I have a confession to make. I initially responded only to the headline on this article saying that the Scottish Greens were bound to rule out ‘Plan B gimmicks’ because they are not stupid. Then I read the piece and had to delete that comment. I berate others for responding to the headline without reading the text. So I make this confession with the appropriate sense of shame. Let this be a lesson to one and all.
It won’t, of course. I guarantee that already my Twitter timeline will be littered with what are intended to be witty or barbed or insightful comments, but which fall flat because they relate to neither the content of the original article nor to this blog.
I’ll wager at least one of those comments takes to form of sage advice on how to mark a piece of paper with a cross using a pencil – possibly with helpful illustrations. The question that forms the title of this article is not a plea for guidance on the practicalities of registering my vote. I might better have framed it as ‘How can I bring myself to vote Green?’. Or perhaps ‘How can I in good conscience vote Green?’. But then I’d have been obliged to rethink this preamble.
Not that I have a problem with the Scottish Greens’ policy platform. I am in favour of saving the planet. There! I’ve said it! I don’t think it’s a good idea to destroy the world. Let controversy commence!
Seriously, though! Most of what the Greens say on environmental issues and land reform etc. resonates with my own views. We might wish they could make their case with a modicum less prissily portentous self-righteousness. They tend to come across as an unappealing mix of Wee Free meenister and the guy with the sandwich-board proclaiming our imminent doom – and serve us gled! But I suppose that comes with the territory.
What irritates me about the Scottish Greens is not their policies or their patronising attitude but their naivety. Their quaint belief that being right and righteous is enough. The notion that ideological purity matters more than political pragmatism. There’s not much reaching out to voters. If the voters know what’s good for them then they should be reaching out to the Greens. It’s like Jehovah’s Witnesses demanding we go and knock on their door to receive the good word. As opposed to the word they are more accustomed to hearing.
If the Greens were peddling patently daft ideas then I wouldn’t be nearly so irked. What irks me is that they are making such a poor job of selling ideas that are both sensible and important. One might almost think they’d rather say ‘I told you so!’ than have their message heeded. It is surely a truism of politics that the harder the message the harder it must be sold. But the Greens don’t do the hard sell. Is it beneath them? Or do they suppose themselves to have risen above the rough and tumble of real-world politics?
Regular readers will find in the foregoing an echo of my verdict on the SNP. A verdict which seems now to be part of mainstream political discourse. The SNP leadership has not been prepared to confront the British state. The Greens appear equally reluctant to confront the apathy which even at this eleventh hour for the world as we have known it all too often amounts to the overwhelming response to dire warnings of environmental and economic and social collapse.
Part of this – at least as far as the Greens are concerned – is the aversion to power that they share with the rest of the political left. They want to be politically effective. But they shun effective political power. Not so the SNP, of course. It is unusual in being of the left but absent the antipathetic attitude to effective political power. Where the SNP falls down is when it comes to using their effective political power effectively. It is this that I anxiously hope to see changed before the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.
The Greens seem content with influencing power rather than holding it. I suspect their dream scenario post-election would be to hold sway over an SNP administration with a shaky majority. It is in such circumstances that they might hope to impose the conditions for their highly conditional support for independence. Which won’t play well with voters. But why would they care? It’s not like they’re looking for the kind of electoral support which comes at the cost of political responsibility.
There are enough rhetorical similarities between the Greens and the SNP for them to seem like natural parliamentary allies. Take, for example, party co-leader Lorna Slater’s insistence that the Conservatives would be unable to keep saying no to requests for a Section 30 order as demand for holding another referendum rises.
They can’t stop us if the people have a common vision for what we want Scotland to be.
There is, of course, no explanation of what it is that might prevent the British government continuing to refuse permission for a new referendum at least on more time than it is requested. Once you’ve conceded that veto to them you can hardly claim they don’t have a veto. And if they have a veto over something they don’t want to happen, why wouldn’t they use it?
The wooly-mindedness of the Greens is nicely illustrated by the notion of the people having a “common vision for what we want Scotland to be”. A notion that provokes either or both wry laughter and sceptical snorts from anybody who has dipped so much as toe in the debate on social media. There isn’t even universal agreement that the Yes movement should be called the Yes movement. Some see it as too aggressive. My money’s on them being Greens.
Again, this is barely distinguishable from the approach preferred by the SNP leadership. An approach which in all it’s significant elements hasn’t changed from the first referendum campaign. And approach which envisages a new referendum campaign as a straight rerun of the one that failed to win a Yes vote in 2014. An approach which not only declines to take on board any of the lessons from then, it seems actually to throw them overboard.
It is an approach which pretty much gives our opponents everything they might wish for. Principally, it makes independence the contentious issue; and it allows the campaign to be fought not on the constitutional issue but on a plethora of policy issues about which there can never be general agreement, never mind a “common vision”. Then there’s the determination to find an answer to every conceivable question that the anti-independence campaign might throw at us. An answer, moreover, that satisfies every voter. Either that or a ‘shopping list’ of answers to be given to different people in the hope of finding the one that each is satisfied with without them noticing all the ones that they are far from satisfied. Or the fact that there are so many different answers that there is effectively no answer.
The Greens’ support for independence is conditional on everybody getting to realise their own vision for what an independent Scotland should be – on condition that this vision (these visions?) doesn’t conflict in any way with the visions espoused by the Greens. That should be straightforward enough.
I have a question. Given that the ballot will not set out any vision or result in the election of any government which has set out a vision, how are voters supposed to vote for their preferred vision? Or to put it another way, how are voters supposed to know what vision they are voting for?
It’s not unremittingly bad. I like that Lorna Slater rejects “gimmicks” such as ‘Plan B’ and the so-called list parties. (Although she chooses to make no mention of the latter. Which from what I’ve heard her say elsewhere would accurately reflect here disdain for such games.) It would be gratifying if having dismissed ‘Plan B’ in this manner she had been prepared to offer a viable or even a credible ‘Plan A’. But no.
Lorna Slater doesn’t even seem to know what ‘Plan B’ involves. What the hell is this all about?
You can’t win independence by forcing it on people – that is the problem with Brexit. I want to win independence because together a huge number agree what we want Scotland to be – that is how you succeed.
Forcing it on people!? Who has ever suggested such a thing? How would that even be possible? Accepting the outcome of a democratic process is not having that outcome forced on you. It is showing respect for the principles of democracy. And what hope is there of getting that kind of agreement about something as complex and multifaceted as the entire future of the nation? None! If that is how you hope to succeed then you are doomed to fail.
It may be possible to get broad agreement on some general principles. It should certainly be possible to get widespread agreement on a very simple concept. But getting a “huge number” of people to share even a fairly similar vision is setting the bar so high as to make the restoration of Scotland’s independence all but impossible.
The quest for independence isn’t over the day we win the vote – we then have to build a new country and I don’t want to build it as a bitterly divided country.
I almost wish I was the sort of person who could skip past the inanity of that first remark without comment. I do so not because I am that person but because the inanity is so self-evident that further comment would be redundant. I shall simply wonder how anybody hoping to be taken serious as a politician could come out with such a woefully stupid statement.
I am not at all inclined to skip over the second part of that quote. It nicely illustrates the horrible naivety of the Greens. Lorna Slater seems genuinely to believe that significant change can be wrought without upsetting anybody. Those of us with our feet more firmly planted in reality recognise that there are people who will never accept the end of their ‘precious’ Union. We cannot be deterred by the intractability of a minority. That would be to forsake democracy by pandering to political zealots. Some of that zealotry may even be expressed in unlawful acts. If we are not prepared to defend the will of Scotland’s people then why are we seeking independence at all? If we are not ready to face even violent challenges to our democratic choices then neither our democracy nor our independence will last long.