A green future for our great city

Edinburgh’s only future is a Green future, says Melanie Main

I rarely doubt the sincerity with which members of other parties hold their political beliefs, however much I might disagree with them.

Green priorities are different in one big way, however: there is a clock ticking against them. The shrinking ice-sheets in the polar regions, the advance of deserts and the tragic loss of species: all are indifferent to ebb and flow of political argument.

So the only future is a green future. The only choice for cities like Edinburgh is whether to embrace it as other European cities have done; or to be dragged kicking and screaming towards it.

The first choice seems the wisest to me. So, in setting out a Green manifesto for Scotland’s capital in the 4 May council elections, Green councillors have sought to put Edinburgh in charge of our own destiny.

That is why we have argued for a Green City Deal which offers a unique opportunity to invest in the kind of city which will put Edinburgh ahead of the pack in 2050: increased public transport; better-linked walking and cycling; and a shift to electric vehicles, for example.

It is why we think transforming energy use is as much about tackling fuel poverty and reducing business overheads as it is about climate change: district heating, community renewable energy and making the most of the council’s own energy company.

And it is why we think high levels of disquiet about basic services like waste collection and street cleaning can be flipped into a new drive to reduce waste and packaging, encourage re-use and repair and boost recycling.

But here’s the difference. In a world of limited resources it is not credible to say “more of everything”. The cake is only so big so it has to be cut more evenly. That is why equality is as big a part of the Green programme as environmentalism.

So, promoting housing justice by making the whole city a “Rent Pressure Zone” and bringing thousands of empty properties back into use – two issues on which Green councillors have been out in front.

Or making sure our loved ones get the care they need by guaranteeing a “Living Wage Plus” to care workers, to boost recruitment and make caring as attractive and rewarding as it should be.

And ending the scandal of poor quality bed and breakfast hostels for homeless people when what they need is proper housing and support.

And finally a green future is all about who chooses. The days of remote, centralised government are numbered. Devolving power to the most local level possible is a core Green belief. It is why we championed the city’s first “participatory budgeting” project, £eith Decides, in which local people themselves decide which projects get funding; and why we have set the ambitious target of £20 million of council funds to be allocated in this way by the end of the council term.

So too with the planning system, in which the experience of far too many citizens is a sense of powerlessness. More decisions made in open sessions; more transparency in what councillors vote for; and working with Green MSP colleagues to give communities the same appeal rights as developers – all of these would put more power in the hands of residents.

With these proposals, and dozens of others, we can build a green future for our great city.

This blog was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News