Election 2016: Are Green policies really radical?

John Finnie
John Finnie

Are Green policies really radical?  It’s an interesting question, and certainly it seems to concern a few people on the doorsteps, but I don’t really think our polices are in themselves that “radical”.

The situation of being “radical” seems to arise because all the other parties policies are so similar, so anything even a wee bit different becomes radical!

Take the oil industry. There’s no doubt it’s going through a hard time at the moment, but it’s only the Scottish Greens that are breaking the cosy consensus about upping the tax breaks, instead we’re proposing a genuine transition to new industries.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the economic driver the oil industry has been for the country, and in particular this part of the world, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that I have friends and family working in the industry.

At the moment the fear of continuing jobs losses is palpable, and the harsh changes to many contracts have had to be swallowed, these are also key reasons why I want to see a fair and managed transition.

We also all know the oil is running out, and until it does it’ll get ever more expensive and dangerous to extract, until it becomes too expensive and too dangerous, and the industry inevitably dies.

But we’ve seen these struggles before, from shipbuilding to coal mining, and to a lesser extent, even the loss of Nimrods at Kinloss, the end of an era can have challenging, if not devastating, consequences for the communities that once relied upon them without a plan for transition.

That’s why tax breaks don’t cut it. The oil industry isn’t poor, only a couple of weeks ago BP was proposing to give its chief executive an obscene 20% pay rise, taking his pay packet to £14 million, despite the company’s struggles and failures – and similar sums were also being awarded to other senior figures in other companies.

It’s like the banks all over again – tax breaks and bailouts, but the fundamental problems are swept under the carpet.

It’s also why we need to start making that transition now. Hard working and dedicated people are already losing jobs and all that skill, knowledge, and experience is potentially being lost.

But the opportunities are here if only we had a government bold enough to reach out grasp them.

Across the North Sea, our European neighbours are stealing a march in supporting a new offshore renewables industry – an industry in which Scotland could, and should, be the world leader.

The legacy of oil and gas will still be with us for decades, and with the right investment that means new long term decommissioning jobs.

There are also other opportunities too. There will always be big industries like renewables and decommissioning, but for many having the chance to retrain, or set up a new business may be a more attractive option.

We’ll also need to discover new methods for creating many of the oil based products we rely on currently – from plastics to medicines, we need to develop the technology to find new ways to produce the everyday items we take for granted.

The Scottish Greens are keen to support a range of industries and options to help that managed transition so that we don’t see an industry collapse, mass redundancies, and devastated communities.

But most of all, what I really don’t want is to be here in twenty years time saying “I told you so”.

It may not seem like it now, you may even think we’re being naive, but with a bit of willpower these sorts of changes really aren’t that difficult to achieve.

After all, it’s not that long ago that recycling was rare, cars used leaded petrol, acid rain was destroying forests, CFC’s tore holes in the Ozone layer, or plastics bags were free – and no one really misses any of that.

We know we can do better than tax breaks for the wealthiest industry on the planet, and we can create over 200,000 jobs in new sustainable enterprises while we’re at it.

It’s a bold plan – some might even say “radical” – but these new industries are our future.

If you vote for the Scottish Greens on the 5th May, that’s exactly what we’ll work for.

This is the final week of submissions by candidates – all five candidates in Moray who have been providing weekly updates will do so one more time, and then on the day before the Election we will provide a final round-up.