Holyrood elections don’t strike the fear of doom into my heart like elections at Westminster, even if recent polls suggest the Tories will come in second place. That the SNP will win a majority is a given, so when voting next week we can make sure they don’t get complacent by ensuring oppositional voices in parliament are intelligent and compassionate.
After voting in the 2014 European elections, my politics based on equality and social justice weren’t set to change, so I joined the Scottish Greens. My activity was stalled by a year abroad, but early experiences in the Greens encouraged me to pursue climate action in North America. Returning last summer I felt welcomed by the Greens and inspired by people I met at meetings and the autumn conference. The party is now more vibrant than ever, having compounded its membership since the referendum and adapted to waves of new supporters looking for a left-wing alternative to traditional parties that have lost their way.
The manifesto outlines policies which prioritise scrapping the unfair council tax, instating a real living wage, and transitioning to a fossil-free economy. I asked a few Green-leaning friends why they are supporting the party.
James Smyth has been co-ordinating the Students for Patrick campaign, mobilising students across the city to re-elect Patrick Harvie Green MSP for the Kelvin constituency, and Zara Kitson for the region of Glasgow. (It gives me great pleasure when every month or so I see Patrick speak at an event, both outside and within the party. He gets everywhere! And speaks sense, articulately and with good humour.)
James says, “We can use income tax powers to make sure the wealth of society is spread more evenly – with the richest paying more and folk earning under £26,500 paying less. We can eradicate child poverty. We can prepare our economy for the post-fossil fuel era. Why aren’t we doing these things?”
Katie Fannin is another Green member. Environmental concerns drew her in.
“It’s something that the majority of other major parties fail to acknowledge, even though it is an incredibly important issue, especially for young people. Other parties seem to just forget about it, even though climate change is something which affects us all and has so many knock-on effects.”
Ailish Carroll-Brentnall is undecided about her votes. She says,
“I registered with Labour to vote for Corbyn and promised myself that if he got the leadership I’d vote for them so as this would be a vote for Scottish Labour, I’m wondering if that rule still applies. At the general election the Green Party manifesto made me cry because it was so relevant to the challenges that people I know have faced, like long waits for talking therapies. I really like what they stand for in terms of social and environmental sustainable development and the ways it’s made clear how those will be enacted in policy.”
Hannah Burke, who intends to vote Green, says,
“Independence was very important to me at the time of the vote because it seemed to be a real solution to the problems that Scotland faced, but whilst I would still like to see Scotland go independent, it’s no longer my main concern – those problems that independence would hopefully have helped resolve still exist, and so whilst independence isn’t on the cards, my main concern is that they are addressed through other means.”
Elsewhere, RISE, Scotland’s Left Alliance, are new on the scene. With a moniker standing for ‘Respect, Independence, Socialism, Environmentalism’ and Radical Independence Campaign co-founder and activist Cat Boyd standing for Glasgow region, it wants a radical redistribution of wealth including a £10 public sector minimum wage, to abolish the monarchy north of the border, and to have another indyref within the lifespan of this parliament. The RISE party political broadcast is available to watch here. I genuinely admire their ambition.
If you too are confused by talk of lists and two votes and need some clarification, this video by Stephen Paton at Left Scotland sums up our electoral system concisely.
Both my votes will be going to the Greens, because as James says,
“Politics should be about making things better and solving big issues like poverty and climate change in the long run, not just tinkering around with stuff to make sure you stay in government.”
And once this is out of the way we can start thinking about the EU referendum… oh joy.
Polling day for the Holyrood elections is May 5th.
If you’re a supporter of the Greens, get involved with the Students for Patrick in the final week of campaigning.
[Ellen MacAskill – @ejdmacaskill]