It’s a busy week at Better Nation – yesterday we unveiled Natalie McGarry, and today it’s the turn of Dom Hinde, who’s blogged here for us before. He’s a Green activist and a postgrad student of matters Scandinavian. Here’s where he’s coming from, and again, we’re very proud to have him on board.
To make it absolutely clear, I have enormous respect for both Alison Johnstone and Patrick Harvie. Patrick in particular has shouldered a huge responsibility in recent years, and along with Caroline Lucas has done more than anyone else to put Green politics on the map in the UK. At the last Holyrood election the Greens came agonisingly close to having a good few more MSPs, beaten down only by the tidal wave of SNP list votes. At the council elections too we saw huge jumps forward. The number of seats taken may not have been game-changing, but we were increasing our vote share in areas where we had done no direct campaigning, and in some target areas we were picking up the majority of first preferences. We do however need to look for a time when Alison and Patrick are just two of many working toward a better nation.
Sometimes it feels hard to be hopeful, but I remain so, and I firmly believe that the Greens can become the driving force in modernising Scotland. I did not join the Greens to spend the rest of my days shouting in the corner. The challenges facing us are too important for that. It isn’t so much a matter of self-interest than of responsibility, because at the moment no other party is stepping up to the plate to meet the challenges, responsibilities and possibilities of the future. Everyone seems to be living in different versions of the past. Depending on the independence referendum’s outcome, the past may indeed soon be a foreign country.
The Greens are not the parliamentary arm of Friends of the Earth. We are a political party. We exist to make people’s lives better. To paraphrase the former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (who was assassinated for his trouble), we are doomed to live on this earth and our job is to make life as agreeable as possible for as many people as we can. The way we will be do this is by having serious, open discussion about what is the right way forward, both morally and economically (and these two things are often one and the same). Better Nation itself is a product of the new Scotland we find ourselves in. It is a more democratic Scotland than previously, a better Scotland, but not a perfect Scotland. That devolution coincided with the beginning of the internet age was fortuitous to say the least, but it is also perhaps an apt symbol of changing times. Institutionalised media has not quite yet caught up with devolution, nor with the changing landscape of modern Scotland, its needs and its responsibilities. Neither has it really understood what Green politics in our country – almost entirely a product of the same process – is about. This was typified by the Greens being more or less shut out of the last Holyrood election campaign by the BBC. It wasn’t a conspiracy, just an inability to come to terms with the realities of modern multi-party Scotland.
The next four years, with a European election, the independence referendum and then Westminster and Holyrood could come to define not just the Scottish Greens but Scotland as a whole. I want to see a Green MEP, at least one Green on every Scottish local authority, ten to fifteen Greens at Holyrood – including from constituencies – and if it is still required to tackle the issues that matter in Scotland then a Green MP as well.
This might sound like a big ask, but if we do not aspire we cannot hope to inspire. The thing which has always defined Green politics for me is its ability to see things differently, and at this moment in time it is quite clear that the status quo simply won’t do.
Neither should politicians be the ones to consistently lead. It is a co-productive process, and many of the problems we face as a society are the result of politicians not listening. Working in academia myself, I am amazed by the slow rate of knowledge transfer between experts, innovators and government. Information exchange is the essence of any democratic society; indeed one of the most saddening things about the independence referendum has been the poor quality of information from both sides, typified by the BetterTogether devolution plan leaked today without any rationale of how it would work. People deserve better than just being told what is best for them.
For me Green politics is the politics of modernity. Born with the internet, with devolution, and with my generation of people born in the 1980s. It is liberated by its lack of history and its sense of purpose in tackling the issues of today and tomorrow. There are those who would see Green politics as just another manifestation of middle-class Marxism, or a pointless single-interest sideshow, and they would be wrong.
There may come a time when the Green party is no more, when it has faded the same way as many of the old fashioned political ideologies which now survive in name only. Then it will be time to stop, but at this time in Scotland’s development it is absolutely critical that we continue to challenge, to question, and eventually to lead. In the face of poverty, climate change, self interest and the symbolic violence against the most vulnerable, against women and against our own better natures, I have never been more proud to be a Green. It starts now.