The Scottish Green Party operates a de facto coalition with the SNP at Holyrood. There was much made about the historic agreement that, in August 2021, saw Greens take up government roles for the first time in any of the UK legislatures.
The deal does allow for public disagreement between the parties but only around issues such as aviation policy, green ports, direct financial support to aerospace, defence and security businesses, field sports and the economic principles related to concepts of sustainable growth and inclusive growth.
Basically it means that the two Green Scottish ministers agree to support the government budgets, including its recent slashing by £1.2 billion. Many will ask: what difference have the Greens made to the fundamental positions taken on opposing austerity and the fight against the cost-of-living crisis?
Ross Greer, the Greens’ finance spokesperson, laughably commented on the day of the cuts announcement: “With Greens in government we are prioritising support for those who need it most in the face of Westminster’s economic incompetence, and are doing all we can to protect them from the cuts and damage the Tories have inflicted on Scotland’s budget and our communities”. But how can slashing over £1 billion from the budget do that?
On energy, the Greens supported handing wind energy production in the North Sea to the multinational corporations earlier in 2022. This was despite having a policy of creating a publicly-owned energy company.
The Scottish Greens energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell crowed: “For years the Scottish Greens have talked about the need for a green industrial strategy that can pave the way beyond the era of oil and gas, and with Greens in government this announcement is a significant step forward”. What kind of ‘industrial strategy’ is it that leaves the profiteering vultures responsible in large part for the global environmental crisis in control of energy resources, Ruskell did not explain.
As part of the agreement with the SNP, the Scottish Greens have the right to put forward their own positions on, for example, a vision for Scottish independence. Its recent Independence: For People, For Planet, is one such example. However, there are very few differences between the Scottish Greens and the SNP on this issue. Both support the continuation of capitalism and all the consequences that would have for an independent Scotland.
The Greens do put forward ideas including “proper social security, strong public services and a Universal Basic Income” in an independent Scotland. And a society that would “shift the balance of power in our economy by taxing wealth fairly, protecting trade unions, and paying workers what they deserve with a Real Living Wage for all”.
But there is not a single mention that under independence the Greens would fight for nationalisation of any sectors of the economy. Taxing the wealth ‘fairly’ is as far as the radicalism goes.
On paper, the Scottish Greens support limited public ownership. Reacting to the massive public support for nationalisation of the energy sector as fuel prices were rocketing they began to put forward the demand for the nationalisation of the top five gas and electricity companies. But this is not mentioned in their new prospectus.
Even then, nationalisation of the energy retailers is not enough. Socialists should be clear; the entire energy sector, including production as well as retail must be brought under public ownership. Half measures, or in the Greens case quarter measures, that leave the fat-cats in control are not the answer.
Socialist nationalisation means putting the energy industry under the democratic control of the working class, with elected committees of workers, trade union representatives and communities deciding investment priorities and prices. Only in that way could the ‘Just Transition’ that the Scottish Greens advocate actually be achieved, including guaranteed employment and no loss of pay for workers moving from the fossil fuel industries.
This tendency to have one policy on paper and another when in government – or in the council chambers – is a continual theme from the Greens. Opposition to austerity morphs into voting for cuts budgets when in power. Supporting public ownership is suddenly dropped in favour of allowing privatised energy companies access to the North Sea and, in the process, providing them with a bit of greenwashing thrown in for good measure.
Young people in particular who have supported the Greens in the past will increasingly be turned off by the actions of their MSPs and councillors in practice.