A tale of two parties: Greens v UKIP

Local councillor, Gavin Corbett contrasts the Scottish Greens and UKIP, with a local twist.

UK leader Nigel Farage was at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh last night.  I know this because there is wall-to-wall media coverage of it. There was also a colourful and peaceful protest from people who reject UKIP’s slogans of hate and fear.

I wasn’t able to attend because my kids have cubs and scouts, nearby, on a Friday evening and that comes first.

But I do know the Corn Exchange pretty well as it is in the ward I represent as a Green councillor. In fact, only a couple of months ago I met with local residents to put pressure on the private owner who owns the neglected site in front of the Corn Exchange, to see if it can be put to better community use.

Behind the Corn Exchange, runs the Water of Leith, cared for by a local organisation, Water of Leith Conservation Trust and run on a shoestring with a small and dedicated team of staff and an army of volunteers.  I volunteer with the trust, taking part in periodic river clean-ups in that area.

Over the road, there’s the old Fruitmarket site, derelict and an eyesore for over a decade.  Last summer I chaired a community meeting on how it should be developed, with work now due to start later this year, all being well.

I mention these three examples because they are the daily stuff of local politics and community action. It is not the only stuff of politics, of course. I am also passionate about  the bigger picture: social justice (after 20 years working for a homelessness charity); human dignity; charting a way forward in economic policy which does not screw the planet for my sons and their children.

And, equally, I don’t have a monopoly on local community projects.  There are decent, conscientious, hard-working councillors of all parties who do this kind of work without the media circus which follows Mr. Farage.  I say “all parties”: I don’t know about UKIP, because it does not have any councillors in Scotland (or MPs, MEPs, MSPs).

And that’s the reality, isn’t it?  There is no UKIP in Scotland.  There are plenty of billboards, yes, paid for by UKIP’s millionaire backers. And leaflets delivered through the standard Royal Mail contract.  And the vast media circus.  But no door-knocking, street stalls, no community action. No roots.

But media attention being what it is, it is quite conceivable that Scotland will wake up with a UKIP MEP after 22 May.  Another UKIP MEP to troop off to Brussels and whine about everything being the fault of “foreigners” or “Europe” rather than focusing on how to radically reform and improve the institutions. Another UKIP MEP to pick up the salary while failing to clock on for work.

Now, I accept that there are people in Scotland who find UKIP’s simplistic slogans seductive, irrespective of that party’s utter disinterest in Scotland. That is why it is so important that there’s a Green alternative in the race for the sixth and final Scottish MEP seat on 22 May.  It ‘s the starkest possible choice between two visions of Scotland, with a Green campaign welcoming of newcomers to the country; fighting to defend public services, not flog them off; serious about climate change rather than pretending it does not exist.

And working hard to improve the area around the Corn Exchange once the media circus has passed on.