By Ray Bell
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.