Edinburgh Greens kicked off the new year and its Holyrood election campaign in style with a packed hall last Thursday. Alongside the election of a new Branch committee there were reports from Alison Johnstone MSP, Patrick Harvie MSP, and Edinburgh’s five Green councillors — Nigel Bagshaw, Chas Booth, Steve Burgess, Gavin Corbett and Melanie Main. There was plenty of member participation as motions were discussed, and cake flowed freely.
The night kicked off with elections to the branch committee. Under the steady hand of outgoing vice-convener Peter McColl votes were cast for 15 positions. The names of those elected can be found here.
Alison Johnstone MSP
Green MSP Alison Johnstone spoke to the meeting about some of the highlights of the party’s work in parliament over the past year. Throughout that year, she said, our MSPs have worked tirelessly on pushing for the introduction and strengthening of the moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification (UGC) and fracking. There has been a lot of success on this front but the Scottish Government continues to resist our calls for a full ban, leaving the door worryingly open for energy companies to exploit in future.
Moving onto land reform Alison spoke about her work alongside Lothian Green candidate Andy Wightman to push for more radical legislation, in particular tackling tax avoidance and putting derelict and vacant land back into use. This is still very much a live issue, but the signs are that the Government is once again being pushed in a bolder direction by the hard work of Green MSPs in parliament and activists like Andy on the groud.
Alison discussed numerous other issues where our MSPs have successfully shifted the political discourse, included the injustice of companies getting public sector money when they’re not paying tax or the living wage, the introduction of Marine Protected Areas, ensuring that Scotland remains an open and welcoming nation to immigrants and refugees, and opposition to the Trade Union Bill being pushed through Westminster.
Alison’s annual report can be read here.
Edinburgh Green Councillors
Edinburgh’s five councillors took to the floor to report on their year’s work.
Cllr Melanie Main spoke about their work on opening up the council, and in particular increasing and improving participatory budgeting. Most recently Melanie has taken on convenorship of the South Central Neighbourood Partnership, which has received a budget of over £100,000 for members of the ward to spend.
Cllr Nigel Bagshaw spoke about challenging the council’s planning, arguing that they didn’t meet the needs of residents in terms of affordable housing and a low carbon economy.
Cllr Gavin Corbett spoke about our proposal to safeguard local services by increasing council tax by 97p to raise £10million. A proposal unfortunately opposed by every other party in favour of huge cuts.
Cllr Chas Booth and Cllr Steve Burgess spoke about their work on getting the Lothian pension scheme to divest from the exploitation of fossil fuels, pressing the council to meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act, and the launch of the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative.
The full annual councillors’ report can be read here.
The branch then moved on to discussing and voting on 9 motions which were brought to AGM, all of which passed either unanimously or by overwhelming majority. These included motions on the creation of Edinburgh’s first sub-branch (South East Edinburgh), equality and diversity, and gender inclusivity. All 9 motions can be viewed by members on GreenTalk here.
Holyrood 2016 Launch
Lothian Holyrood candidate Lorna Slater opened the launch by pointing out that polls have our 2 Green MSPs being seen as a better opposition in Holyrood than all 37 Labour MSPs:
“They worked on getting the fracking moratorium, on diversity in parliament, building and housing standards, civil liberties, civil partnerships. If they can do all that with just two of them how much more can we do with 10 or us or more?”
With more MSPs, she said, we can push Scotland to be bolder and more radical.
Scottish Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie MSP spoke about the party now having the capacity to make a much larger impact than it has in the past, and about the need for activists to make people aware of all the issues where the SNP government was reluctant, but pushed by Green pressure into more progressive policies:
“Having a political party in the parliament consistently and constructively showing how [the SNP] can be a better government by being bolder, by putting them under pressure on the issues that count, we’ve been able to demonstrate that even with a small group we’ve been able to make a real difference, a big difference, to the people who we represent.”
But he highlighted the need for more Greens in the parliament. Despite their success there’s only so much that two people can cover. We need an MSP on every committee to push for more radical solutions to Scotland’s issues.
As the evening drew to a close the tin was passed around the hall to raise funds for the Holyrood campaign. On the night it came back with a fantastic £4,170. That’s a lot of leaflets!
Thank you to everyone who participated in and helped organise the evening. By any metric it was a huge success for Edinburgh and the Scottish Greens.