Last week the Scottish Parliament took a big step towards the fairer, greener recovery we need, when it voted to support the first budget since Greens joined the Scottish Government.
Despite the challenging backdrop of the continuing pandemic and swinging cuts from Westminster, it was the greenest budget that Scotland has ever seen. It is a budget that puts tackling poverty and Scotland’s role in the climate crisis at the heart of government.
We are doubling the Scottish child payment to £20 a week, which will be worth an additional £500 a year for parents for every child. We are investing in young people and education by delivering an additional £145 million to recruit teachers and classroom assistants.
We took a major step this week with the introduction of free bus travel for everyone aged 21 or under. This will help family budgets and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging people to leave their cars at home. We are complementing this with record funding for walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure.
These are not just words in a newspaper, they are major changes that will have a positive impact on people’s lives for years to come. We have managed to do it all despite a 5.2% cut in the funding provided by the UK Government. It is a bold and ambitious budget that stands in sharp contrast to the chaos, austerity and cuts that are coming from Downing Street.
But it’s not just in national government that Green voices are vital. In the Green movement we often talk about the importance of thinking globally and acting locally, and that’s what we are doing.
A lot of the most important decisions that affect our lives are not made in Holyrood, they are made in town halls across the country. This May will see local authority elections in Scotland, and we are hoping to secure a record number of Green councillors here in Edinburgh.
In the last election we secured eight Green councillors across our city. They are all great campaigners and community champions, who are committed to securing a fairer, greener future for Edinburgh.
They have stood with their communities and worked constructively to ensure that housing, inequality and climate change are firmly on the agenda. They have called for low-emission zones and cleaner air, and support for the services we all rely on.
Over the months ahead I will be working with them to secure an Edinburgh that learns from the positives for Spaces for People and ensures that the needs of people take precedence over the needs of cars. The Edinburgh that I want to live in is one with good, open and liveable spaces, clean parks, less air pollution and safer streets.
We live in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. But it doesn’t work for everyone. For far too many it is an expensive and inaccessible place to live. It has the highest cost of living for any city in the country and, especially with the impact of the pandemic, far too many are finding it hard to make ends meet.
The last nine months have shown the vital and positive impact that Greens can have. We don’t spend our time carping from the side-lines, we work positively and constructively. We are solution-driven and can put aside our differences to work do what’s best for people and the planet.
My colleagues and I have shown the difference that we make in Holyrood and in Government. With more Green councillors elected this May we can do the same for communities here in Edinburgh.