Election 2015: Ian Baxter
The Cuckoo's General Election Series Begins
“I’ve been Green all my life, I just didn’t know it”. It was with these words that Independent MSP John Finnie joined the Scottish Greens in October 2014.
And John is not alone. When people look at our policies, policies which we’ve held for many years, they are pleasantly surprised. Surprised not just that we have policies on everything from crime, social justice and education to workers’ rights and defence, but that in the main they agree with those policies. “I had no idea the Greens stood for that” is a common comment.
Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself. The web site voteforpolicies.org.uk lists different parties’ policies, without saying whose policies they are, and asks you which ones you agree with most. The overall results are equally surprising, with the Greens coming ahead or a close second across the whole of the UK. At the 2010 election (2010.voteforpolicies.org.uk), with over 580,000 participating, the Greens had by far the most popular policies across the UK … and way ahead in Midlothian!
If so many people are Green, why is it that they don’t yet know it? It could be because the media tends only to report our views on environmental issues. For example, did you know that the Greens are the only party campaigning to bring the railways back into public ownership? Or that we want to tackle poverty at its source by raising the Minimum Wage to £10 per hour by 2020 and introducing a Citizen’s Income? Did you know that we have a long history of supporting co-operatives, credit unions and community buy-outs?
While some other parties may share these policies, where the Greens differ is that all our policies are consistent with our core values of creating a sustainable and just society which does not threaten the future of our planet. That means everything we stand for is and always will be consistent and will not change simply because the opinion polls suggest something might be unpopular. And living within the means of a finite earth means sharing out its wealth more equally and not relying on a dream of infinite growth which cannot be maintained.
First and foremost we recognise our responsibility to future generations. The science says that 80% of fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid the disastrous consequences of climate change. We will need to address this sooner rather than later, so why not start now?
Greens were at the forefront of opposing the massive Cauldhall opencast coal mine in Midlothian, arguing that we should not be relying on a dying, highly polluting industry. We are also clear in our opposition to fracking in Midlothian and throughout Scotland. We should focus instead on harnessing our abundant clean energy resources.
Instead of more tax breaks to explore for coal and oil we will not be able to use, we need to start a major transition in skills and infrastructure, converting and creating jobs for a sustainable future. Investment in large scale reliable renewables like tidal and wave power is needed urgently, and the skills needed will not be much different from those currently employed in the oil industry. The era of unrestricted fossil fuel exploitation without regard to the consequences is nearing its end. Only the Greens are taking this seriously.
We cannot go on desecrating the planet. If we accept that the pie can’t get much bigger, it needs to be shared more fairly. Which is why addressing inequality and creating a fairer society is so important to the Greens. And by concentrating on quality of life and community and worker empowerment over a failed model of unsustainable economic growth and concentration of wealth, we see a future which benefits everyone – including the young and future generations.
So yes, we believe in bringing the railways and Royal Mail back into public ownership – because they are public services operating for the common good and not for shareholder value. We support co-operatives and community ownership – because decisions should be made closer to those they affect. We believe in raising the minimum wage because in a rich country, full time work should never lead to poverty and ‘top up’ benefits must be seen for what they are – simply a public subsidy for badly run companies.
We believe in helping workers to buy the companies they work for, rural communities to own the land they work on, urban communities to own their village halls, and football fans to own and run the clubs they support.
We also want to end the programme of austerity. Cuts to welfare are driven by the ideology of those who want to keep the large scale vested interests in power. Interests which bankroll the big parties; the big banks which caused the problem, yet continue to pay huge bonuses; the tabloid newspapers which spread fear when anyone calls for change.
And that consistency with our core values should give you a good idea of what I would do for Midlothian. I want to see real power put in the hands of our local communities – publicly owned renewable energy schemes where the money goes into building up local facilities, perhaps used to build much needed community centres, managed and run by those who use them. I want to see decisions taken at the lowest practicable level; participatory budgeting at all levels of government; an end to the fear that fracking will destroy our local environment; promotion of local businesses and co-operatives which do not siphon their profits off to distant shareholders and offshore head offices.
So what if you are Green and you do realise it? Is voting Green in this election a ‘wasted vote’? Should you be voting for someone else to keep someone even worse out?
Voting Green isn’t all about winning a seat in Parliament. If we’re about anything, it’s about getting the message across that things can’t go on as they are. However, Caroline Lucas’s success in Brighton Pavilion in 2010 showed that when we do get the message across, people will listen. Over a hundred years ago, Keir Hardie was elected Labour’s first MP. Just a few decades ago, the SNP were in the same position we are now in. Where would either party be now if their supporters had voted tactically, rather than sending the message that more and more people agreed with what they were saying?
Recently, Ofcom suggested that if we had polled around 8% in recent General Elections, we would have been considered as a ‘major party’, opening the door to automatic inclusion in leaders’ debates and more Party Election Broadcasts.
Whichever party you decide to vote for, above all vote for what you believe in, because that is the only way you will eventually get what you want. After all, the only wasted vote is a vote for something you don’t believe in.
Next Tuesday: The SNP’s candidate Owen Thompson explains why you should vote for him.