Building on historic Green result

The dust may just have settled on the Scottish election but already sights are set on the future, says Gavin Corbett

As a Green member for more than 30 years, last Thursday felt like a long time coming. A record result for the Scottish Greens, with more than 220,000 votes, almost 50% up on the previous best result.

Here in Lothian 50,000 voters backed top Green candidates, and now MSPs, Alison Johnstone and Lorna Slater, up from the previous high of just under 35,000. And all at a time when, across Europe, Greens are growing in number and influence, led by the formidable German Greens, now a realistic prospect to lead the government in Europe’s largest economy.

And no wonder. The world is running out of time to reset our relationship with the natural world on which we utterly depend: to reverse climate breakdown; to halt the destruction of other species and habitats in the name of profit; to stop the relentless tide of waste we chuck on our land, rivers and oceans.

This is the great mission of our age. The recovery from the coronavirus crisis is rightly the immediate priority but it must be a Green Recovery.

So what does this mean for the next year in Scotland and here in Edinburgh? After a Scottish election where some opposition parties pinned all their hopes on being chosen as the true standard bearer of the Union Flag, we will undoubtedly have to revisit the question of Scotland’s future. The ‘No’ campaign’s betrayal in leaving the family of European nations, followed by 18 months of the most incompetent UK government of my lifetime, means it cannot be otherwise. But independence will always be a means to an end: to get rid of Trident nuclear weapons; to make the transition from oil dependency to a renewable future; to build the kind of social protection systems which other northern European countries take for granted.

And Edinburgh, as the capital city, must lead the way. A year from now the city will elect a new council. Over the last 2-3 years the council has started to map out what a fairer, greener city will look like – via the Poverty Commission and the Climate Commission. Big plans like the City Mobility Plan, the City Plan 2030 and the forthcoming sustainability strategy start to flesh that out: for healthier, less congested, more economically vibrant places; for protected green spaces and wildlife; for dry, warm and affordable homes.

But progress has been slow and painful at times. Just when Edinburgh should be accelerating towards 2030’s zero carbon target, too often progress is delayed or thrown off track by vested interests or political opportunism. Chief culprits of course are the Conservatives whose obsession with constitutional politics has left them with nothing constructive to contribute. Perhaps their loss of the prize Edinburgh Central seat and their declining regional vote last week will persuade them that people want more than griping from the touchline. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Meanwhile, Sir David Attenborough has warned “We are facing a disaster of global scale: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” Over the next year let’s see who turns those prophetic words into action.

Gavin Corbett is a Green councillor in Edinburgh