Good morning conference and welcome.

My name is Maggie Chapman. I’m co-convenor of the party and also a Councillor here in Edinburgh. When we last met, a year ago, in Inverness I had the privilege of giving the speech which closed the conference. And it is a great pleasure to open this conference and welcome you all to Edinburgh.

This Conference marks a huge change in the political context for the Green party. Our numbers have increased. Our profile has increased. We must seize the opportunity for Green politics to make a huge difference to Scotland and the world.

Given the opportunity to talk about what Greens believe, people are excited, engaged and want more. We’ve always been the party that understood that people need a planet to live on. And we are the party that wants a humane social security system. No more benefits sanctions, no more child poverty.

At the Edinburgh Greens meeting 3 weeks ago we had to move venues because we’d outgrown our usual room. We filled the new venue, but we needed the original room too. Over 300 people. Talking about a Green reindustrialisation of Scotland. An end to privatisation. Jobs for all. High quality jobs for all. Citizen’s Income. More powers for communities.

On the same night Glasgow Greens also had an overflowing meeting. All round Scotland Greens are coming together in unprecedented numbers.

Several new members said they’d only just realised that the politics they’d always had was Green politics. During the referendum that they saw Greens were about creating a better future. Where other parties think putting a bike lane on their £2bn bridge is Green politics, we stand for transport for all. Where other parties think a recycling bin in a PFI hospital is Green, we realise that you need to build the right hospital in the right way owned by the public.

And I think that this is something our new members are agreed on – Green policies for all of the problems we face. Not an add-on about the environment, a totally different way of doing things.

I’m looking forward to meeting old friends, new members and the new members who’ve been our friends all along over the next couple of days. We have the opportunity to discuss new ways in which we can make our Green vision real for people. More power for communities, more power for workers, a £10 minimum wage to tackle the low pay crisis.

What we have experienced in the past year has been amazing. The best ever result by the Scottish Greens, in the European election. Sadly just not enough to elect our first MEP. And I must thank all of you who worked so hard to help us do so well in this election.

In the past year we have seen an unprecedented transformation in the quality and quantity of political debate. A real desire to transform Scotland. And I hope, an end to the cynical politics of corporate controlled, visionless neo-liberalism we have suffered from for the past 20 years. Now is the time for radicals. And we are the radical heart of Scottish politics.

So what is to be done?

We have the opportunity to transform the Scottish Parliament. More powers. Over taxation – so we can have a wealth tax. A land value tax. We can redistribute wealth.

We are seeking controls over the full range of powers so we can reindustrialise Scotland. A green reindustrialisation showing we can create an equal society based on renewable energy, good jobs and stronger communities. A Scotland that plays its role in making the world a better place.

But just giving more powers to the Scottish Parliament won’t be enough. We must share those powers with the Scottish people. Our proposals will give not just more powers to Holyrood. They are for more powers for the people.

We have our challenges. A Westminster election next year, where we need to make the case for a better Scotland. I know only too well how difficult it can be to be heard in an election like this. That’s why it’s great that we already have some of our best people lined up as candidates. Whatever happens we must make an impact in this election, and we’re well placed to do that. The reason many of us backed independence is that Westminster controls swathes of our lives. Having a voice in Westminster is more vital now than ever.

We stand a very good chance of winning a very substantial number of seats in Holyrood in 2016. But we don’t exist just to win seats in elections. We must communicate our message. That for too long big business has subverted our democracy. That people and planet must come before profit. That democracy is vital, not just in the form of a vote every 5 years, but in more local democracy, more workplace democracy and more control over every aspect of our lives.

We have a great weekend ahead of us, but what matters is not what happens in this hall, what matters is that we create a better Scotland from communities up. We fight for more powers, we must stand up to corporate bullies, we work to change government and we must build a fairer country, a better world.

And we are about to hear from one woman we has done more than most to build a better world. The difference Caroline Lucas has made to politics through her work in Parliament shows what a difference Green politics can make, given a voice in Westminster.

Maggie Chapman

About Maggie Chapman

Maggie is Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens and lead candidate in the North East at the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.