Welcome to Scottish Greens 2023 autumn conference
The Scottish Greens 2023 autumn conference in Dumfermline was opened by the Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell.
Conference finally coming to Fife is long overdue but the timing feels right, because Green policies in Government are starting to make a real difference to people’s lives here.
Fife of course bears scars from our industrial past, a time when change was imposed on communities.
A time when most things about us were done without us, by a remote and unaccountable Tory government.
In Fife, the memory of the un-just energy transition away from coal runs deep and sore. At its peak there were 50 pits here, with the last closing as recently as 2002. The coal fired power stations in Kincardine, Longannet and Methil defined their landscapes and communities.
The closure of this industry in the 80s and 90s, without any planned transition to new, green industries, was a betrayal that is still impacting generations today.
And we see the same betrayal played out by this current Tory Government. They know that North Sea oil and gas reserves are in decline and the time to plan for transition is now.
They know that if we are to have any hope of keeping the world safe, then we need to leave most of the oil and gas reserves in the ground, but in recent months they have printing off oil and gas licences as fast as covid contracts for dodgy donors.
The Scottish Greens have stepped up to the challenge of Government, because we refuse to let communities like those here in Fife suffer all over again, when the challenge of the climate crisis presents so many opportunities.
Fife’s story also points to a bright future, a transition in an age of climate change which can deliver fair livelihoods, wellbeing and prosperity.
With Greens in Government, we’ve published a new energy strategy for Scotland, which not only has a presumption against new oil and gas, and a ban on new coal and waste incinerators, but maps out the positive vision for the future of wind, solar and tidal power in Scotland.
That’s what will secure jobs for the young people next door at Fife College, studying engineering and wind turbine maintenance. That’s what will power a just transition.
No one doubts there are difficult conversations to have, but we’ve never been shy of those conversations.
Just a few miles from here, the gas plants at Mossmorran remain one of the biggest climate emitters in Scotland. But even there, many workers recognise their future relies on real and meaningful change at the site.
A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to bring together representatives from Unite and the GMB unions, alongside the STUC and individual workers at the plant to discuss what the basis of a just transition should look like at Mossmorran.
This is about seeding a worker led transition that leaves no-one behind. It’s our responsibility as Greens to put people and the planet first.
But it’s not just the immediate issue of jobs in the energy sector that I’ve been working on as Green MSP for the region. Our work in Government and across the region is about making our local environment and communities fairer, better, greener places to live.
I’m already looking forward next year to the reopening of the Levenmouth rail line, reconnecting the biggest urban community in Scotland without a station to the network for the first time since the 1960s.
This has been about working with campaigning communities to help empower them to deliver change, a priority that I set out in my acceptance speech when I was first elected in 2003.
Every election since, I have stood with campaigners on the old abandoned railway line in Leven at a photocall with giant orange train tickets that read Leven to Edinburgh.
Now this year, I finally got to stand on the newly laid railway tracks at the same spot (swapping the orange tickets for orange hi-viz), tracks that will run new services from Leven to Edinburgh next Spring. It’s been incredible to be a part of that progress.
And we are continuing to work with other communities in Newburgh, Kincardine and St Andrews to get them back onto the rail network too. Meanwhile, rail passengers in Fife are already benefiting from the Greens scrapping peak time rail fares and work will soon begin on electrifying the train network across the Kingdom.
The Green policy of free bus travel for young people is changing lives, allowing people to travel to the college here in Dunfermline at no cost.
Over 6 and a half million free journeys have already taken place since January 2022 in Fife alone. Half a million pounds has also just been allocated to Fife Council to begin its work to bring local bus services under more community control.
Green policies that started on the floor of this conference in action.
I’m also continuing to fight for better animal welfare and an end to cruel practices that have no place in a modern, compassionate society. Fife is home to the last greyhound racing track in Scotland, and I’ve been leading the campaign in Holyrood to get it closed for good.
And our work in Government to protect and restore Scotland’s natural environment is having a tangible impact already.
Fife has benefitted from £1.25 million of funding from the Nature Restoration Fund, introduced by my Ministerial colleague Lorna Slater, which is restoring sand dunes in St Andrews, creating wildlife corridors between farms in North East Fife.
And just earlier this month, when Lorna opened bids for Scotland’s next National Park, I was delighted to see that Largo Bay, just up the coast from here, was already on the potential list.
A coastal park which protects Fife’s precious dune habitats would be an incredible legacy for future generations.
So conference this party, your party is responding to the biggest challenges of our times in a way which benefits communities here in Fife and across Scotland.
I’m delighted to introduce someone who is driving that change at the very highest levels of government, our Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater.