Last Friday was a historic day for the Scottish Greens. After months of negotiations, my colleague Patrick Harvie and I went to Bute House to present the cooperation deal that our team had negotiated with the Scottish Government.
It has been a long process, and occasionally a difficult one, but it has led to an agreement that we are very proud of and one that can start to make the structural and fundamental changes that Scotland needs.
We are a democratic party, and the deal will now go to our members. If they vote to support it at the special EGM this Saturday, it will be the first time that Greens have been in government anywhere in the UK.
If it is passed, then it will put Green values right at the heart of government and give a green light to the boldest, most radical and most transformative policy programme in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It is more than just a list of policies, it represents a vision for a green recovery and a fairer, greener future.
This month the IPCC warned that we are at “code red for humanity” and that every government needs to take radical climate action now. Further delay is not an option.
This deal will also allow us to accelerate investment in renewable technology and take vital steps towards the green transition that we urgently need. It would mean doubling our onshore wind capacity, expanding marine-based renewables, investing £5 billion in our railways and record amounts in active travel, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. It would mean 18,000 hectares of new woodland every year, and the establishment of at least one new national park.
The Greens are about people as well as the planet, and I’m proud that it will also see major changes to housing, including more social housing and our new deal for tenants. This includes new rights for tenants, such as the right to keep pets and redecorate, as well as rent controls. These changes stand to help millions of people across Scotland, including young people and families with stretched incomes. They are reforms that housing campaigners have been demanding for years, which we can turn into a reality.
Our party stands shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT+ community and this deal would see a ban on “conversion therapy” as well as the fast-tracking of much-needed equality legislation, including a commitment to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification.
At the moment, people are having to wait up to three years for appointments, so, even more importantly, we will reduce waiting times for trans healthcare and take them down to national waiting times standards.
At heart it is a positive agenda for the kind of change we have been campaigning for. It will allow us to turn large parts of our manifesto into a reality and ensure that we are shaping government policies and decisions rather than responding to them.
It does not mean that we will lose our voice, or that we will always agree on everything. The SNP is a very different party, and one with a very different outlook. It does not mean that it will always be smooth sailing, and there may be more difficult negotiations ahead, but, if we are serious about turning our words into actions, then we must be prepared to take risks.
It is a risk that has succeeded for Green parties around the world, such as in New Zealand, who are at the forefront of delivering progressive change.
Green MSPs have always taken a constructive approach to negotiations and power. That is how we were able to deliver free bus travel for everyone under 22s, free school meals for all primary school children and progressive income tax reform so that millions pay less while only the richest pay more.
To me, this agreement feels like the next step for our party. It would be a bold and exciting one that will allow us to improve the lives of people across our country. It will also allow us to demonstrate that we are a party of government and underlines the impact of Green votes and Green MSPs.
Scotland is at a crossroads. As we prepare to host the COP 26 climate conference and the real possibility of another independence referendum, we need to be the best, boldest and most united party and movement that we can be. When Scotland’s constitutional future is being shaped, we need to ensure that our fairer, greener vision is at the heart of the debate.
We are in unprecedented times, and this agreement will allow us to implement the changes that we are in parliament to deliver. We would not be recommending this agreement if we did not sincerely believe that it was the best way to do so. It is an agreement that my colleagues and I are very proud of, and one that we hope our members will support.