Growing up in the 80s, I came out less than a decade after the partial decriminalisation of gay and bisexual men in Scotland. Leaving school at 18, I knew that the age of consent was still 21. Though arrest and prosecution seemed unlikely, we could never help but be aware that they were a possibility even for ordinary, consenting relationships between young adults.
In March 2016, in the run-up to the first Holyrood election where serious income tax powers were on the table, I joined colleagues in a community centre in Edinburgh to launch the Green tax plan. We chose the venue because it was one of many local facilities that build quality of life in communities, but which have seen funding cuts since the UK’s austerity programme began.
Kermit the frog once famously remarked that “It's not easy being green”. Sometimes that feels pretty close to the truth.
One of the most familiar experiences for Greens in politics is how long we have to work on our priorities before other parties to eventually catch up. It can often feel like our policies are launched ten years ahead of their time, giving us a decade to campaign for what feels like radical action after which someone else pinches our policy and it becomes accepted wisdom.
Party conference season is upon us. With Theresa May’s farcical performance in Manchester earlier this week, every other leader can be confident that’d be hard put to do any worse. This weekend it’s the turn of the SNP, whose members will no doubt be eager for some positive, upbeat announcements to cheer.
The first of these was announced on Tuesday; the temporary moratorium on fracking and other forms of extreme energy production will be extended. These technologies will not be deployed in Scotland, and this will certainly feature prominently in the First Ministers speech.
Last week I signed up, as over 10,000 people have this summer, to the Plate Up for the Planet campaign. It’s a 7-day pledge to try out a vegan diet, and the idea got a few of us in the Green Group interested. As today is the last day of my pledge, I wanted to get a few thoughts down on how I’ve found it and what, if anything, it might change for me.
I promise not to ask readers of the National for any more favours (at least until next month) if you could all do me one tiny thing today: respond to the Scottish Government’s climate change bill consultation before it closes at midnight.
Over the summer I’ve spoken with both supporters and critics of the SNP who agree that the mood has been somewhat flat in recent years, compared with the more dynamic and innovative years of their first spell of minority government from 2007-11. The First Minister seemed to recognise this, indicating over the recess that her government had a need for a reset.
Summer, such as it is, nears an end; politicians are gearing up for a return to debating chambers around the country. Councillors have returned already, sadly including the racist and sectarian ones whose leader Ruth Davidson seems to regard their voting numbers as more important than any principle. Holyrood and Westminster will start their business again at the start of September. Not before time.
Much has been made this summer of the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, which began to partially decriminalise same-sex relationships. Those caveats are important of course: the Act didn’t apply in Scotland, Northern Ireland, or indeed to a great many people beyond a precisely defined exemption from prosecution.
“May I say just one more thing Prime Minister; if you must do this damn silly thing, don’t do it in this damn silly way.”
So spoke the fictional, and now almost legendary civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby in perhaps his bluntest ever advice in an episode of Yes, Prime Minister. It’s a warning which has been coming to mind a lot recently, and it could have been made specifically about the disastrous decision to take the UK out of the European Union, and the damn silly way in which it’s being done.