Scottish Greens vote to sever ties with Green Party of England and Wales over failings on transphobia
The Scottish Green Party has voted to formally sever its ties with the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW). Members of the Scottish Greens voted for a motion at the party’s autumn conference which will see the party suspend the “formal association” between the two Green Parties as a result of what the motion deems a failure to tackle transphobia within GPEW.
The decision is a major escalation in the ongoing conflict within GPEW over trans rights. In recent years, a small minority of members have repeatedly sought to overturn the party’s strong policies in support of LGBTIQA+ rights. The party has also been heavily criticised as a result of comments and actions from some high profile members which have been described as transphobic.
It is also the second time in recent months the Scottish Greens have made a public intervention on GPEW’s record on trans rights. Earlier this year, the Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie made the unprecedented move of calling for a candidate for the deputy leadership of GPEW to be expelled from the party.
Harvie’s comments related to Shahrar Ali, who came third in the election following a bitter campaign in which he frequently clashed with the ultimate winner Zack Polanski. At one hustings, Polanski accused Ali of “sitting with Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin” on the issue of trans rights. At the time, Ali responded by saying, “As somebody, myself, who has been very outspoken against the horrific crimes of Putin and the double standards and anti-democratic nature of Trump, I do think that’s a bit low.”
Polanski himself delivered a keynote speech to the Scottish Greens’ conference, in which he gave a powerful defence of trans rights. This, it seems, was not enough to alleviate the concerns of Scottish Green Party members – who voted by a substantial majority to suspend their links with GPEW.
The motion passed by the Scottish Greens will see the links between the party and GPEW suspended, “until such time that action is taken that satisfies the membership of the Scottish Green Party, through Conference or SGP Council to address both issues of transphobia and respect for the Scottish Green Party, our independence as a party, and the devolution settlement”.
Beth Douglas – co-convenor of the Scottish Greens’ official LGBTIQA+ wing, the Rainbow Greens and a proposer of the motion – told Bright Green, “This is a disappointing day for the Green movement in the UK. We have seen our sister party become wrapped up in a culture war against trans people. There is no room for hate in the Green movement and that is why members at the Scottish Green Conference has voted to suspend ties. Hopefully this will be the wake up call that the Green Party of England and Wales needs to rise to the challenge and make their party safe for trans people.”
Responding to the motion, a GPEW spokesperson told Bright Green, “The Green Party of England and Wales values highly our relationship with our sister party, the Scottish Greens, and we are proud of the aims and values that we share in furthering Green policies across the UK.
“The Green Party of England and Wales is clear that trans rights are human rights and we are proud of our strong policies on trans inclusion.
“It is our priority to champion diversity and be a welcoming and inclusive party for all – that means campaigning for the rights of trans people, women and all oppressed groups, as the Green Party has always done.”
Following the passing of the motion, LGBTIQA+ Greens – GPEW’s official LGBTIQA+ group – said it was “saddened” by the decision, and committed to “continue to fight transphobia. In a statement, the group said, “We are saddened by this decision. But we completely understand why. We will continue to work with the party leadership, other liberation and special interest groups, and other allies to resolve the issues that led to this. We will continue to fight transphobia. We will win.
“This decision must be listened to by all in our party- we must not tolerate transphobia in our institutions, among party candidates for election, or in our wider membership. Our party next door has made it very clear: transphobia is not & will never be a global green value.
“We saw great progress at conference this year, but we must not rest on [our] laurels. We must continue to fix our party and reaffirm the green values that we share with Scottish Greens. We look forward to one day re-establishing ties with them.”
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Image credit: Scottish Green Party
The final section of the motion pass referred to
“BOTH issues of transphobia AND respect for the Scottish Green Party, our independence as a party and the devolution settlement” (emphasis added).
It would be helpful to have some background and discussion on the second of these points (ie after AND)… Certainly, as an outsider, it does seem to me incredibly disrepectful for the Green Party of England and Wales to constantly present and refer to itself as “THE Green Party”…
Here’s the preamble to the Conference Motion on suspending ties:
“In recent years, we have seen office-bearers of the Green Party of England
and Wales (GPEW) engage in transphobic rhetoric and conduct. This includes
a former official spokesperson submitting motions, deemed competent by the
relevant GPEW body, that would deny trans people gender affirming
healthcare, ignored our independence as a party, and would seek to legislate
in devolved competencies. GPEW office-bearers, and an unelected legislator,
have insulted our party and sought to damage our reputation regarding
LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, and child protection issues. Disciplinary action
has been lethargic, ineffective, and inconsistent. In response, we must take
Scottish greens wont be around in a few years. Look what happened to the Irish Greens when they backed Fianna Fall scot greens reapeating it.
The SNP are not Fianna Fail and the Scottish Greens governmental agreement is not a formal coalition, but I do agree they are walking a tightrope. However worrying that is, it’s nothing compared to the much further sliding down the slipery slope indicated by the decisions of English Greens to make agreements to stand down in favour of Lib Dems in 2019 less than 5 years after they were in coalition with Tories, or their permissive relationship with a Green group in a council coalition with Tories in the past on grounds of local autonomy.
I recognise that there are potential pitfalls in the governmental agreement with the SNP, but it’s worth noting that in the Scottish local elections this year, when the agreement was well-established and well-known in Scotland, the Scottish Greens increased their number of councillors from 19 to 35, with a considerable increase in geographical spread. That doesn’t look like a pary that won’t be around in a few years.
So basically Zack caused a hyperbolic drama by comparing Ali to Putin etc, then rowed up to scotland to fix it. This is a mess of his own creation, irrespective of his identities.
The decision at the Scottish Greens’ conference to suspend the formal links with GPEW was not down to anything Zack said, but to our strong commitment to trans rights. The worrying degree to which transphobia has established itself in the GPEW has been a subject of concern and adverse comment among Scottish Greens for some years. As for the linking of Shahrah Ali to Putin, Trump and Johnson – well, if you find yourself on the same side of an issue of human rights as those three, maybe it’s time to rethink your position.
It would be useful to have SGP’s definition of “transphobia”
In the absence of a definition this is a bullying tactic.
I wonder if Scottish Greens have read the legal advice to Liberal Democrats that political parties who create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for their gender critical members are guilty of harassment under the #EqualityAct.
The fact you put transphobia in quotation marks shows you don’t think it’s a real concept. Meanwhile, ‘gender critical’ trans-exclusionary radicals create ‘intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive’ environments for trans people all over the place, forgetting that they too are protected by the Equality Act.
Gender Critical is a dogwhistle for transphobia
Would you similarly demand definitions for homophobia, misogyny, racism, ableism…? Perhaps you would like to give your definitions of those terms, along with one for transphobia. As for our policies on trans rights, they have been democratically agreed, like all our policies, at party conference, and could be changed the same way. The section of the Equalities Act under which “gender critical” beliefs have been declared a protected characteristic also covers, for example, religious beliefs which I – and perhaps you – would consider homophobic, misogynist, andor racist. Does the SGP’s policies in opposition to these forms of bigotry, in your view, lay us open to charges of harassment from homophobes, misogynists and racists?
We have a safer spaces policy but for some reason it does not appear anywhere on the website.
This must be a wake-up call to make this party a safe space as we overwhelmingly voted for.
This stems from my desire to listen to groups and voters, and act inline with the policies, but also fundamentally to act within the spirit of the equality act and take action to build a green politics by engaging with the representative system we have in Westminster.