Why do that?



The Greens had their conference this weekend, I thought no controversy there, a rant-free few days ahead.

I like the Greens, I really do. I voted for them in the past and may vote for them in the future. I am a natural Green,  brought up to recycle & compost, buy organic when possible, think about food miles, Fair Trade, no-GMOs, no car, crochet my own lentils etc.

Moving to Scotland and seeing Green MSPs in Holyrood was fantastic. Pre Sept 18th I talked about joining the Greens in an iScotland, I wanted to push for a more radical republican country, but that didn’t happen.

However, I came home from work today and read this interview with Maggie Chapman in the Herald. Lets say I had mixed feelings. I’m hoping it was badly worded, I hope she doesn’t believe that because I believe that  a Labour administration would have been no opposition at all. Let’s face it they sent money back to Westminster, and the financial outgoings which are crippling so many Scottish local authorities are the repayments on PFI contracts now totaling £500 million a year.

I don’t feel this is the way to go, it feels shoddy and I expect better from the Greens.  In what way could the Scottish Government do more with the powers it has? The Council Tax issue is a farce and has been batted back and forth for years. It’s a political minefield and has been since the bloody poll tax was implemented.  Rather than regurgitate badly I’ll link you to this WOS post which I feel goes through it clearly step by step.

All these articles do is alienate SNP supporters, the very people they want to vote for them. The SNP may “only” have 2% of the voting population as members, but 50% voted for them at the last General Election, and a sizable chunk look likely to do so again at Holyrood. The public don’t feel they are doing a bad job and you can’t talk a party down against public experience, for example Labour trying to talk down Scottish NHS when it is outperforming both England and Wales. Yes, there are issues, there will always be room for improvement but getting English news every night shows that Scotland isn’t performing badly. (Yes I went there, English news not UK)

It’s the run up to Holyrood elections and I get that the Greens – as with other smaller parties who only stand on the list – need people to divert from their constituency candidate’s party. I believe this year that the Greens could do well and if people are pro-Indy but not keen on the SNP that they are an appealing choice.

I have gritted my teeth over the “SNP need opposing, so we’d like you SNP supporters to vote Green on the list.” It’s not as bad as some of the “you’re an idiot if you vote for the SNP, vote for us” things I’ve seen on Twitter – there are people supporting the full range of parties who I have no intention of un-muting before May.  I appreciate that while the Greens only stand on the list, the odds are that Green voters will support their local SNP candidate and that getting a few back seems only fair.

But please don’t go down the unionist route of negativity, it’s lazy and BORING – win people with policies and don’t promise the moon, suggest something achievable and reasonable. There’s no point promising something that sounds Utopian, it just makes people think “but what the chances of it being implemented?” Change comes with small steps, the majority don’t want revolution – it interferes too much with their routine.

The Greens are on the left so why not target disaffected Labour voters? Plus, let’s face it the SNP are a broad church with some right-wing candidates of whom many will vote for through gritted teeth – if they vote at all. Why not stand a candidate against them? It is the next step, be bold for Scotland. (Same goes for RISE)

I also understand that fracking is seen as a weakness in the SNP armour. The majority of the “new” SNP membership appears to have come from the left and I am fairly confident that the majority of them loathe the idea of fracking coming to Scotland (or anywhere else) it would be political suicide for the leadership to support it. I for one would be sending my card back in very tiny pieces.

See how quickly the LibDems changed –  their conference vote was on the 26th February to end the moratorium, by the afternoon the story was that the delegates didn’t understand the amendment and by 5th March they announced that they wanted it banning. 8 days – more a handbreak turn than a u-turn.

I’ve blogged about it previously here, and there is a very informative Q&A session on the legalities of a moratorium and practicalities of a ban on the excellent #TalkingMince blog. The Greens can keep saying “planning laws” as much as they like, but people want details not sound bites.

There’s an informed electorate that now asks questions and demands complete answers. I think it’s a good thing.


8 thoughts on “Why do that?

  1. adamaramsay


    A few things.

    First, this wasn’t an interview, it was an extract from her conference speech. The full text is here: https://maggiechapman.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/spring-conference-speech/

    On council tax: I don’t see why it’s relevant that Labour would be/have been pathetic too – we all know that. Maggie’s point was that an SNP government needs to be pushed to be bolder. Labour isn’t going to be the government. And the reason it’s relevant is that the SNP absolutely could do much more on local taxation – they have had nine years and their own review which found that much more was needed than what they are now proposing. Maggie is absolutely right to – like Andy Wightman, and all the other Greens who spoke – criticise the SNP’s timidity on local taxation. The party has spent more than a decade talking about “the hated council tax” only to U turn on it, and choose to save it. Even most SNP members I know refuse to defend the decision.

    Second, on ‘why not criticise Labour’ – they are the opposition. Of course Greens want to take votes off Labour – and they got some criticism from some at conference. But it’s really not the same.

    Third, Greens are running, almost everywhere, on the list. Running against more right wing SNP constituency MSPs too might not be a bad idea.

    Finally (I know nothing about the law re fracking), to answer your headline – ‘why do that?’ – the SNP tend to travel in the right (left) direction, but need to be pushed to be more radical. They are moving really very slowly on a huge range of issues, from land reform to whether landowners should be allowed to shoot pregnant beavers; from devolving power to local authorities to, yes local taxation. It is absolutely vital that there is a viable opposition party challenging them vociferously to go further when they are going in the right direction, and that they change direction when they get things wrong. That’s not about saying “The SNP are terrible, so SNP voters should vote Green”. It’s about saying “vote Green to chivy the SNP along”. With Labour unable to do that, it’s quite right that the Greens do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To “chivy the SNP along” would be extremely difficult by voting Green, they are liable to gasin only 2 MSPs in May, which is a pity because they would be a counterbalance to the SNP.
      The real deal with the SNP is conference votes on what THEY want, not what the party wants.
      You have to join them to make a real difference in Scotland, and when members voted at the last conference they sent back Land Reform and better policy was made.
      The worst possible action of the Greens was to vote against the Scottish Budget in it’s entirety.
      They deserve all they get on 5th May and brought it on themselves.
      Pity, they might have formed a useful coalition with the SNP, that chance has gone.


  2. I’ve had a read, and to be honest for me knowing that these comments are part of a carefully written speech and not an off the cuff slip is actually worse. Presumably others read this too, and not one said isn’t this a bit much?

    “The SNP refusal to grasp the thistle of local taxation makes it impossible to cushion the blow of Tory cuts. And that has a real, human cost. We see suicide rates increasing. We see the need for food banks escalating. We see lives being ruined, and in some cases ended, because the Scottish Government has not been bold enough to stand up to Tory cuts.”

    The party I blame for these horrific cuts are the Tories, although it would have been nice if Labour had voted against austerity measures in the Commons rather than doing their usual abstaining trick.

    The reason I compare SNP to Labour in Holyrood is because they have also held power. The Green party can promise the earth but until they are the Scottish Government I cannot judge them on their performance.

    And yes, I want a more left wing SNP, that’s why I joined them. There are some issues I don’t feel they are moving fast enough on, especially land reform, (believe me, I want Scotland’s land ownership to be completely overhauled but that’s a full post in itself) in the mean time I will use my voice as a member to bring about change as I feel that is the most effective way.

    The SNP are far from perfect, but the slow and steady approach works for the voting public. People aren’t radical (unfortunately.)

    As to there needing to be opposition to the SNP? When isn’t there opposition? Labour, Tories, LibDems, Green & RISE all saying they will do that. This continual “calling to account” over everything is more likely to make SNP members & supporters defend the party than turn against it – as I am doing now.

    I understand the need to differentiate, and I do want variation in the political debate, but I still maintain that comments such as Maggie Chapman made put the Green party in a bad light. It hasn’t worked for Labour, it’s done the opposite, why make the same mistakes?

    I want a better opposition party, not more of the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Blaming the SNP for suicides is the sort of hysterical nonsense we’ve come to expect from “Scottish” Labour; Chapman has done neither herself nor her party any favours by stooping so low.


  3. A well resoned post. It’s worth alos bearing in mind that we’re 9 weeks out from an election about 2 1/2 weeks from the dissolution of Holyrood. Any Governing party in the world which proposed a major change to a system such as council tax, at this time, would be insane. They would be handing their opposition and the media all the ammunition in the world with which to attack them. If there’s one thing the SNP seem to understand better than any other party it’s how to play the long game. I agree that the council tax system is wrong and we need to keep the heat on the SNP (assuming their returned to government) to make some radical changes. The balance of probability is that they are the only party who will be brave enough to do so. So let’s get them back in, with another majority and then get them to make the dramatic changes so badly needed. Remember also, that we’re going into this Holyrood election and despite what the media say not a single “new power” from Smith has yet been enacted/delivered.


  4. Always amazes me that the greens never target their natural voters – the small c conservatives who have little interest in politics.
    These are folk who distrust big government want local control of as much as possible, support small and medium sized businesses, want responsible stewardship of the land and would agree with most of the green agenda.
    Lib-dems are also ripe for the plucking – why not give these people something to vote for rather than against.
    Many such people have a faith (usually Christian) again – much of the green ideology is in tune with those tenets.
    The greens will be a powerful force when we are a normal country as many of us currently in the SNP will return but until then it would help if they actually engaged with the real world.


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