This Saturday I will be speaking at the Scottish Green’s Autumn Conference in Edinburgh. After the last 18 months, it will feel very different to be joined by colleagues and friends in person, as well as those watching online.
There is a lot to celebrate. It will be our first conference since we signed the historic co-operation agreement with the Scottish Government, and the first time that Green ministers have addressed a party conference anywhere in the UK.
It will be great to be reunited with friends and colleagues, but this conference won't be a talking shop. The vision we campaigned on, and the one that we have brought into government, has been built by decades of activism and shaped by years of conferences like this one. It is our members who have shaped many of the policies that we are finally able to turn into a reality.
The cooperation agreement, which Green members overwhelmingly approved, puts forward a bold, progressive and ambitious programme and a roadmap for a fairer, greener and more outward-looking Scotland. It is an agreement that will make a real difference in people’s lives. We are bringing in new rights for tenants, including rent controls, to fix the broken housing market. We will also be introducing new human rights legislation and expanding and cementing the rights of our LGBTQ+ community. Many of the policies in it are three-way wins: they help to tackle the climate crisis, create jobs, which will help people and boost the economy, and make life better for all people living in Scotland.
Our most immediate priority is to address Scotland’s role in the climate emergency. 2021 has been a year of extreme weather events, with heavy snowfall in Madrid, recurring cyclones in Fiji, dust storms in China, mass flooding across Europe, wildfires in Greece and beyond. That is why we are doubling Scotland’s offshore wind capacity, investing record amounts in marine energy and introducing a £500 million just transition fund for Moray and the North East, which have a lot of jobs in fossil fuels. We will be putting £5 billion into decarbonising Scotland’s rail network and £320 million into active travel, as well as steps to rewild and rebuild our beautiful natural environment.
It’s not just Scotland that needs to do things differently. This November the world will come to Glasgow for the COP 26 climate conference. If it is to be a success then it must bring international climate action. As the host nation Scotland should be taking the opportunity to lead this change, yet, as the Independent revealed, Boris Johnson is trying to keep the Scottish Parliament out of the event altogether in case it is used as ‘an advert for Scottish independence.’ The reality is that we don’t have time for this kind of petty approach. Governments have a moral obligation and responsibility to enact change and we must do it now – that means reducing carbon use, restoring nature and our landscapes, and leaving things better than we have found them.
We need to build our circular economy and prioritise wellbeing. That means building things that last and rethinking our work/life balance to allow people to focus on things that are really important – time with friends and family, our health, and the things we love. We will take the lessons that we have learnt from Green politicians and parties across the world. When I look at countries like Germany and New Zealand, where Greens have been at the forefront of change, it makes me excited about the difference that we can make here in Scotland.
A lot has changed since my first speech to the Scottish Parliament in May. I used it to talk about the hope that I took from the election and from the record numbers of people that voted Green. I spoke about my optimism for a parliament that can work together to do things differently. I still have that hope and that optimism, and feel it even more than I did then.
We can build a world we want to see. But how do we get there from here? How do we do it in a manner that is sustainable and allows a fair and just transition for fossil fuel workers? How do we make sure that everyone’s voices are heard? Join my Scottish Green colleagues and I this weekend in Edinburgh – or virtually – where these conversations will continue.
The years ahead will be challenging, but the change we can make will be worth it, and will make a difference for years to come. A fairer, greener and independent Scotland in Europe is in sight, but we must continue working and pushing forward. Please join us on that journey.