Greens in Parliament: the first decade

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the first election to the Scottish Parliament, an election in which Robin Harper was returned as Scotland’s and the UK’s first ever Green Parliamentarian.

The Climate Change Bill will also be debated in the Chamber for the first time tomorrow, something which would have been unlikely without pressure from Green MSPs.

Over the last ten years the Scottish Green Party has established itself as a key part of Scotland’s political landscape, both at Holyrood and in local government, and Greens in opposition have secured substantial victories on climate change, public transport, civil liberties, nuclear deterrence and the wider environmental agenda.

Robin Harper MSP said:

“There will be many firsts remembered this year, and many Holyrood anniversaries marked. Above all, it is a story of persistence rewarded, the persistence of all the campaigners for devolution and all those across Scotland who believed we could successfully run more of our own affairs.

“Without Dennis Canavan, Tommy Sheridan and myself, the first Scottish Parliament might have been pretty much business as usual. However, the electorate had given us a Parliament that was truly representative, and left Labour with the choice of minority government or coalition, both relatively new concepts in governance in Scotland. The three of us were then able to speak to the concerns of a considerable proportion of the Scottish electorate, voters who had previously been unrepresented.

“Ten years on, we Greens find ourselves in a pivotal position in Parliament, able to secure funding for community projects across Scotland, deliver public transport, and win votes in the Chamber on issues like ID cards and nuclear deterrence. On the key environmental issue of our times, we can also take some of the credit for the Climate Change Bill, even though it will still need to be strengthened. At the last election we also saw a highly effective team of eight Green councillors returned, a solid basis for growth at local government level.

“On the 6th May 1999, the perseverance and persistence of a very small band of Greens over a period of 25 years paid off with my election to the first Scottish Parliament since 1707. Ten years on and it remains an extraordinary honour for me to continue serve the people of the Lothians in the Scottish Parliament. I cannot imagine a more satisfying responsibility, and I could not be more grateful to them for giving me this opportunity.”

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“The scale of Robin’s contribution to Green politics cannot be over-estimated. In that first election to Holyrood, we needed all his determination plus his substantial personal vote, and we needed a mountain of hard work from an extraordinary team of activists working on the shortest of shoe-strings.

“Even so, the crucial factor then, just as it is now, was a desire by the electorate for a different politics, and their confidence that Green votes could elect MSPs. Robin persuaded people that Greens could help change politics, and I believe he has repaid their trust in full.

“The Scottish Green Party has been transformed by his success ten years ago, and by his endless enthusiasm and energy. Famously, this has been a rainbow Parliament from the start, and he brought that vital shade of green.”