Green party picks nationalism over the climate emergency

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has declared that the Green party has picked nationalism over the climate emergency and warned that on issues like education reform, the abolition of the council tax and the decarbonisation of our homes Green MSPs will not seek to trouble the SNP or subject it to effective scrutiny.

In a speech to the Scottish Parliament he said:

As a Liberal Democrat, I will always look for and appreciate consensus in our politics.

As such I congratulate these two parties for having found such common ground, as I congratulate Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater on their elevation, but I cannot support either the deal that they have arrived at or the appointment of Green ministers, because my party do not share that ground.

The First Minister has attempted once again to emulate the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who brought Greens into government in early 2020. She has sought to mirror that coalition with the appointment of the co-leaders of the Scottish Greens, to ministerial office.

However, theirs is a pale imitation of the deal hatched on the other side of the world and thin gruel for a Green party that until now has characterised itself as radical.

The New Zealand deal was forged under the imperative of the climate crisis. It was signed practically amidst the very smoke of the bush fires which had devastated their Australian neighbours. Ardern wanted to demonstrate to the world that her government was taking this global threat seriously and as such, the climate emergency formed the centrepiece of that deal. Whilst that imperative exists in equal measure for Scottish Ministers, there is no such centrepiece to this.

Presiding officer, it will be almost inexplicable to the majority of Green voters who, according to a poll in April, support Scotland’s place in the UK, that the central mission of this deal is a second independence referendum.

This partnership exists first and foremost to ask Westminster for another referendum and then to use its likely refusal to drive yet more grievance at the expense of all other public policy. It is not a deal with the climate in mind. After years of missed emissions targets you would think that the Scottish Green party might have driven a harder bargain. They have not.

Ardern’s power sharing agreement went beyond climate and looked to social justice as well, but where her partnership stretched for new and radical frontiers in social policy the Scottish deal does not. The New Zealand coalition immediately embarked on a brave new policy of testing pills at festivals to keep drug users safe, yet the nationalist coalition agreement here is entirely silent on Scotland’s drug death catastrophe.

And far from being radical or extreme, there is very little to this deal at all.

I’ve already mentioned national testing, but on issues like wider education reform, the abolition of the council tax, the decarbonisation of our homes; matters where you would expect Green MSPs to want to have a say, there is very little of substance.  And they will not seek to trouble the SNP or subject it to effective scrutiny.

Presiding officer, there is even a clause in the agreement which demands the Greens offer ‘no surprises’ to their partners. I can almost hear the groans across the chamber because from here on in, when it comes to contributions from Green back-benchers, we will be subjected to choreographed soft ball questions and speeches scripted by government spads.

For there is no question that the Green party have surrendered entirely and for the life of this parliament, their opposition status. Nicola Sturgeon must be rubbing her hands at having got such a cheap deal.

When I think of the Greens in Scotland, I remember the party of Robin Harper; a movement focussed on reform and dedicated to challenging the old order of things. Robin never swapped environmentalism for nationalism, because he supported Scotland’s place in the UK.

I really don’t know what’s happened to that radical zeal or that internationalist focus. By putting nationalism ahead of the climate emergency, Patrick Harvie and co have revealed their true colours. Those colours look far more like the acid yellow of the governing party than the proud emerald of the global green movement.

That is why Liberal Democrats will oppose the motion tonight.

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