The world’s eyes are firmly fixed on Scotland, with less than a week to go until the country votes in a referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. The referendum asks, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Voters aged 16 upwards will answer the question next Thursday, 18 September. The Scottish Greens have called for a Yes.
The debate is one of the most emotional to take place in recent history in Scotland and across the UK, with the very definition of what it means to be Scottish and what it means to be British at its heart. While the question of identity occupies a lot of column inches, practical matters such as what currency an independent Scotland would use, what portion of the British national debt would belong to Scotland, what should be done with Scotland’s oil revenues, where would the UK’s current Trident nuclear arsenal be housed (currently, it’s the Firth of Clyde on Scotland’s west coast) – all are crucial matters for discussion.
The Greens are one of two major parties in Scotland who are backing a Yes vote. The Scottish Nationalist Party, who’s leader Alex Salmond is one of the Yes campaign’s figureheads, have campaigned with a strongly nationalist message that puts anti-British sentiment front-and-centre.
Patrick Harvie, Co-Convenor of the Greens, rejects the nationalism argument. “This debate shoudn’t be about whether Scotland has done better or worse as part of the United Kingdom. It’s not about this narrow definition of nationalism that is a reaction to the UK. Let’s look at what Scotland can be. This is a question about Green politics for us. We think the best way to achieve a Green Scotland is if decisions are made in Edinburgh, rather than London. But it’s not about us versus them. Scotland and Britain can both benefit from this.”
The Greens are the front of what is being called the Radical Yes campaign. “An independent Scotland doesn’t have to follow the plan set out in the SNP’s White Paper [a document produced by Salmond’s party on their vision and expectation for Scotland’s future]. A lot of what’s being talked about is business usual. We can do better than that - Scotland can be a leader in renewable energy. We can put equality at the centre of a new constitution. We can have a truly democratic country where decision making is devolved to communities.”
The Green Yes campaign directly addresses the issues put forward by the No campaign. Instead of keeping the British pound, they want to develop a Scottish currency. Instead of worrying about how long Scotland might rely on oil revenues, they want to make investment in wind and tidal energy a priority. “There’s no reason Scotland can’t be self-sustaining in terms of renewables. And, we may very well be in a position that we can sell energy back to Britain. An independent Scotland could have a real impact on how all of us look at our energy needs.”
Not all Scottish Greens are behind the Yes vote, which is something Harvie doesn’t see as an issue. “I was at a debate the other evening on behalf of the Yes campaign, while one of my party colleagues was speaking for the No side. Both sides of the debate within the party have been very respectful, as we all know that we’re out for what’s best for Scotland.”
The Green Party of England and Wales are also firmly in support of a Yes vote. “Someone said to me the other day, wouldn’t a Yes vote cause a constitutional crisis in the rest of the UK?” said party leader Natalie Bennett. “Yes, I replied! Wouldn’t that be great! The unwritten constitution hasn’t faced any major changes since women got the vote. It’s high time that we looked at it again, and a Yes vote would give us the opportunity.”
When asked about why the GPEW support the Yes campaign, Bennet is clear. “It’s not just about Green solidarity. We firmly support the right to self determination. Political decisions need to be made at the right level. This, to us, is at the heart of the question of Scottish independence.”
Whatever the result, it’s clear that the political landscape in Scotland and the UK will drastically chance on Thursday. The Greens hope to be at the centre of this new reality.