By Steven Allison
This weekend, Edinburgh will play host to this year’s Scottish Green Party Conference. Well known as the biggest Green gathering of the year, activists and members will flock from every corner of Scotland.
The Green Party (of England and Wales) is one of the oldest Green political parties in the world and has been campaigning for ecological sustainability and social justice for more than 30 years.
The conference is a weekend long affair, kicking off on Friday night at Milne’s Bar on Edinburgh’s famous Rose Street.
Saturday is filled with speeches, fringe meetings and exhibition stalls. The formal part of the day is rounded off by the Annual General Meeting. Following this, the evening lightens with dinner at Edinburgh’s independent Rudolf Steiner School. Then, ‘The Big Green Ceilidh.’ This features ‘Da Hooley’ ceilidh band and an organic bar.
Sunday features more speeches, fringe meetings and exhibition stalls, with the event drawing to a close early evening.
The 2011 Scottish elections are fast approaching and this will be the last conference prior to this. On the Green Party website, they say they are expecting substantial progress relating to representation and influence, due to the fluid nature of Scottish and UK politics.
However, they argue, “It is not just about the future. Even now, with two MSPs, the Greens play a pivotal role in key decisions made by the Scottish Parliament, not least the annual Budget.”
They go on to point out, “Greens sit as Councillors on 3 local authorities in Scotland, too, and their numbers are widely predicted to swell in 2012, with the very real prospect of Greens holding the balance of power in a number of areas.”
The Green Party in England now has its first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, who will address the conference.
Melissa Freeman, Senior Parliamentary Press Officer to leader of the Green party says, “In her speech, Caroline will reflect on the achievements of the Greens in England, Wales and Scotland, and will talk a little about her landmark election to Westminster in May.” Melissa adds, “She will also touch on some of the Greens’ key policies, which have increasingly come to the fore of the political discourse, including lowering the voting age to 16, establishing a living wage and allowing MPs to job share.”
Critics of Green policy often see their work as merely a form of socialism or fascism, although many Greens, including Caroline Lucas, counter that these are more characteristics of non-parliamentary groups such as Green Anarchists.
Melissa continues, “Caroline can also be expected to reiterate her opposition to nuclear to the hugely expensive, futile and immoral replacement of Trident, and to the disproportionate spending cuts being inflicted by the ‘ConDem’ Coalition across our public sector. She believes that these cuts are ideologically driven, too deep and too fast, and thus that they pose a real risk to our economy, and to the well-being of our society.”
Last week, Edinburgh was home to the huge ‘Better Way’ demonstration, with supporters marching in protest at the cuts.
Alison Johnstone, the Green councillor for Meadows and Morningside and Holyrood candidate for the Lothians, joined the demonstration. She says in her online blog, “There were 20,000 of us I’m told. It was great to have the bands playing and even the weather seemed to be on our side. We were marching for a better way to deal with the present economic problems than the government’s programme of draconian cuts.”
She strongly adds, “They have a cheek to make the public sector pay the cost of bailing out the banks, while they carry on paying themselves massive bonuses. That money would be better spent on all the amazing new green technologies that could provide jobs and help us create a better future. It was good to stand/walk alongside other Greens and show how strongly we feel about this issue.”
Green co-leader, Patrick Harvie will also address the conference this weekend. He says, “I can’t remember a conference as eagerly-awaited as this one. With the first Westminster seat now secured, there’s a real sense of anticipation within the party. He adds, “For people with an interest in a greener and fairer Scotland, it’s the place to be this November.”
Green policy takes a very strong stance on many issues, including the banking system, health, jobs, housing, pensions and transport. They coin themselves as the ‘”Party of hope and radical change”
However, if they really are as they say they are, then why have they only just secured their first seat at Westminster?
Years of politics have produced financial chaos and environmental breakdown. The conference this weekend will take Scotland closer in seeing if the Green Party can really deliver.