On Tuesday it was great to meet members of the SGP Lothian Women’s network and to answer their questions. There were questions on a whole range of topics, from public transport to land value tax, but one of the main overarching themes was the need for action on the root causes of the injustice and inequality we see in our society. In a question on what we can do about improving the lives of children in deprived areas of Scotland, I said that we need to take action on the poverty pay that so many parents work for, the poor state of housing in the both the social and private rented sectors (which causes health problems and a whole multitude of other issues) and the huge education inequalities Scotland suffers from. The radical stances SGP takes on these huge issues is one of the main reasons why I joined. Whilst I accept the value of small localised projects combatting poverty and inequality, these are treating the symptoms, not the cause.
I will report back on the answers I gave on Tuesday and my answers tonight at the Edinburgh Greens hustings tomorrow (but for now, please see here and subsequent Tweets for my stance on sex workers and the law. I was asked about it on Tuesday and by a member today), but here I want to moan a bit about how little we talked about further devolution, and make an appeal for a fuller discussion tonight.
I was, frankly, a bit disappointed how little we got into the discussion of the Smith process and the whole issue of more powers. With the Calman and Smith powers on the way, the next term of the Scottish Parliament is going to the most important term of Parliament since the first in 1999. That being so, we need to have a big discussion – both internally and across the home rule movement – about what we’ve got out of Smith, whether this was what was promised in the dying days of the referendum campaign, and what more we need to move Scotland forward. Maggie and Patrick did their very best given the ridiculously (and unnecessarily) curtailed process, but as a result of the short time we all had for debate, we haven’t yet articulated a Green vision for further devolution.
If the result in May’s election is anything like the current polls, Smith will be blown open for revision and in order to be prepared for that we need to discuss inside the party what more powers we want to argue for and, during the 2016 campaign, how we will use the ones that have already been promised to make Scotland a more socially, economically and environmentally just place. I’m hoping that will lead to a devo+ version of our enormously succesful Green Yes campaign. Green Yes was a hugely well-thought out and executed campaign that allowed us to have very effectively get out a distinctly Green message that, despite the best work of the media, did much to separate us out from the SNP. A similar campaign could do us just as much good next May as it did last September.
Aside from wanting much more on welfare, equalities and the constitution than what was offered (see here for my submission to Smith on the need for a crowd-sourced written constitution), I’m concerned that Smith is a dysfunctional package that is not going to be workable. Welfare is a good example: Smith proposed devolution of welfare-to-work programmes, but not other core parts of the welfare-to-work process, like the JSA and ESA benefits. Thus, a Scottish Work Programme would appear to run the risk of having to administer Westminster’s punitive welfare rules.
I will be talking more about Smith for the rest of this selection campaign, and in the hustings tonight, and I hope other candidates will be doing so too.