Scotland: The Greens and the Union
BY SCOTT CRESSWELL
Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is seen here celebrating her new coalition Government with Scottish Green party leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater.
After five long months, the Scottish Holyrood election is finally over. Although it feels like an age ago already, the election was ultimately the most important of all of those taking place on 6th May. With the possible exception of the Hartlepool by-election, no other election was gazed upon with the same unbreaking concentration by our media and politicians.
The result was typical of modern elections. Everyone claimed victory, while nobody confessed defeat. Just one seat short of a majority, the SNP claimed victory as the largest party, while the unionist parties heralded the result as anti-separationist success (the message constantly echoed then and still by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross). When you look at it however, it’s evident that the real winners of the election are the fourth largest party.
The Scottish Greens are a far more radical bunch than the SNP. Although they both believe in Scottish Independence and condone it as a necessary step to Scotland re-joining the European Union, they both have different aims economically. It would be far easier to describe the Greens as socialists, while the SNP are really left-wing populists who despise English and British nationalism but envisage Scottish nationalism as something holy. Defence is another issue of difference, particularly when it comes to NATO. But, with both parties obsessed with a second referendum on Scottish Independence, a deal was predictable and entirely expected.
Like many others, I was unfortunate enough to stumble across Andrew Neil’s piece in the Mail Online about his verdict on the deal. As ever with the once-respectable journalist, he dismisses the Greens as leftist crazies and finds solace in personally attacking Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater (the party’s two leaders). Ignoring much of his lazy commentary, he’s entirely right however that all the SNP and the Greens really care about is Independence. Although Alex Salmond laughably launched his Alba Party at the start of the year as a hard-line nationalist sect, it was entirely unnecessary. The deal between the SNP and the Green is evidence that independence is their only real concern and at any cost.
Andy Beckett, of the Guardian, argues that the Greens, nationally, are becoming the new Liberal Democrats and that, one day in the future, they could be the group that hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. There is perhaps some truth in this as green issues are undeniably important and the public is growing to be more concerned, especially after the IPCC’s “code red” report. It might happen. It might not. It’s too difficult to tell as parties often appear as contenders for power before quickly vanishing. However, the Greens should be wary. The Liberal Democrats have often been attacked and electorally damaged for aiding devolved Labour governments, and most obviously joining a Conservative-led Coalition from 2010 to 2015. Remember, voters and commentators believed that the Lib Dems wouldn’t ever work with the Conservatives. Then look at what happened. The Greens are no different. Just look at their unlikely alliance with the Tories and others in the London Assembly.
In terms of the union, the deal between the SNP and the Greens completely destroys any belief that there won’t be a second Scottish Independence referendum. It’s now just a matter of when. Obviously, Nicola Sturgeon’s aim is to win it and continue as Scotland’s leader until the end of its long history within the United Kingdom, and possibly even beyond that. However, with polls indicating that independence may be losing support, there will be tensions between the two parties. If they mess this opportunity up, then I think a third wouldn’t be unlikely, but entirely impossible.
For now, with a majority of MSPs supporting independence and Greens in the Scottish government, indyref2 will happen. It’s just a matter of when.
Image - Flickr (Scottish Government)