Towards 2016

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Credit: Edinburgh Greens

After the referendum result there was much talk about ‘the new politics’ of Scotland, but it wasn’t until last night clear how profoundly new and different it would be, and it will take the next year, the Holyrood election and beyond to see how much our politics and public policy are actually going to change – as opposed to 50-odd people swapping jobs. There are signs, though, that there is an opportunity for the Scottish Greens to have a strong influence in turning all this political tumult into real social and economic change for Scotland.

Judging from the collapse of the Labour votes last night and the limited signs that Murphy will go and the party will reinvent itself, there’s going to be a sizeable chunk of the Labour vote up for grabs – not to mention some SNP list votes that will achieve little to nothing for them but prove decisive for us. But we need to give voters a reason to believe a larger Green group will really add something to Parliament. The first step in this is to make our voices heard as loudly as possible in the discussion over the devolution of more powers. Given the scale of last night’s results, it is inconceivable that the forthcoming Scotland bill will only incorporate the already deeply flawed Smith Commission proposals and Cameron as already hinted at something pretty big. As I said several times during the selection contest for the Holyrood regional lists, we need to talk much more about what new powers we want the Scottish Parliament and what we would do with them. Along with the inevitable arguments about a second referendum, further devolution is going to be the major theme of the election: we need to be as good at spelling-out our distinctive Green vision as we were during the Green Yes campaign.

This is where we need to have no qualms about pointing out how much we differ from the SNP on some core issues, however comradely we might have got with them during the referendum. We need to point out their calamitous record on centralisation alongside our long-held commitments to local government reform and devolution of power to communities. Alongside our plans for community renewables and Land Value Tax. Regardless of what else Cameron puts in the Scotland bill, there are already some significant powers over benefits and employment services on the way, and the SNP have said little to nothing about what they would do with them. There’s a huge open goal here – an opportunity to make the principled case for basic income security and to argue for the role of employment services in empowering people to take part in and contribute to their communities. The list goes on – properly-regulated public transport and ensuring that new spirit of public interest in politics reaches right into the heart of Scotland’s Parliament and public life – but the all-night election hangover is starting to kick-in, so I’ll leave it there for now.

With the help of Patrick and the other fantastic communicators we have leading our regional lists, all this can be made to add up to a credible – given our long-standing position on these issues – coherent and compelling vision of a future Scotland of vibrant communities, rich civic life and a sustainable economy, one that would sit in stark contrast with the SNP’s (non)vision and hugely attractive to Labour voters looking for something they can believe in.

Despite the difficulties of Westminster elections for us, today’s result was respectable, we advanced significantly where we have stood before and made a strong start in places where there has never been a Green presence previously. There is clearly a public appetite for our vision, and one which – with the help of our candidates, a creative campaign and message, and the Holyrood electoral system – could give us a major opportunity to shape Scotland’s future.

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