Changes are what Scotland needs now, says Green Party leader
Patrick Harvie, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Parliament.
By Bill Heaney
Green Party leader Patrick Harvie, who was educated at Dumbarton Academy, spoke out on Thursday for an independent Scotland and “a change of direction this country badly needs”.
He told the Holyrood parliament: “It is a shame that no one else has yet welcomed yesterday’s very positive announcement about putting Scotland’s future back into Scotland’s hands. It is clear that United Kingdom politics is broken and the UK Government has shown contempt for Scotland, so the Greens agree that change is needed and we continue to take the view that independence offers the chance for the new direction that this country badly needs.
“In that campaign, we will advocate for the green new deal that we proposed in Parliament yesterday, which the Government voted for, to tackle the climate crisis and inequality together.
“However, is it not also clear that neither devolution nor a currency union nor the business-as-usual vision that was set out by the Scottish National Party’s growth commission would permit the genuine economic independence that we need to make that transformational agenda possible?
“Why should we close off the possibilities that independence offers now of all times?”
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not agree with that at all – “Although I certainly welcome Patrick Harvie’s comments about my statement yesterday and his support for independence. It is healthy that a range of parties are backing independence and putting forward a range of views. The essence of independence is that we decide these issues for ourselves.
“My party conference is taking place at the weekend, when we will have a positive debate about how independence will allow us to emulate the success of other small, independent countries and become more prosperous and fairer as a result.
“The big question, particularly for the unionist parties in the chamber, is this: given, in particular, the price that Scotland is paying right now for being governed by Westminster, why should Scotland not be independent? Independence is normal—12 of the countries in the European Union that have more influence over our future right now than we do are the same size as or smaller than Scotland. Nobody is going to force them out of the EU against their will and nobody should force Scotland out of the EU against our will. The sooner Scotland is an equal, normal independent country, the better for all of us.
Patrick Harvie replied: “There is a need to have a clear contrast with a failed UK Government agenda, with its brutal austerity economics. The UK Government has banned onshore wind, scrapped warm home subsidies and solar subsidies, sold off the Green Investment Bank, forced fracking on to local communities and refused to meet the climate strikers.
“Scotland can—and wants to—do better. Without independence, we have one hand tied behind our back; under the growth commission, we would have the other hand tied behind our back instead, gaining political independence but without the real economic control that we need.
“People who were open to the idea but not convinced in 2014 are far more likely to back independence if it is based on a positive, bold vision for Scotland’s future. Will the First Minister accept that what the growth commission offers is closer to the failed economics of the UK and that the Scottish Greens’ plans for a green new deal offer the alternative that we need—the foundation of a bold new vision for Scotland?
But the First Minister said: “I do not agree with Patrick Harvie’s comments about the growth commission. It set out the fact that so many small, independent countries are richer and fairer than Scotland. It set out how Scotland, as an independent country, could emulate those countries and create a strong economy but then, crucially, use the strength of our economy to build a fairer, more just society.
“That is the positive, bold vision that I look forward to campaigning on the next time—within this session of Parliament—that we give people in Scotland the choice of independence. I am more convinced every day that, when given that choice, the people of Scotland will opt to become a normal, independent nation.”