We – the Scottish Greens – have achieved respectability.
A lesson of the 2016 election campaign is that, despite proportional representation, the Scottish electorate is voting for parties which offer stability. Holyrood now consists of four parties with a current or recent record in government, and us. Well done to all Greens who, while still radical left, communicated to the public that their vote is in safe hands. That is why we are the only non-establishment party in parliament.
In contrast to 2003, when Scotland elected seven Green MSPs, this one feels more solid, deserved and, yes, sustainable for our party. A steady, broad base of unpaid community activists across the country underpinned the sleeker, better-resourced election campaign, and delivered this rewarding election result.
It is cringeworthy that the four new Green MSPs are all white men. I won’t dwell on this point. Suffice to say, our party must stick to the principle of gender equality and continue to back our wonderful female politicians to the hilt, whether or not sexism among voters played a part in returning this group.
Green activists would never condone centrism, triangulation or mealy-mouthed politics, and I hope our six MSPs communicate this effectively to the public over the next six years. But I suggest that we need to continue making steady, sustainable progress.
Since September 2014, there has been a continual process of change, as our party adjusted to the post-referendum political landscape while absorbing 7,000 of the brightest Yes voters as new members. The party’s budgets, level of ambition and grassroots presence shot up, and propelled us to yesterday’s steady, respectable election result.
Going forward, we as activists need to put in the quiet miles. The public will respect us, trust us, and feel safe with us, if they see us out there campaigning between elections. There is probably greater currency in local leaflets, street stalls and community events, when they take place outwith the pre-election period. That is when the public gets to know that we live here. We care about here. And we will still be here tomorrow.
While our politicians fight from the left for social and environmental justice, we are the real public face of the party. We need to be more visible than ever, with our tables, flasks of instant coffee and anoraks.
If we manage to do that, then we can stay radical, politically, while electing more, and more diverse, politicians next time.