On Easter Monday I’d usually be asking friends about all the things they did with their holiday weekend. But these are not usual times. Not times where we can travel, meet friends, hug family or take part in communal events. Not yet anyway.
However, light is on the horizon, with vaccination continuing apace. For most of 2021, Edinburgh has had below average rates of infection – so we can all look forward to Easter weekend being a springboard for better days ahead.
This long weekend is also a gateway of another kind: to the final four weeks of the Scottish election campaign. It’s usually a launchpad for the final race to the line, with postal votes starting to drop through letter boxes next week. As a candidate for that election – both in Edinburgh Northern and Leith and on the Lothian Regional ballot – I view the next four weeks with anticipation and some trepidation.
The trepidation comes from the backdrop being as toxic as anyone can remember. An investigation into the woeful failure by the Scottish Government to protect the interests of women enduring sexual harassment then becoming an utterly misguided attempt to claim a political scalp by some political parties who have nothing else to offer the people of Scotland.
But that trepidation is far outweighed by anticipation of being able to talk positively about all the achievements of Green MSPs over the last five years. People here in Edinburgh desperately want a political culture that works for positive change and Green MSPs in the next Parliament have shown that we can deliver that.
Green MSPs, for example, have won free bus travel for all young people aged 21 and younger, starting from this August. That is on top of our success last year in exposing the flawed way the SQA awarded exam results in 2020 and ensuring that teacher assessments were restored. And a budget win this year to extend free school meals for primary school children.
At a time when our precious green spaces have never been more important, Green MSPs secured an extra £10m for nature protection in this year’s budget. That followed the pioneering work by Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone to protect Scotland’s mountain hares from annual slaughter.
Here in Edinburgh, we have the biggest privately rented sector in Scotland. That is why Green MSPs’ hard work in campaigning for an extension of a winter evictions ban was so important. It sits well alongside the leading role Green councillors in the capital played in delivering a rent freeze for council tenants in Edinburgh, in the teeth of SNP and Labour opposition.
I could go on. Tax reform so that the better-off pay more while most people in Scotland pay less. A higher pay deal for public sector workers. Special payments for families most affected by the pandemic. And much more.
Green MSPs have achieved these things by doing the hard work, listening carefully to the evidence and engaging constructively to bring about change. Over the next 4 weeks you will hear a lot of mudslinging and jibes. Before you cast both your votes please pause and think about the kind of MSPs and the kind of politics you want.
It’s time to vote like our future depends on it.
Lorna Slater is Co-leader of the Scottish Greens and a Green candidate in the Scottish Parliamentary elections.