Watching Scotland: A peek at the Scottish Green Party

bikeIn the last Watching Scotland blog we took a look at the Scottish Conservative Party, or (from an American point of view) the somewhat unfortunately nicknamed “Tories”. From a right of centre perspective we now swing over and investigate what is going on over on the left with Scotland’s fourth largest political party (out of seven or eight, depending on the moment) – The Scottish Green Party.

The Scottish Greens were founded in 1990 upon the breakup of the UK wide Green Party into decentralized regional bodies. Scottish Greens are entirely politically independent of the other Green parties in the UK but are supportive of those as well as the European Union’s Green equivalent.

Scottish Greens have been represented in the Scottish Parliament since its devolved launch in 1999, but at a fairly low level, dropping from a high of 7 Green MSPs elected in 2003 to the 2 that Scotland has delivered to Holyrood at present. Despite the fall in numbers from the 2003 Parliament there is some reason to believe that the Scottish Greens have turned things around and may again be on the upswing in terms of membership and influence.

That latest STV poll that indicated a clear majority in favor of Scottish independence also had quite a bit to say about the potential future of the Scottish Green Party, all of it encouraging. The poll placed Scottish support for Scottish Greens at 8%, which translates into 8 MSPs in the 2016 Scottish Parliament, up from the current 2.

scottish-greensFurther, Scottish Green party co-convenor Patrick Harvie MSP was selected as the most popular leader (highest approval rating) among all from the Holyrood opposition parties. Scottish Greens presently claim a membership of roughly 9,000 which makes it the fourth largest political party in Scotland and easily within reach of growing larger than the Scottish Conservative or Tory Party and overtaking the third position.

Of particular note to those of us in the Diaspora who are interested in preservation of Scotland’s historic built environment and landscape is the fact that the Scottish Green party maintains a handful of local councilors elected mostly in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the central belt, as well as an institutional preference for local control of planning and other decisions. Land development and collateral preservation of historic assets is largely a function of local government in Scotland through its local councils.

In light of the foregoing figures, the Scottish Greens may well be set to increase their political influence in Scottish devolved politics. It is of course important to note that the Scottish Greens are the only party in the Scottish Parliament aside from the SNP that endorsed the Yes Scotland position on Scottish independence. So lets take a look at the Scottish Green position on some issues.

Heritage and Culture. Not much to say here although the Scottish Green 2015 policy document talks more about culture than heritage and the ancestral diaspora, about which it says essentially nothing. Here is the entire entry entitled “Culture”:

Quality of life is a major issue for Greens with culture a significant component in empowering people and strengthening communities. Culture produces positive, creative, inquiring and educated citizens. It also attracts inward tourism. We encourage participation in the arts, both actively and passively.

We encourage the use of Gaelic and Scots.

The arts can help in regeneration and tacking exclusion and we will require Scottish Enterprise to include a cultural remit.

It reads as a bit of a place holder, which is encouraging in that at least Scotland’s native languages rate a clear mention of support. The mention, however, is far from enthusiastic and leaves a gaping hole in support for Scotland’s native cultures and languages, which is disappointing from such an otherwise forward thinking progressive organization.

untitledAside from culture and heritage one might find just about everything else of political interest in Scotland inside the Scottish Green Party platform. It is a mistake to understand the Greens as a political party that is limited to positions on environmental issues and climate change although they do have those and are able to provide focus in the larger political sphere.

It would also be a mistake to understand the Scottish Green Party as a radical left political force in Scotland as their policies and platforms remain firmly within the conceivable in Scotland, without the need for radical change in institutions – with the one exception that the Scottish Green platform is openly in opposition to hereditary monarchy and supports a republican form of government with a written constitution in Scotland.

Will the fortunes of the Scottish Green party rise in the context of a viable opposition to the growing dominance of the SNP? Just one more thing to keep an eye on in the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary election cycle. Check out the Scottish Green Party website for more info.

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