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Sowing the seeds: Greens branch out beyond grassroots environmentalism

Katie Reardon

In a busy auditorium at the Royal College of Surgeons, the Scottish Greens launched their manifesto this week. The room was filled with the appreciative murmurings of the press at the substantial bacon roll provisions, chatter about the abhorrent weather and the twittering excitement of party members. Head of Media for the Scottish Greens, Jason Rose, kicked off the press briefing by quipping that the Scottish Greens were “on the cusp of greatness”; the tone was set for the rest of the manifesto launch.

A large glossy booklet, the manifesto seeks to propel the perception of the Greens as more than an environment-focused party, with the first three sections setting out meaty policies on the economy, care provision and housing.

This point was hammered home by Patrick Harvie as he detailed that the party’s main priorities, in a theoretical coalition negotiation with the SNP, would be to develop an “ambitious, progressive approach to taxation”. Providing costed breakdowns of the revenue to be raised from changes to the council tax system and with consistent referrals to the importance of progressive spending investments, the Greens' hunger to influence the broad policy direction of the next Scottish Parliament was evident.

The launch further saw the Greens place an emphasis on the expertise of candidates and the originality of their ideas, pointing to the success of the land reform agenda and the rent controls embedded in the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill.

With Andy Wightman fielding questions on land reform and Sarah Beattie-Smith deftly setting out the party’s stance on water metering and public ownership, there appeared a focus on promoting the portfolio prowess and governance capability of the lead candidates.

The ‘green-ness’ of the Greens was still omnipresent: Alison Johnstone spoke of the “constructive pressure” the party would apply to fulfil the renewable potential of Scotland. However, this was placed within the broader political agenda. Setting out the party’s plan to challenge the austerity policies of the UK Government and work constructively to drive a bolder political agenda in Holyrood, Ms Johnstone promised the party would act as the Parliament’s “progressive champions”

This call to arms was echoed by Co-Convener, Maggie Chapman. Using her keynote speech to set out the policies on housing and infrastructure, income inequality, sustainable transport and TTIP, she proclaimed that the Greens were the key to establishing a “bolder and feistier Parliament”.

One thing is clear: the stereotype of what it is to be Green still exists, but it has taken a backseat. The party has expanded its political mandate beyond the realms of environment and are squaring up to attempt to monopolise the agenda of the radical left.

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