I am not a political person. I am a scientist by nature. But being scientifically minded I am an environmentalist – or at least I care about the environment – I'm not sure they are the same thing. I know planet Earth is like a house with no chimney. Light a fire in any room and the smoke will spread to every other room and the health of all the inhabitants will be impacted. There is no doubt in my mind that human activity, in particular energy production from fossil fuels, is seriously damaging the health of our living planet. For this reason, I am naturally attracted to the Green party as it is the one that cares most about the environment. At least I thought it was.
With local elections in mind I recently did that most unlikely thing – voluntarily watching a party-political broadcast on behalf of the Scottish Greens which started with a nice wee joke about someone turning it off. I kept watching, waiting to hear how the Scottish Green party was going to clean up the air in our cities, campaign for electric buses, get solar panels put on the roof of every school and so on. To my surprise and slight disbelief, the environment did not seem to be mentioned once in the entire broadcast. I had to download the transcript to make sure I was hearing right.
Scotland is mentioned 5 times, Scottish 3. The script is composed of generic, almost childlike political statements which could be used in a broadcast for any number of political parties, e.g.: 'We're frustrated by how things are run. Decisions are made without us ever being asked what we really need.' Okay, but who does not feel that way? 'We all use council services every day without even thinking about it, whether it's our kids' schools, catching the bus to work, or just taking the bins out.' Yes, I agree we do, though some of us do think about it. How many times is the environment mentioned? Zero. Nor is there one single reference to one single environmental issue in the entire broadcast.
So what has happened to our Green party? I suspect the score Scotland 5, Environment 0 says it all. Our Green party has become a mini-me nationalist party. Don't get me wrong. I am fine with soft nationalist parties if that is what they are meant to be and I have many nationalist-voting friends and relatives, but the Green party? It never did make sense to me that Scottish Greens took to promoting a vision of Scotland that was openly based on the idea we would pay our way with oil money. It was the strange little cog turning the wrong way that got my attention. Even when fracking rights were given to INEOS, in part exchange no doubt to stop them closing Grangemouth, it seemed to make no difference.
The Greens insist they are against that kind of thing and they do seem to have done some good work to oppose it, but why tell people to get on a ship that is so clearly signed to be heading in the wrong direction? 'We will change course after we leave port' they argue, while common sense cries out that if this ship ever does leave port that is exactly when the fracking will begin, legislation will be repealed and any good work the Greens have achieved on that issue will be very quickly undone when their voters are no longer required.
There never was a convincing environmental argument to take on either side in the independence campaign and the party should have remained neutral.
If it had backed No, that too would have seemed like an abuse of the Green cause which should reach out across divides to promote universal positive environmental principles. I don't want the Green party to claim to be looking after our schools and hospitals when every other mainstream party is already claiming to do that. I want a Green party that expends its energy continually pressing home concern for the world that we are destroying.
I'm from a west of Scotland Catholic background. I no longer believe in the supernatural but instead believe that the natural is super. In my high school, 'unionist' was usually prefixed with the 'F' word. I have learned to accept that label without complaint because it would be ridiculous to deny it. I'm a unionist in the most universal sense. I believe in trade unions, European unions and this island union. I think getting people to work together is a great thing and unions generally are great achievements existing almost miraculously against the forces of increasing entropy.
I've heard Green friends deny the term 'nationalist' in relation to themselves and this invariably makes me think of Magritte's 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe'. It is a surrealistic perspective or a state of denial as silly as me denying I am a unionist because I hate the label. In joining the Yes campaign, the Green party has got itself involved in a nationalist movement by any definition. It has all the hallmarks: our neighbours are our enemy; they are taking what's ours; we have higher ideals; we are a better people. Everyone knows there is a subliminal shadow across the often seen sign, 'Scotland welcomes refugees' that is some vague, undefined insult to our apparently less welcoming neighbours.
They say that the first stage to dealing with a problem is recognising that you have one. What is going on in Scotland is a nationalist movement with its roots in a dispute over oil which now clings to any issue it can get some purchase on and it's really very sad to me that the Greens of all political parties have got themselves involved in this way and that it no longer even occurs to them to mention the environment in their broadcast. I am quite sure it was all done constitutionally but to an outsider it looks like the Scottish Greens have been hijacked, and until they go indi-neutral an estimated 55% of organic Scottish Green votes will wither in the ground.