The Greens must back the calls of the Scotland Demands Better campaign
This winter is looking bleak. The cost-of-living crisis is without a doubt, the worst seen in my lifetime, and make no mistake – people will die as a result. As energy companies rake in record profits, the Tory government at Westminster is focusing on how they can put even more money into the pockets of their pals. As working people make the choice between heating and eating, the Scottish Government are too busy playing the blame game.
There seems to be a nonsensical notion going around at the moment that there simply is no money – but that’s just not true. In fact, the richest person in Scotland, Anders Povlsen, has seen his pockets become £1.8billion heavier since the start of the pandemic. The rich get richer, whilst public sector workers have seen their wages cut by 15% in real terms in the past ten years. Striking CWU members at BT have seen foodbanks set up by the company for staff to use, whilst CEO Philip “Foodbank Phil” Jansen has reportedly accepted a 32% pay rise, raking in £3.5million a year. This isn’t a cost-of-living crisis – it’s a cost-of-greed crisis.
The richest in our society have declared class war, but the resistance has already begun. Recent rallies organised by trade unions like the RMT, campaign groups like Enough is Enough and organisations like the STUC have been some of the most electric events I’ve had the pleasure of attending. After Living Rent member Annie Craig’s speech at the recent Enough is Enough rally at Glasgow’s Fruitmarket, there was so much energy in the room, Liz Truss was about to slap a £2,500 price tag on it.
At that same event, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer told the crowd: “When we, the ordinary working people get organised, when we unite in our demands with one strong voice, we are more powerful than they can dare to imagine.” This statement shines through in the STUC’s latest campaign – Scotland Demands Better. This campaign consists of the People’s Plan for Action – a comprehensive list of demands to tackle the cost of living for the people of Scotland. The campaign is supported by organisations across Scotland, including the Poverty Alliance, Engender, NUS Scotland and Living Rent, among many others. The demands are realistic and all are implementable by the Scottish Government.
The campaign calls for a variety of measures to put more money in the pockets of those who need it, such as pay rises for public service workers, universal free school meals, a points-based system of rent controls, and cheaper, publicly controlled public transport. The campaign calls for the Scottish Government to fund this by better utilising its tax-raising powers to raise income tax for the better off, to reform council tax, and to explore new local wealth taxes.
Thanks to the cooperation agreement, the Scottish Greens are in an opportune position to not only speak up for the working people of Scotland, but to follow through and act on those words. As a party of government, Greens are uniquely placed to heed the calls of grassroots activists and enact real change that will make a huge difference to workers across the country. It is for this reason that I, along with Trade Union Group co-convenor Jen Bell, have submitted an emergency motion to conference this weekend calling on the party to unequivocally support the People’s Plan for Action and to commit our elected representatives to acting in accordance with the spirit of the campaign.
At the recent Green Party of England & Wales conference, the party loudly and clearly showed that it stands in solidarity with workers and with trade unionists, as all five of the motions submitted by the party’s Trade Union Group were overwhelmingly approved. It is therefore all the more exciting that at the Scottish Green Party’s autumn conference this weekend, we too have the opportunity to clearly position ourselves as the party of working people.
Ellie Gomersall is a trade unionist and co-chair of the Scottish Green Party executive committee
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Image credit: Ric Lander – Creative Commons