Bright Green Q&A with Scottish Green Party co-leader candidates: Guy Ingerson
The Scottish Green Party is currently electing two co-leaders for the first time in its history. We’re speaking to each of the candidates and finding out why they’re standing and what there vision is for Scotland. First up is Guy Ingerson.
What is your vision for the Scottish Green Party and how would you enact it as co-leader of the Scottish Greens?
Green politics must be a politics for everyone. Too often people have perceived us as solely an extension of the wider environmental movement and, although our ties to these incredible movements should always remain strong, we must break beyond our base. That means becoming a truly national party that can stand candidates in every part of Scotland, from Shetland to the Borders, from Aberdeen to the Western Isles. This means two things; our message must resonate in a way seen in other parts of Europe and our party must be fit to meet the challenges of our time and our nation.
Our message must promote our core values, the four pillars of our movement. Environmental Protection, Social Justice, Radical Democracy and Non-violent Action are at the heart of Green politics and we must embrace our Eco-socialist destiny. With this in mind we need to make the case for a Scottish identity that protects our iconic landscapes and our communities from predatory capitalist behaviour, in stark contrast to the other parties who capitulate to the lobbying of various corporate and landowning special interests.
To do this we must build branches in a way we’ve never done before. We need people knocking on doors, talking with people and selling Green solutions to the day-to-day problems people face. We also need to fundraise and recruit by inspiring people to join the Scottish Green movement no matter where they are in the UK, Europe or beyond. This means turning members into activists and activists into local leaders. No Co-Leader can do this on our own. As Co-Leader I would seek to emulate the campaigning style of leadership seen by GPEW Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley and Green Northern Ireland legend Clare Bailey. Jonathan in particular showed that you don’t have to be an MSP, Cllr, MP or MEP to make a difference or to be a true leader.
What would your main priorities be as co-leader?
Proactive branch support, locking in our vote and breaking down barriers to participation will be crucial if we wish to be a party of government. Speaking with branches, especially outside of our two biggest cities, they have often felt they need to ask for help and aren’t sure of where to turn to for support. That needs to change. The support is there but we need leaders who assist in bridging the gaps and supporting branches to grow in confidence and knowledge. We also need to lock in our vote. As it stands even our core voters can’t vote for us in every area consistently. This causes them to drift and/or vote for other parties in some elections. As Co-Leader I will work with our national committees to raise the funds necessary to allow branches the option to stand in more of our communities. We are also painfully white and can seem distant from working class voters. We need to break down the barriers of people’s perceptions, champion our BAME and working class members as well as continue our progress on our gender representation. Intersectionality is vital.
What are the biggest issues facing Scotland right now?
There are many. Sometimes it can seem like Scotland has got it’s act together compared to the other parts of the UK but that’s a pretty low bar. The climate and ecological crisis is by far the biggest issue we face. Aberdeenshire saw drought like conditions last year, we’ve seen more wildfires than any time in my memory and our seas are changing rapidly resulting in dangers for both wildlife and coastal communities.
Tackling this is, however, possible and helps both our people and planet. Emissions from housing, transport and agriculture in Scotland have barely gone down since 1990 with only a 3% reduction in transport. Even this tiny percentage is under threat from the SNP’s obsession with road building and their tepid Climate Change Bill. Better housing cuts bills through insulation and decentralised power supplies e.g. wind and solar, better public transport cuts daily costs for people and connects communities and better agricultural practices protect our natural support systems. It’s a no brainer.
Britain faces a constitutional crisis – from Brexit to border questions in the north of Ireland and from the crumbling first past the post parliamentary to the trampling of devolved institutions. How should the Scottish Greens respond to this?
Governance must be by popular consent. It’s clear that first past the post isn’t delivering that and neither is denying the people of Scotland the right to decide our own future, on our own terms. This is also the case for the people of Northern Ireland who haven’t had a government for over 900 days. We must work with our Green family across the UK to push for electoral reform, for a new independence referendum and for a UK government that isn’t beholden to the bigots in the DUP.
Climate change has never been higher up the political agenda. How should the Scottish Greens harness this and what concrete proposals should the Scottish Greens be putting forward to tackle the climate crisis?
The Green New Deal. It won’t be surprising to many that all of my fellow candidates agree on this as a solution. I’ve been extremely pleased that my fellow candidates have taken on board what I said at our leadership hustings and recognise that this needs to be a Green New Deal that factors in urban and rural needs.
The Green New Deal is also deeply personal to me. I entered Green politics during the oil price crash in 2015 when, like many in North East Scotland, I was struggling to find work having worked for nearly a decade in oil & gas. That year I also left the SNP. I could see that their parochial concerns wouldn’t address the social consequences of our addiction to the fossil fuel economy let alone the environmental ones. We have many solutions such as tackling housing and transport emissions via existing technology but the biggest thing we need to do is link up Central Belt capital to North East skills. Out of all the Co-Leader candidates I’m the only one with the experience of not only talking to people that need our just transition, but also truly understand and overcoming their concerns.
Assuming the Scottish Greens continue to hold the balance of power in the Scottish Parliament, what would your priorities be in budget negotiations with the SNP? What concessions would you demand for the Scottish Government to secure Green support?
Our membership sets our redlines via National Conference and our National Council. We don’t just talk about democracy, we actually live and breathe it. I’m not sure other parties really have that level of feed in to parliamentary processes as their leaders and elected representatives often prioritise which party policies they wish to see enacted. Our leadership and MSPs do however have influence and if elected Co-Leader I would look for the membership to prioritise local government reform and the Green New Deal.
Councils need to have far more powers but they also need to be reduced in size to truly represent their communities. Councillors also need to be paid a full-time wage for full-time work. This would also open up opportunities for a more diverse group of people to stand for election. However, we aren’t in government yet so local finance reform has to, in my view, be part of our negotiations. That means abolishing and replacing Council Tax, empowering councils to raise more money and tackle social ills via powers such as a Vacant Land & Property Tax plus much more. We also need to see the SNP match their Climate Emergency rhetoric with the actions necessary to truly tackle the crisis. That means investing in public transport, our railways and our bus services, and tacking residential and agricultural emissions as part of a Green New Deal.
Going into the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021, how would you lead the Scottish Greens to electoral success?
Firstly by recognising that this is a team effort. Our party needs to have strong local branches with the knowledge and skills to elect local candidates. We need to champion the wealth of talent across our country; young and old, women, BAME, disabled or LGBTI and working class Greens like me. We also need make sure people know the records of the other parties. From Tories justifying the rape clause, Labour failing to match green rhetoric with green actions and the SNP blocking progressive legislation and delaying or refusing to recognise the human rights of trans and non-binary people respectively. We must show that Scottish politics, Green politics, is for everyone. Elect me as Co-Leader and I shall make sure that Scotland hears that message loud and clear.
Read what the other candidates for the Scottish Greens co-leader election had to say here.