An independent, greener Scotland

Scottish Greens Co-leader Lorna Slater reflects on the launch of the Scottish Government's plan to deliver an independence referendum. 

Lorna Slater
Lorna Slater

Last week saw the launch of the Scottish Government’s new plan to deliver an independence referendum and a fairer, greener and independent Scotland.

The vision that we are putting forward is a bold, ambitious and progressive one for a modern, democratic European nation. It will be a Scotland that works for all of us and plays a positive role in the world.

It comes at a crucial time for our country and our planet.

Millions of people are struggling with a cost-of-living crisis that has been exacerbated by years of bad decisions made in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister and his colleagues are taking the same reckless approach to our climate. They talked a good game at COP, but what they are offering is new plans for oil and gas drilling and a so-called windfall tax that gives a tax break to the biggest polluters. Only this week it was revealed that the UK government is considering dismantling its conservation watchdog, Natural England. Our environment is not safe in their hands.

Independence is not just about mitigating the disastrous actions of Boris Johnson and his terrible government. It is about democracy and our future.

Independence would allow us to take a different path. It would ensure that the decisions impacting Scotland are made here in Scotland, and allow us to make different political choices. Independence would give us the power to restructure our economy and allow us to build on the crucial work that we are already doing.

With Greens in government we are using the powers we have to take climate action and tackle the cost of living crisis. We have doubled the Scottish Child Payment, introduced free bus travel for everyone under 22 and secured record funding for wildlife, nature, recycling and green travel. We are ensuring the money we spend has maximum benefit by making it conditional on fair work standards such as paying the Living Wage.

These are all vital changes and I am very proud of the work we are doing. But, with the full powers of independence, we can do even more to deliver the radical and transformative change that we so badly need.

Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s total offshore renewable energy potential. If we are to do our part to avert the climate catastrophe then we need to realise that potential and ensure a fair and just transition for our communities. But we cannot go the full way when we have one hand tied behind our back.

As things stand, we don’t have the power to upgrade our own electricity grid, or to connect our vast renewable resources to our neighbours in continental Europe so we can sell our excess zero-carbon energy. Similarly, we don’t have the power to change VAT to make it cheaper to upgrade our homes and install heat pumps, or the freedom to invest the public money that is needed into the infrastructure and industries of the future.

Just look at what other countries of a similar size are doing. Denmark, for example, pioneered the development of the global wind industry, and is now home to the world’s largest turbine manufacturer, while Austria is reforming its tax system to curb emissions. And the European Union itself is working together to invest a trillion euros into the green transition.

These are the sorts of changes that we need to be making, and the changes that will only be possible with independence. Independence would allow us to learn from these governments, change our country for the better and provide a positive precedent for other parts of the UK to follow.

The alternative will be more years of unaccountable Conservative governments holding power over Scotland. It will mean more cuts, austerity, a hostile environment for refugees and migrant communities and the continuing long-term impacts of a damaging Brexit that Scotland voted against.

As Greens, we have always believed in localised decision-making and democracy. We will always be part of a global movement and a global family. That will not change with independence. We will always work closely with our Green friends and colleagues from across the UK.

When I think of independence, I am excited about the transformative change we can deliver. From ending North Sea oil and gas expansion to finally removing nuclear weapons from the Clyde, independence would give us the best possible platform to build a truly fairer, greener country.