As part of Yes Scotland, the Scottish Green Party can articulate a vision for independence that puts people and planet above profit and politics.
I was halfway through writing this piece when I found out that John Finnie and Jean Urquhart had resigned from the SNP in protest at the party voting to join NATO in an independent Scotland. There’s also some shenanigans about if and when the SNP government sought legal advice on Scotland joining the EU which the Labour party have decided is a national scandal. It is a scandal, but so desensitized are we to political scandal nowadays that only revelations about a lecherous Labour or SNP member jumping into bed with teenage girls could shock us. Except that that has happened as well. Oh, and there was also that thing where Labour lied about the Iraq war.
I am also simultaneously preparing a lecture for a group of Swedish Greens on Scotland’s democratic journey, outlining where we have come from, and where the Greens think we should go. Needless to say, I won’t be filling the half hour I get to speak with adoration for Alex Salmond. I dislike Alex Salmond as a politician, just as much as I disliked Tony Blair. His redeeming feature is that he is not David Cameron or Ed Milliband, but I could apply that to most people.
And what I have just written, right there, is in the terms of some a split in the Yes camp. The problem with that logic of course is that my disliking Alex Salmond and some of the more bombastic and less principled sections of the SNP has nothing to do with the Yes campaign at all, just as John Finnie and Jean Urquhart resigning over NATO is not a blow to the Yes campaign. By the same logic the fact that the Greens are not the SNP is a blow to the Yes campaign. It is a blow to the SNP, but then those campaigning for a yes vote in 2014 are not the SNP, and the sooner the media and the Labour party realise this the better it will be for everyone.
A couple of weeks ago I was one of the people who raised a green card to commit the Scottish Greens to joining Yes Scotland. It’s no secret that a referendum bill engineered with Green support may have looked rather different, and would most likely have included a second question. I have written elsewhere about the dangers of not involving other parties and the public more fully in such an important discussion of Scotland’s constitutional future, and this is a view shared by many Greens.
We are not, and never will be, a nationalist party. We believe that a well-designed democracy is the key to a fair and sustainable society. We believe in putting power in the hands of people, and full autonomy for the Scottish parliament is a stage in a process of our new vision for Scotland. We also want this newly empowered parliament to devolve power to local communities, robbing central government of the cheap political gimmick of controlling local democracy by dictating budgets.
When people in Shetland say that Edinburgh is as distant for them as London, we see it as an issue to be tackled head on. When local democracy clearly fails and central government rides roughshod over human rights, as was the case with Donald Trump’s golf resort, it is proof that we need a better balance of powers. When the government can claim to be green but still plan to build coal power stations and increase oil production it shows that we need a more robust public media to facilitate our democracy and scrutinise our politicians.
Democracy does not start and end at Holyrood elections. It is about the rights of people to live in a country free of nuclear weapons, to know that human dignity will come above profit within their borders and to know that every single one of their fellow citizens cares for them through collective endeavour. In a post-independence Scotland we will not need a nationalist party, but a party of conviction and responsibility. As we lay the foundations of a better future I believe that the Greens can be at the heart of that project.
By being part of the Yes campaign the Greens are not just providing a fig leaf for Alex Salmond’s modesty. We believe it is our responsibility to articulate a vision for Scotland, and for Europe, in which the interests of the Scottish people take precedence over the interests of the First Minister or the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
We also hope that by participating in the Yes campaign we can raise the tone of the debate on both sides. We need to change our country for the better, but the process to make that happen needs to be democratic, open and reasoned. It should be a debate of intellect, not identity, of possibility rather than limitation. If we simply try to recreate Britain in miniature we will have achieved nothing but the privilege of putting the Saltire higher up on the flagpole. Now that we’re on board we hope that Yes Scotland can become what it should be – a vehicle for articulating a better nation for all of us.