By Morvern Rennie
The picture above accurately describes my feelings every time I read a musing on whether Greens should join, ally with or vote for Labour from now on.
Twice in the General Election campaign people suggested that I should stand for Labour (Scottish Greens will understand the lols) instead of the Greens to get elected. Is it not more important to just get elected, after all?
I joined the Scottish Greens during the independence referendum because I supported independence but couldn’t bring myself to join the SNP due to their new laboury environmental tokenism. I didn’t doubt the sincerity of my SNP (or Liberal, Labour even Tory) pals in wanting to tackle climate change but when the chips are down Independence takes precedence. Everything else is for ‘after Indy’.
We need a party that, when the chips are down, defaults to ‘whatever’s best for the environment’. Even when I see great differences between my personal approach and other members I know, were they elected, they would vote the right way on Green issues. No other party can truthfully claim that. As the climate crisis worsens the need for a party who’s raison d’être is the environment becomes critical.
It’s not enough to have ‘Green crap’ on your policy platform. You need to centre the environment across your policy platform. We support both independence and the European Union for the same reason – subsidiarity. Our environment has no borders and it therefore makes sense to work internationally. It is also true that when people are empowered by effective and open local government they make better decisions for the environment. For Greens, Yes and Remain sit comfortably together because the beneficiary in both cases is the environment.
During the general election campaign, a colleague was challenged ‘what are YOU doing for the environment?’ – so he dutifully reeled off a list of personal steps he took from rail travel to recycling. The acceptance of the parameters of this question, for me, is the very crux of why we so desperately need Greens elected. We are a political party precisely because individual action, even when coordinated, is not enough to effect the radical change needed to save the environment.
Only government has power to legislate for the sort of wholesale, legally enforceable change required. The job of the government, in my opinion, is to make the right choice not the easy choice or the one most likely to curry party political advantage. Where the free market or individual choice fail to produce a green outcome the government must legislate to rectify this. It shouldn’t be cheaper for me to fly to Scotland and see my family than take the train. The ‘free market’ isn’t able to achieve this outcome therefore the Government needs to take action through rail re-nationalisation.
We need to make the uniquely green case for policies and accept that Labour (or the Liberals or SNP) will have their own reasons for supporting the same policy. Even if you find the Labour rationale more convincing – we still need to make the green case. The way change will be achieved is to build consensus from a variety of different perspectives and we have to accept that sometimes we will be advocating the weaker argument.
To those who grumble that makes us a single issue party, well, it’s the environment – stupid.
We couldn’t live without it.