Sun 28 Jan, 2018

Brian Finlay

Ask any Scottish Green Party (SGP) activist and they will tell you that we get the usual “I vote SNP so we can get independence” or “I support the Greens but we need to get independence first” rhetoric. The SNP receive the largest share of the pro-independence vote but a huge chunk of their voters are on the left of the party’s policies and political position of ‘centre-left’. It could be asserted that these voters would be better placed aligning themselves with the SGP who have ambitious policy to eradicate poverty and land ownership to name just two.

I am going to debunk some of the rebuttals some of my activist peers have received during some recent campaigns.

“Only the SNP can deliver Independence for Scotland”

Well, as you may not be aware the Scottish Green Party supports independence for Scotland from the UK. We believe Scotland needs independence to decentralise power from Westminster to Scotland and devolve power to Councils to ensure decisions are made locally. The SNP has not really expressed desires to do the latter. So if you agree the power decentralisation is fair and correct then we’re the party for you. At any opportunity SGP MSPs or other representatives get they will vote in favour of more power or independence for Scotland. So in that important topic, for many voters, it makes no odds whether you have an SNP representative or a SGP representative.

“The Scottish Green Party is too wee and will never form a Government in Holyrood”

This assertion has some truths for the time being but without increased membership and votes we are stuck between a rock and hard place. In the Holyrood elections in 2016 the SNP was set to win a high number of constituency seats across the Central belt and beyond. Voters that support independence in areas like Glasgow and Dundee, if they had thought critically and voted SGP in the regional vote, could have seen more SGP list candidates in these areas; as both votes SNP wasted so many 2nd votes.

The SGP, bearing in mind is a smaller party with no rich donors or links with corporations, stood two candidates in the list in every region in Scotland and targeted constituencies in Edinburgh Central and Kelvin in Glasgow to name of few. The most successful being Glasgow Kelvin where Patrick Harvie won 24.3% of the vote with the SNP winning with 38.5% of the total vote. This seat could easily become the first ever SGP constituency in Holyrood in 2021.

In the Council Elections we stood the most councillor candidates in the party’s history. We stood in wards we have never stood in before and gained councillors in Councils for the first time and increased representation in Glasgow and Edinburgh. As our activist population grows the more candidates we have to stand and talent we have to take part in constructive debate. Unfortunately, the snap General Election caught us, like all political parties, off guard and after fighting the Council Elections we only put three candidates forward. The First Past The Post system and 5% vote threshold for getting the party’s deposit back is a hinderance to smaller parties for standing candidates for Westminster. The decision to stand candidates was made at local branch level and not part of a conspiracy to help the SNP; dreamed up by the main stream media.

“The Greens only have a small number of MSPs in Holyrood. They won’t have much impact”

The SGP has gone from having just two MSPs in the 2011 parliament to six in the 2016 Holyrood Election. At the same time the SNP increased the number of constituency seats and decreased their overall seats due to the regional formula; again if pro-independence voters had used their regional vote more strategically it would have increased SGP presence further. Not only that but Glasgow might not have had Annie Wells MSP representing it as the Scottish Tories got two regional MSPs as over 111,000 SNP regional votes were wasted and produced no MSPs.

Anyway, the SGP has proven in this parliament so far that small parties can achieve some of their objectives through working across different parties and with the minority Scottish Government. Much to the criticism of the main stream media the SGP does not ‘prop up’ the SNP Government in Holyrood but it does hold the balance of power in the Scottish Parliament. Just yesterday (25/01/2018) the SGP voted against The Government in bringing to an end of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act but votes with The Government when it agrees with them or where they can get concessions. An example is, where the SGP supports independence for Scotland, where the SGP voted to request the UK Government extends a Section 30 Order for a Independence Referendum in March 2017.

The SGP has been the only party to constructively negotiate with The Government on both Scottish Budgets and last year gained the largest concession in Holyrood’s history. They reversed cuts of around £160 million for local councils and that progressive influence is due to continue into this Scottish Budget for 2108. The SGP will not support this budget unless there is high investment in low carbon infrastructure, no real terms cuts to councils, pay rise for public service workers and funding provided to councils and other public departments to pay for the pay rises. They also pushed The Scottish Government to invest in a plastic bottle recycling scheme and encouraged the Universal Basic Income trials in areas across Scotland to name two other examples.

It is clear to see that the SGP is not just your average small party and has reached out across the political spectrum to fight for progressive change.

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