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POLITICS is a serious business, involving decisions which impact on everyone’s wellbeing, and even on life and death itself. That’s been even more the case in the last six months. But politics in every country often suffers from style over substance; a focus on the soundbite, the gaffe or the photo op instead of the big issues and big decisions.
In the last week we’ve seen that on the global stage, of course, as two elderly men shouted at each other in a bid to hold the most powerful elected office in the US. And it’s hardly an unfamiliar problem at Westminster. But Scotland’s politics isn’t immune from the problem either.
Across every major political faultline you’ll find people on both sides who are capable of handling the detail and debating the substance, and you’ll also find those more likely to posture and score opportunistic points. I won’t pretend that Greens are never at fault. But we persistently make an effort to put solid policy delivery first, and to engage with other parties by putting positive ideas forward instead of just knocking down other people’s. That approach has got results, from Scotland’s fairer tax system to protection for the marine environment action, and from hate crime to home insulation.
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We’re currently taking this constructive approach to politics in a number of urgent areas. In the last week we have launched a campaign for a real ban on winter evictions, after it emerged 100 eviction orders have been granted since Scotland’s housing tribunal re-opened.
This is despite the Scottish Government claiming there was an “effective ban” in place. There clearly is not, and more eviction orders are in the pipeline if we don’t take positive action.
We’ve also written to the First Minister asking her to scale up Scotland’s Covid-19 testing capacity so that we are no longer relying on the failed, privatised UK system. Mass testing must include people who do not show symptoms and NHS Scotland labs remain underused. We’ve even seen a lab closed down, even as demand for testing capacity keeps growing. Transition to a fossil-free economy is a fundamental mission for Greens, and so this week we held a parliamentary debate on the future of the Mossmorran gas plant in Fife. Local residents there have suffered years of pollution from persistent flaring from this fuel relic and while the Scottish Government offered warm words, it refused to commit to a plan for the site’s long-term future. This needs to be challenged.
As a report from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Platform revealed this week, oil and gas workers are looking for a more secure future in long-term greener alternatives.
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We’ve seen time and time again what happens when governments don’t plan for the future of communities, whether that be at Ravenscraig, Silicon Glen or more recently following the closure of Longannet coal power station.
A just transition for Mossmorran and Scotland’s other top polluters isn’t just necessary for the planet, it’s vital for our communities too.
That was reflected in the timely Scottish Trades Union Congress report which came out this week and revealed just how unequal Scotland has become. It provides yet more evidence that a fair and green recovery cannot allow a return to the old, broken economy which included low pay for our most valued workers, insecure jobs and housing for so many, and a system which put profit before people and planet.
Like our Scottish Green New Deal, the STUC argues that we can’t rely on private interests to make transformative change. It will take action by government to rebuild the public sector, which has diminished under successive governments at Westminster and Holyrood.
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Closer to my own home patch, one public asset which needs urgent support is the Glasgow Subway, the focus of another campaign launched this week by the Scottish Greens. The emergency funding provided by the Scottish Government to keep this vital service afloat came to an end on Wednesday with no commitment to extend it, despite the fact that bail-outs for privately run ScotRail had already been extended till January.
There is a serious question about priorities here. Instead of only bailing out the private sector, it’s time for the Scottish Government to value the public sector in order to build a fairer and greener recovery.
Greens in many countries play pivotal roles, bringing this kind of constructive politics forward. The brilliant Caroline Lucas MP does far more than her share of hard graft, but because of the broken Westminster electoral system the Greens cannot wield many votes in the Commons.
Even before we rejoin Europe as an independent EU member, Scotland is far closer to the European norm with a fair voting system and a diverse balanced parliament. That’s what has allowed Green ideas to flourish, and make Scotland a better place.