The Scottish Greens are gearing up to play a pivotal role in local government as campaign preparations begin for the 2017 council elections in May, with a leading councillor promising to use any position of influence to “bring power back to local people”.
At the last council elections, in 2012, the Greens won fourteen councillors on five of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. This time they’re aiming to win representation on the majority of councils and they expect to field over 200 candidates, targeting dozens of council wards where local campaigners are confident of making a breakthrough.
With many councils likely to see a power struggle between Labour and the SNP, Green councillors elected in May could be in positions of influence, such as in Midlothian where, for the past five years, Green councillor Ian Baxter has extracted significant concessions from the minority administration, such as abolishing music tuition fees.
Melanie Main, Green councillor for Meadows & Morningside on Edinburgh City Council and Co-convener of the Association of Scottish Green Councillors, said:
“Greens are confident of some real breakthroughs this May, having seen our membership soar since the independence referendum and our MSP numbers treble at the Holyrood election. Our councillors will use any leverage they get to bring power back to local people.
“Our communities tell us that councils are often too remote and simply don’t listen. We need to reverse the trend of centralised decisions. Greens have led the way in involving the public and improving accountability, through initiatives such as participatory budgeting and webcasting.
“Our campaign plans are already well-advanced, with most of our candidates in place. Our aim is get onto the majority of Scotland’s councils, where even just one or two Green councillors will make all the difference. In these uncertain political times, it’s important that people know that electing Greens means getting councillors who listen, and who cut through the tribal bickering of other parties so that communities get a real say.”
Action in recent years by Green councillors includes:
- Ensured no-one would be evicted for bedroom tax rent arrears
- Championed action on empty homes
- Played a leading role in extending participatory budgeting throughout the council
- Secured commitment to phase out harmful weedkiller
- Spearheaded action to protect common good property
- Pushed for a Green City Deal for investment in a sustainable economy
- Stood shoulder to shoulder with trade unions and poverty campaigners in defending public services against cuts
- Improved outdoor spaces and sports centres with support for community gardens across the city, repairs to Woodside Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool and improvements to Old Station Park, Kelvingrove bandstand, the Kelvin Walkway and Pinkston Paddlesports Centre.
- Delivered a low carbon heating policy for Glasgow City Council – Green motion adopted by the Council.
- Helped local businesses – supported the Byres Road Business Improvement District
- Campaigned with community councillors for action on air pollution.
- Developed a waste prevention, reuse and recycling for the Council, schools and social work centres.
- Delivered extra investment (£250,000) per year in walking and cycling.
- Secured council support for re-opening the Dyce to Ellon railway as part of the Aberdeen City Region deal.
- Made climate change now one of the council’s overarching strategic priorities.
- Abolished music tuition fees in schools – a Green amendment to the Budget 2015/16 was accepted by SNP/Independent administration in return for accepting other measures in the budget. The fees are being phased out over two years.
- Delivered a strong anti-TTIP motion passed by Midlothian Council – a Green amendment to weak motion proposed by the SNP was accepted and the amended motion passed.
- Persuaded the council to ensure superfast broadband is installed in new developments, introduce of webcast meetings, and investigate ways it can generate renewable energy and offer lower prices to local residents.
- Won the first phase of a campaign to protect the Park of Keir greenbelt against a celebrity backed executive housing and sports development
- Won concessions in the Local Development Plan to protect the greenbelt
- Worked with Dunblane businesses to successfully resist an out of town supermarket
- Championed the successful roll out of cycle training in the majority Stirling Schools
- Committed the Council to support the Unison Ethical Care Charter
- Led the case for investment in low energy street lighting, renewable energy, a social enterprise strategy and school meal improvements.