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Mixed Messages for the Greens?

Where exactly are the Scottish Greens headed?

Sometimes trying to predict elections can feel a bit like reading tea leaves. The predictions can feel fuzzy and ambiguous, and the bottom of the cup usually bears no resemblence to the future. This has been especially true of the smaller parties and independents in the Scottish elections, whose performance has been erratic.

While the German Green Party has won a significant regional election in Baden-Württemberg, the Irish Green Party was recently wiped out in the Dáil. The Scottish Green Party itself has certainly been unpredictable. They have retained an internal unity which the socialist parties have failed to. They lost most of their seats at the last election, but along with Margo MacDonald, they managed to escape the total wipe-out meted out to all the other smaller parties and independents. This suggests staying power, but not growth.

Some recent opinion polls have suggested the Greens have respectable support, maybe even beating the Lib Dems on the list.  The SGP’s main challenge is theft – they are fast discovering that original policies don’t remain the property of one party for long. The big four – even the Conservatives – are busy greenwashing themselves and pinching Green policies.

I also feel that the SGP has not taken the credit it’s due. The Green Party of England and Wales has made much of getting MEPs, and sending Caroline Lucas to Westminster. Caroline Lucas behaves, and is sometimes treated, as if she is the leader of a UK Green Party when no such thing exists. (There are in fact three in the UK, and the Welsh Greens are semi-autonomous anyway) While all of this has been going on, there has been barely a whimper from the SGP. Why not? The first Green parliamentarian in the UK, was Robin Harper MSP, and that was many years ago (* Note from Ed – actually wasn’t it Cynog Davis? SGP to help out?). Furthermore, at one point, the Greens had seven MSPs. The SGP should be proud of this fact that unlike their English counterparts, they did this with a much smaller organisation.

The Scottish green movement, like Scottish socialists, can sometimes suffer from collective amnesia. Today is April 21st. In California, this is “John Muir Day”, a public holiday. Why don’t we celebrate it here? John Muir is practically a saint in the USA (actually he is considered a saint in at least one church), but this great Scottish environmentalist is still barely known in his home country.

The Green movement here experiences and expresses a disconnection from its Scottish history and heritage. Like Scottish socialists, there seems to be too big a tendency to look at what’s happened elsewhere, and not what’s happened here. The Greens could quite easily put in a private members’ bill for John Muir Day, and this would be a great way to promote environmentalism, and love for nature in a positive non-confrontational manner.

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  1. Ray Bell says:

    Cynog Dafis/Davis stood on a joint Plaid Cymru-Green ticket. and was MP for Ceredigion between 1992 and 2000. Whether or not that makes him a Green parliamentarian (rather than Plaid) is arguable, but it’s still noteworthy, and was more or less ignored in the coverage of Caroline Lucas’ victory in Brighton.

  2. Peter McColl says:

    Actually the first Green (or as-was Ecology) Party Parliamentarian was George MacLeod, former moderator of the Church of Scotland and founder of the Iona Community in the House of Lords. Cynog Dafis was a member of Plaid elected with the support of Greens, not a Green.

    Robin Harper was the first Green to be elected to a UK Parliament or Legislative Assembly.

    1. Ray Bell says:

      Does the House of Lords really count? Not wishing to demean George MacLeod, but it isn’t exactly the same.

  3. Tocasaid says:

    So George Macleod discovered Iona and spawned the community there? Was Eilean I Chaluim Chille uninhabited until 1938? And does the unelected House of Lards count?

    Robin it is then.

  4. Tocasaid says:

    Off-topic but I can’t help but notice slavering Phil MacGiollaBhain’s latest doomsaying regarding the letter bomb campaign. It seems as if ‘prominent Celtic fans’ are synonymous with the ‘Irish community’. This must include the former Labour MP and Celtic fan Brian Wilson. Not only is Wilson Scottish and not a Catholic but he’s also a fully paid up supporter of the Great British state who has steadfastly opposed any break-up, to any extent, of the UK. According to Radio nan Gaidheal, police in Wilson’s Presbyterian Scottish Gaelic speaking home island of Lewis visited him this week to warn him. Shame that Phil is just as blinkered and prejudiced as your average Hun with his ceaseless anti-Scottish whinging.

  5. I’ll take Cynog’s word for it. The only thing I’m really not sure about here is the way in which you think our messages are mixed. Other than that, fair enough, although I defy you to find a party at Holyrood opposed to both coal and nuclear, or prepared to raise the necessary revenue on the better off to fund universities and keep tuition free.

    1. Ray Bell says:

      “The only thing I’m really not sure about here is the way in which you think our messages are mixed”

      Well, the title’s “mixed messages FOR the Greens”, not “mixed messages FROM the Greens”. There was a section at the end (removed), which went into the various factors for and against an increased Green vote. Hence I contrast Ireland (wipeout) with Germany (massive success for Greens). There are also some wild cards – Patrick Harvie’s gay rights stance is going to both win and lose the Greens votes, but it depends on the ratio.

      If the Greens have given us any mixed messages, I’d suggest that their stance on independence has not been solid enough, and I think their election pledges for Gaidhlig are lukewarm.
      “I defy you to find a party at Holyrood opposed to both coal and nuclear”

      Sure, but I also defy you to find a party at Holyrood which is doing enough to look after mining communities, former miners, and to provide jobs in areas like Caithness which depend on Dounreay. The Labour Party claims to, but isn’t. I don’t like nuclear or coal either, but politicians need to make positive contributions as well as attacking things.

      Every form of power generation inspires hostility. There is widespread opposition to windfarms right now (especially in Lewis), although no joined up national campaign. This may lose the Greens votes.

      Green campaigners also need to find ways of “cutting carbon” that don’t involve putting large amounts of tax on everything as this hits the poor hardest.

      “prepared to raise the necessary revenue on the better off to fund universities and keep tuition free.”

      Several parties claim to be prepared to do this, but two of them are unlikely to be any competition to the Greens. The SNP and Lib Dems are also claiming the same thing, although the LDs change their tune on this… think Mike Crockhart.

  6. Where are the Scottish Greens heading? To the same place as all the other political parties. Patrick Harvie caught out lying to voters in today’s Hootsmon…


    1. Dan, that’s nonsense and you know it. I’ve posted the full press release on your blog for clarification.

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