Scotland faces a unique moment of decision

“At this election we are asking people to vote like their future depends on it, but what future will that be?” On the day of local elections across the country, Scottish Green Party candidate for Paisley Scott Bevan reports on how Greens are staking a claim in the elections to the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament building
Scott Bevan

It’s been a funny old campaign – one for the history books, but not one that has always been historically engaging. The exception to that, if I may be so bold, has been our own party – the Scottish Greens.

The climate crisis is finally being acknowledged as the critical issue that it is, thanks largely to our work in Holyrood over the past 5 years.  Every party, (excluding perhaps the Tories) is now attempting to greenwash its manifesto in a desperate bid for votes. We do not mind, if they mean it, but without a strong Green presence elected to Holyrood tomorrow, many of these things will simply fall away again. Climate crisis lip-service will not do.

The same goes for social and economic justice, which are intrinsically linked, and caused by the very same factors that have delivered the climate and nature emergencies. Performative socialism is not any kind of socialism if it is not backed up by action and legislation. Scottish Greens are, by and large, eco-socialists, and we will fight every time to show that the ideological grounds on which poverty is based can and must be overcome. We need to support UBI, publicly owned transport networks, rent controls, land reform and 100,000 new green jobs to transform our country and economy.

Many of these things, of course, can only be fully achieved with Scottish independence and the Scottish Greens are fully committed to a more radical vision for that independence than anyone is currently proposing. We have made an impact this time in a way that we perhaps struggled to in the past, and look set to potentially double our seats by the time the counting is over this weekend.

Even those not usually on our side have been impressed with the clarity, creativity and passion of our female co-leader, Lorna Slater, and Patrick Harvie, Ross Greer, Alison Johnstone and Maggie Chapman have been as solidly invigorating as always. But it’s the newest candidates that have been impressing on a grassroots level that we should be watching out for. 

Candidates like the wonderful Kim Long, who has been a revelation at Glasgow Council and has been leading the fight against immigration dawn raids. Gillian MacKay, who has championed disabled green causes and put the youth voice at the heart of her campaign.  Anthony Carroll, who has shown his future councillor credentials every day with his informative local-centred videos. Ellie Gomersall, the UWS student president who has been flying the flag for trans women everywhere or Nadia Kanyange, who looks set to become our first ever black female MSP.

This is the diversity and talent at the heart of the rising generation of Greens (both young and less so) who have taken up the baton of the party built by those who have been combating climate injustice and inequality for decades, and ran with it – and oh, how they run. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of that generation of new Green candidates, standing as I am here in Paisley and on the West of Scotland list.

I did say that it’s been a funny campaign. Door-to-door canvassing has been prohibited, hustings in some places have been few and far between, there is no ‘election night’ but an election weekend, candidates will not be allowed on stage together at socially distanced counts and there has been more postal voting than ever before as the pandemic rumbles on. We even had to stop campaigning a couple of times due to the death of a royal. 

But this is a pandemic election. Add to this the polarisation of the ongoing indy debate, the disgraceful state of affairs at Westminster and then the reintroduction of George Galloway (who has now completed his sell-out journey and promoted campaign material celebrating the redcoat victory at Culloden) and Alex Salmond’s transphobic ego party, and we have a very peculiar kind of circus that may not translate into high voter turnout. This is a concern, particularly as we are just at the start of the Covid recovery.

The Salmond party itself is no great concern, reminding many of the ‘Brexit Party’ and polling around 2-3 per cent. It has its loud supporters, but it is unlikely to make much of an impact. If anything it has helped the Greens by highlighting the realities of the d'Hondt additional members (or list) system, which so many have been trying to obscure for so long for their own political ends – including Salmond himself when he led the SNP. Greens are polling at around 1 in 10 people on the list vote and may even win our first ever constituency vote with Patrick Harvie in Kelvin. We are the independence party of the left.

At this election we are asking people to vote like their future depends on it, but what future will that be? Will it be one tied to the same old story of the rich getting richer while the poor struggle to survive? One where the legacy of the pandemic is more inequality and desperation? The same catastrophic climate breakdown that we have less than nine years to fix? Or will the people of Scotland rise up and declare that the broken neoliberal Westminster system does not serve us and that Scotland wants a bolder, brighter, more egalitarian and peaceful vision for its future that puts people over profit and planet over plunder?

We shall find out this week. 

Either way, the planet and its people may feel the consequences for generations to come.