Politics

Scottish Greens 'leading change' in Scotland

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Patrick Harvie

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Patrick Harvie is co-leader of the Scottish Green Party

The co-leader of the Scottish Greens has told his party conference that if the UK leaves the European Union then a campaign must begin to “get back in”.

Patrick Harvie said Scotland’s future was European.

About 150 members attended the one-day gathering at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock.

They also heard from joint leader Maggie Chapman who insisted that the Greens were leading the change in Scottish politics.

In his speech to conference, Mr Harvie said: “If this thing is done to us, if we are taken out of the EU, let’s commit to campaigning to get back in because our future is European and we will be a part of that project as well as part of that strong green European family.”

‘Leading the way’

He also said that the case for reform of local taxation was urgent.

Mr Harvie, who along with his fellow Green MSPs helped to pass the Scottish government’s budget, warned that any future deals with the ruling administration would have to involve reform of council funding.

He said: “The case for reform of local council funding is a deal-breaker ahead of next year’s budget. The outdated and unfair council tax must go, and we need to see genuine decentralisation within Scotland.”

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Media captionMaggie Chapman addressed her party’s conference delegates who gathered in Greenock

In her address, Ms Chapman said the Greens were leading an inevitable change in Scottish politics.

She said that the world seemed more unstable and unpredictable than it had for some time.

Ms Chapman insisted her party was leading the way towards a world of equality, social justice and non-violence.

She continued: “We gather at a time when things seems more unstable and unpredictable than they’ve been for a while.

“Throughout history, change has often seemed impossible. But once it comes, it seems like change was always inevitable.”

She pointed to milestones such as the centenary of some women being allowed to vote in the UK, and next year’s 25th anniversary of the end of apartheid as evidence.

There’s always a rallying cry

Analysis by political reporter Philip Sim

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Speakers at the Scottish Green conference included the party’s co-leaders Maggie Chapman (first left) and Patrick Harvie (second from right)

The Scottish Greens gathered, pleasingly from a rhyming standpoint, in Greenock.

It was their first ever conference in the West of Scotland, Ross Greer told delegates; it was also thus their biggest ever conference in the West of Scotland.

It was a whirlwind affair, bashing through the four main speakers in just under an hour – but touching on a staggering range of topics in that time.

In her 15 minutes alone, Maggie Chapman touched on the gender pay gap, the Iraq War, the refugee crisis, Kurdistan, gun violence in America, university strikes, and – of course – Brexit.

Brexit remains the inescapable issue, providing the big lines for every speaker – all rounding up with Patrick Harvie (on St Patrick’s Day, pleasingly from a rhyming standpoint) issuing a rallying cry to get the UK back into the EU, if it really must leave.

Even in this rare beast of a non-election year, there are plenty of campaigns to be fought.

Ms Chapman said: “Most recently we led the opposition to fracking, building a social movement with and as ordinary people in communities, with and as grassroots organisers.

“These social movements are working against the old institutions. Greens have always been the radical voices. We still have so much more to do. We will continue to lead the change.”

Other speakers included Steven Agnew and Eamon Ryan, the leaders of the Green Party in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland respectively.

The delegates also took part in workshops and discussions on topics including housing, gender equality, farming, fox hunting, Brexit, climate change and local tax reform.

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