A report from the Scottish Green Party conference

Ben Wray reports on the Green Party conference last month, which was held on 20-21st October at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. First published online at Common Space.

THE Scottish Greens conference began with a call for a socialist transformation to create an economy “that puts people and planet ahead of profit”.

Maggie Chapman, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, outlined a radical vision for “system change not climate change”, saying that the present democratic structures were “the institutions of a dying world” and called on Greens to throw “moderation” to the way side.

Quoting two Marxist leaders of the early 20th century, Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg, Chapman said that “a simple choice between socialism and barbarism has never been more true”. She said individual solutions to the challenge of climate change had no answer, instead a challenge to the primacy of markets and their “cheerleaders” was needed. “The 100 companies responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions, their cheerleaders and the governments they have captured must be our targets,” she said.

“Social movements are the animating force in history. If green politics are about anything in terms of an organising principle, social movements give us that organising principle, to move beyond the old institutions of representative politics” Chapman argued. The aim was to create “an economy based on planetary health and human well-being, an economy that puts people and planet ahead of profit.”

Fellow co-convenor and Glasgow MSP Patrick Harvie lauded recent Green successes in Germany and Belgium which, he said, had surpassed the electoral performance of the far-right but had not received nearly as much coverage in the media. The “green wave” was the antidote to both the racism of the far-right and the “failed middle ground of politics”, he argued.

Harvie went on to advocate a second UK-wide referendum on EU membership, calling on the UK Government to “cancel Brexit and stop this mess”.

On the second day of the conference members of the party backed a motion supporting free public transport as a long-term ambition. The party supported the motion stating: “We advocate for fare-free access to public transport. Until this is achieved we will support calls for subsidised travel for all those who require it, such as but not limited to who are elderly, disabled, carers, unemployed, children & young people, those in full time education or on low incomes. This subsidy must be at least a 50 per cent reduction on standard fares.”

Commenting on the passing of the motion, Transport spokesperson for the Scottish Greens John Finnie MSP stated: “Greens are already campaigning for better buses and more reliable rail services, and our MSP group will make the most of the Transport Bill coming to Parliament. Longer term, the aim of fare-free public transport is about fairness and reducing inequalities, as we want to make society more accessible for everyone while also reducing dependence on private car travel”.