The 2016 elections are without doubt the most significant for the Scottish Parliament yet. In large part this reflects the success of radicals in driving the Scottish political agenda through the referendum period. Unfortunately, the Greens and the coalition that constitutes RISE weren’t able to come to an agreement to run together. Many will be sad that the two main voices behind the radical resurgence of the left in Scottish politics will be running against one another. But there are significant opportunities beyond the obvious problems.
The decisive shift to the left by the SNP in recent years came on the back of the last election of a significant numbers of radical MSPs. From 2003-2007, the 13 Green and SSP MSPs pushed the agenda on issues from free school meals to social enterprise. The SNP’s move to the left after 2004 has both transformed Scottish politics and left truly radical politics with a greatly diminished voice. It is important that we have those radical voices back in Parliament in greatly increased numbers.
It is good to have another left grouping pushing for an anti-capitalist agenda. We all now recognise that a just society is not possible without radical plans to protect the environment. Social and climate justice are inextricably linked. Naomi Klein has brilliantly explained how capitalism is based on the externalisation of environmental costs. We know that the structure of capitalism is deeply entwined with the burning of fossil fuels. The cause of the environment is the cause of socialism and the cause of socialism is the cause of the environment.
So as Greens and socialists move close to one another, shared agendas emerge. And it is these that I, as a Green socialist, would like to see in the RISE manifesto.
We need to widen the debate about the environment from the liberal obsession with changing individual behaviour and regulation. Instead, we need to build a new collective and democratic economy with people and the environment at its heart. RISE is perfectly placed to make these arguments.
One policy that Greens haven’t made the running on is free public transport. It is bold, points clearly to the world we want to see, and would help to obliterate the car culture that does so much to drive both climate change and capitalist atomisation of communities. Free public transport would help deliver a systemic change in society and would help stop climate change.
RISE also has the opportunity to make the case for transformed ownership of businesses, services and other important areas of the economy. For too long, we have worked on the basis of a presumption that privatisation, deregulation and low taxes are best. But Scotland can now shift ownership of land, its privatised industries like steel, and its privatised companies like Scotrail into democratic and collective control. I hope RISE will be making the argument that we must remove the primacy of the profit motive in public services. We need a variety of renationalisation, worker control and new models of combined worker and public control.
The council tax freeze has pushed the debate around local taxation to the point where it is widely accepted that we must find a new form. This should be both redistributive and should ensure that assets are taxed. The SSP’s proposal of a ‘Scottish Service Tax’ (SST) would be an effective redistributive tax, but would not have taxed assets. While we build public support for asset taxes, the SST may deliver the redistributive element of funding for public services that will help to mitigate the worst of Westminster’s austerity.
With a real chance to elect radical MSPs in every Scottish region, from Green or RISE, it is vital that everyone uses their list vote to help transform Scottish politics. We all want to see a Scottish Parliament that delivers the aspirations of a transformed Scotland so many hoped independence would bring.
Anni Pues sits on the International Committee of the Scottish Green Party, and is a feminist and left activist