Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie - Scottish Green Party co-leaders

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