating 'reform from within' for the EU this is the biggest opportunity to influence meaningful change in a generation.

That’s going to make a difference here in Scotland, whether or not we stay ultimately stay in the European Union. Obviously, we hope Scotland’s MEPs get to serve a full five-year term, but even if they don’t, and we are dragged out of Europe against our will, a progressive Green Europe will be a huge force on the global stage and generate international climate leadership.

We’re confident too that the Green Wave is hitting Scotland, despite last week's elections ending in disappointment that we narrowly missed out on electing our first ever MEP.  We know that more people than ever before are recognising the importance of climate and ecological issues. And while our vote was squeezed by other Remain parties (as happened in Wales and Northern Ireland too), we also know that we gained new supporters, particularly first time voters who’re energised by recent climate activism, but also from people who’d moved across to the Greens because of the importance of our climate emergency message. So we will increase the urgency of our demands for a Green New Deal - the economic transformation we need to fairly tackle the climate crisis - ahead of the next Holyrood elections.

In that time, we also hope that Scotland will choose its own future as an independent EU member state.  The draft legislation published this week which would provide for a future independence referendum makes no specific commitment to that taking place in the current parliamentary term, but we believe that a referendum should take place on that timescale, whether Brexit happens or not.

Some suggest this is a phoney war, with both the SNP and Tories deliberately provoking a stand-off to rouse their own support ahead of the 2021 elections. That view is leant some credibility by the cringeworthy sight of Tory leadership hopefuls have been falling over themselves to commit to refusing permission for a section 30 order when Nicola Sturgeon asks for one. It's galling to have to ask permission from Sajid, or Boris or Rory for that matter, but it would be an affront for them to deny it  in the current circumstances.

We owe it to the 62% in Scotland who voted to remain to give them a choice before any Brexit transition period is up. Many people are scared by Brexit and what it will mean for their future; those staring into the abyss need to know there's a safety net.

But we also need it as soon as possible because the devolution settlement has been so fundamentally undermined by Brexit. Not only has the UK Government legislated in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, it has also retrospectively removed its powers to suit its own short term ends. That matters because they could do the same thing again to impose right wing free trade agreements on Scotland which would endanger our environment, food standards and public services.

The parties which claim to be defending the Union must defend all that entails, including devolution. The status quo is clearly broken so doing nothing is not an option. That's why Greens are determined Scotland should have the chance to take a different path and we should use the mandate that already exists to do that.

 

This article first appeared in The National on Friday 31st May.

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