My manifesto to #ReelectMaggie

I’m ambitious for the Scottish Green Party. Scotland needs us to be successful, and we must aim to fulfill that ambition. By 2021, I want us to be in position to be the main party of opposition. It’s not only possible. It’s necessary. Here’s how I think we can achieve this:

A bigger, better organised party

We need to keep building the Scottish Greens. In the limited time I’ve had to do what is a voluntary role, I visited local parties from Ayr to Aberdeen as Co-Convener. In the next year, I will:

  • Work with local parties to develop a recruitment strategy and support training to roll it out.
  • Ensure that we continue to be a key part of Scotland’s social movements: as the German Greens used to say, we need one foot in parliament, a thousand on the streets.
  • Support local parties to share the best ways of keeping members involved and active; with fun (cake-filled) meetings and lots of ways to engage.
  • Make sure we better accommodate the growing party by having more time to discuss motions at conference next year. It’s a real shame we didn’t get to so many this year.
  • Ensure that we develop proper, accountable line management structures for the growing staff team in the office. As we grow, we’ll employ more and more people, and we need to ensure that these staff are well treated, supported, and guided by our democratic structures.
  • Ensure we have a programme of cultural events at conference, following this year’s closing song, Freedom Come All Ye!

A more diverse party

I will:

  • Set up a working group into how we can better support BME people in the Scottish Greens to encourage more members from ethnic minorities to become candidates.
  • Work with the Green Party of England and Wales Greens of Colour group to bring best practice to Scotland.
  • Continue to push the party out of its traditional comfort zone to focus more on issues which affect a broader range of people.
  • Keep pushing the party to give equal profile to women as it does to men.
  • Support Rainbow Greens, Scottish Young Greens, Disabled Greens and the Women’s network, and do what I can to assist with the creation of other representative groups, including a group like the Green Party of England and Wales “Greens of Colour”.
  • Continue to push for our co-convener system to change to include non-binary people.
  • Support a dedicated staff member for the Young Greens: the Green Party of England and Wales employed one when they were roughly the size we are now, and it was key to their growth, soon paying for itself.

A party that wins elections

Over the next two years, we have our two most important elections coming up: Holyrood and local councils. As co-convener, I will:

  • Encourage local parties to adopt Target to Win as soon as possible so that they have the best possible chance of winning as many local councillors as possible in 2017, learning from the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • Ensure a bold Holyrood campaign, that doesn’t let the media to pigeon-hole us as they have in the past.
  • Support local parties to involve as many members as possible in canvassing. In the past, we’ve relied too heavily on press officers. We need to take our message to voters in person.
  • We need to dedicate proper resource to our online presence: our target voters get more news online than from the traditional media. To win, we need to reinvent the political party for the digital age.

After the Co-Convener Election – what is to be done?

Well that was quite a campaign! I’m very grateful to the Scottish Green Party for re-electing me as co-convener. My quest to reclaim the name ‘Maggie’ for all-that-is-good in politics continues!


I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me, all those who supported me and all those who’ve been so kind on social media this afternoon. I’d also like to thank all the candidates who ran in what was a very positive campaign. Finally, I’d like to thank Zara for the good campaign she ran. It’s good to be able to practice what we preach on democracy.


Now the real task begins. With just over 5 months to the Holyrood election we must focus our activities outwards. There are many more sympathetic voters out there for our message. We need to find the ways to persuade them to vote for us. We must do that because –  now more than ever –  we need more Green voices in Parliament. We need to be in a position to make the case for a better Scotland. A Scotland that plays a positive role in the world. This afternoon Greens had a great discussion on social media about what we need to focus on.


The issues being raised are those that face us most pressingly as a society. We need to fight austerity. But we also need a new form of social security that won’t be eroded by lurid tabloid headlines.


We need to keep our ferries in public ownership, we need to bring our railways back into public ownership, and we need to get rents under control for tenants who are being fleeced more every year.


We need to renew Scotland’s industrial base, and to repurpose it for renewables. We need the jobs, we need the energy renewables generate and we need to be able to move away from oil and gas. We want to see a more creative economy, and an economy that better meets human needs, and the needs of the planet.


To do this we need more Greens in Parliament, we need to build at local and national level and we need to keep making the case for a much, much more equal society.


And we need to work with the movements that have put all these issues into the debate. The energy of the referendum and the Green Surge needs to flow through our politics, transforming it. The movements that built that energy deserve our support on the streets and our voice in Parliament. With one foot on the streets and one in the Parliament we will bring power to people. We will build a more equal society. We will end injustice.


I will do all I can to build that party, to give voice to those movements and to make sure we work effectively to deliver a better country and a better world.

Workers rights are human rights

I was privileged to be one of four panelists discussing Nicola Sturgeon’s Jimmy Reid Memorial lecture at the STUC this evening. The others were James Dornan (SNP MSP), Drew Smith (Labour MSP) and Myrto Tsakatika (in place of Cat Boyd, from RISE). This is what I said (more or less).


JimmyReidOne of my proudest moments was, having been elected Rector of the University of Aberdeen, having a student share my address to my Rectorial installation as “not Jimmy Reid, but worth a read”. Reid’s address, was of course one of the great speeches. Famously printed in full by the New York Times, as the greatest speech since the Gettysburg Address, it dealt with alienation.

And alienation is at the heart of the debate about human rights today. We live in a world where, more than ever before, workers are having their rights eroded. The horror stories such as those coming from the Amazon warehouse in Fife are only the tip of an iceberg of casualisation and informalisation.

In the referendum we began to seriously reconsider what it is to be a worker: what rights do we deserve in the workplace, how should we empower workers. We realised that the culture of low pay isn’t good for anyone. We demanded a Living Wage – and in case George Osborne is listening, that’s a wage you can live on – not a slightly elevated minimum wage.

Some things have changed considerably since the UCS work in. Now a much more feminised workforce is much more subject to the forces women have always been subject to: low pay, casual work, underemployment. Where it used to be women who were employed to do the typing, despite often being more capable than others in the office, now it is whole classes of worker that are having their skills underused. Where in Jimmy Reid’s day it was deindustrialisation that posed the great threat to Scotland’s economy, now it is the depredations of global capitalism.

We need proper legislation on corporate homicide, and we need it to be enforced vigorously. We need to assure workers that their health and safety will be paramount at work. We need to take their health and wellbeing seriously. We need to end bullying in the workplace. As someone who has seen first hand the deployment of bullying as a management technique, I can assure you that it is deeply damaging. And worryingly it appears to be the vanguard approach in undermining workers.

Workers with full time contracts are bullied until they leave, then replaced with workers on zero hour contracts, and no security of tenure, fewer paid holidays and every reason to kow-tow to management. But the constant in all of this is that alienation is at the core of our challenge. The fundamental workers right must be that of benefitting from the value of their labour. That means we need to restore public ownership of public services. We need to keep CalMac in public hands, we need to bring the railways back into public hands. We need more worker ownership – more cooperatives, and much less private equity, privatised and owned by billionaires.

I was proud to help develop a Right to Cooperate policy for the Greens. This would allow workers to ballot on an employee buy-out, backed by a national investment bank. They would then have a right to buy the business and run it as a workers cooperative. This is the sort of policy that could have transformed the Ineos dispute. It puts the right to benefit from work back where it belongs, with the workers. It makes the workers more important than Jim Ratcliffe. It addresses alienation.

The most fundamental workers right and a key human right is the right to the benefits of your labour. The memory of Jimmy Reid demands we take this seriously, and that is my message to you tonight.

Scottish Green leadership positions should not reduce gender to two boxes

This was first published on Kaleidoscot:


The Scottish Green Party has two co-conveners of different genders. I am currently one of these, and am running for re-election. This attempt to balance is based on an important principle. We don’t accept that the work of winning gender equality is won, and so we actively seek to rectify that in our structures.


There is, though, a problem. The party constitution specifies two genders: a man and a woman. And this simply doesn’t reflect reality. Because while most people are happy to be labelled men or women, there are significant numbers for whom neither of these words apply. And for many of these people, the fact that they would have to be squeezed into a box they’ve often been trying to escape from for years in order to run for one of the co-convener positions in the party is a huge problem.


Those who don’t fit neatly into the boxes of gender binary are often some of the most oppressed people in our society. A study for the Harvard Kennedy School in 2013 found that 43% of those they call “Gender Not Listed” have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6% of Americans in general. 32% said that they had experienced physical violence as a result of their gender status. While I can’t find equivalent figures for Scotland, I do know that non-binary people here often have to struggle against a society unready to accept them.


I know this for a few reasons. Firstly, when Scottish Greens have tried to use a more inclusive if perhaps clumsy language to describe the gender balancing process we use for MSP selection, we have been mocked online. Now, political parties are always fair game for a joke. But if we face mockery for attempting to navigate our way into a more inclusive language, then I can’t imagine what it’s like being a teenager trying to navigate your way into an adulthood in which you gradually realise that you don’t fit into either of the main neat boxes society has built for you.


Secondly, I know it because non-binary Scots have said so. For example, around 80% avoid situations most of us would consider normal, like using public toilets or gyms.


Thirdly, while most surveys include non-binary people within statistics for trans people (though not all trans people are non-binary; many simply are men or are women, and not all non-binary people are trans), these figures show astonishing numbers of these Scots suffer real problems of mental ill-health, and often self harm.


The struggle for equality for non-binary people is broad and deep, and demands of us all that we challenge some of the assumptions about the world which we were brought up with. And one the simplest of those assumptions is that there are two genders.


For the Scottish Greens, this means many things. We’re proud of our support for equalities and we are proud to stand with non-binary people here and across the world, just as we stand with all LGBT people and with other oppressed minorities – and majorities. But one of the things it means is very simple.


This year’s party conference passed a motion to set up a task force to look at diversity and minority engagement, including the question of how best to do gender balancing while recognising that there are more than two genders. If I’m re-elected as co-convenor of the party, I will work with that task force to find a way to abolish my position, and replace it with a system of co-convenors which is truly inclusive.





Speech to South of Scotland Greens conference

I was asked to speak at the South of Scotland Greens conference, here’s what I said:

I joined the Green Party in 2004, convinced by the last mass movement – that against the Iraq War – that we needed a party that stood for people, planet and peace. We need to continue that tradition, and I was delighted that we were so instrumental to the mass movement for independence.

And not just an independence that was about a Scotland that was just a tiny bit better than as part of the Union. We rejected the vision of Scotland that says it’s ok to privatise the ferries, to keep Scotrail in the private sector if you do it from Edinburgh rather than Westminster. We reject the vision of Scotland that kept us in a nuclear first strike alliance. We said no to NATO , we still say no to NATO. And perhaps most importantly we spoke up for a Scotland where we protect our social security system, where we want an economy that works for people not profit.
This event comes at a crucial time for us. As Trish Buchan from Scotland Against Fracking so forcefully told us this morning, Scotland needs a genuine anti-fracking voice in Parliament. We need to be there to make the case for a social security system that people aren’t relying on foodbanks to keep themselves and their families fed as Mark Frankland from First Base Agency.
And to do that we need to win seats across Scotland next year. The South of Scotland has already elected a Green once, in 2003. We need a Green MSP again. Not to replace the vital work that people like Trish and Mark are doing. We need to give voice to their work. We need to give a voice in Parliament to those who were standing up for immigrants in Monkton last week. We are a party of social and environmental justice and the movements that make the case for those deserve to have their case heard in Parliament.

And in 2017 we need to have Councillors in the council chambers across Scotland to make this case. We need to have more people like Midlothian Councillor Ian Baxter, who spoke so inspiringly this morning. The difference that he’s made to Midlothian is a difference we can make in East Lothian, Dumfries and Galloway, Borders, South Lanarkshire, and Ayrshire. As a Councillor in Edinburgh I was able to introduce the concept of a Living Wage to Scotland. I was able to introduce a petitions committee and our Councillors across Scotland have made similar differences. Martha Wardrop was rewarded by the RSPB with an award as politician of the year just this week!
But to get there we need to work hard. That should be fun. And we’ve had fun today, we need to keep making the case for the positive impact we can have. With newsletters and on the doorsteps. We are on the cusp of making a huge difference. We need to have MSPs to make that difference. We need to have Councillors, but much more important we need you! The party is nothing without its movement.
From Portpatrick to Prestonpans, from Langholm to Lanark and from Duns to Dumfries – across the south of Scotland we need to make the case for our politics. Scotland needs Greens to have a much bigger voice. And that starts with us, today. Thank you!

Cast-iron case for a not-for-profit steel industry owned by workers, funded by a national investment bank

This article was co-authored this with Kirsten Robb,  our Lead Candidate for Central Scotland . It was in the Herald last Friday:

The mothballing of the Lanarkshire Tata Steel plants is a disaster for communities already scarred by severe job losses in the 1980s and 1990s. Almost all commentators see closure as the inevitable conclusion of the move to mothball. It threatens to remove some of the few remaining industrial jobs that give a living wage. It also threatens to remove the opportunity for Scotland to benefit from the massive expansion of renewable energy installation that we need to keep the lights on.

We should be making our wind turbines, our wave and tidal installations and the structures on which to mount solar panels from the steel finished in the plants Tata is closing. We should also use steel from these plants in the houses, hospitals, schools, ships and railways we will build in the coming years. Steel recycling, manufacture and finishing are fundamental building block of any modern economy.

The crisis is caused by a number of factors. These have pushed up the price of Scottish steel, or reduced the cost of imported steel. At the heart of it is the flood of steel on the global market coming from China. The result is that the spot price of steel is little over half what it was a year ago.

As the infrastructure bubble in China has deflated, so domestic demand for steel has collapsed. Steel that is not required domestically in China is being dumped on international markets at a cut price. This glut is temporarily reducing prices.

The situation cannot continue. The capacity in the Chinese domestic market will reduce, and the spot price will increase. The fire sale of Chinese steel may destroy our domestic industry, and once it has done that we will be obliged to import steel for our own use in renewables and other building projects.

There is a way to save the livelihoods of those in Motherwell and Cambuslang. Earlier this week, Central Scotland MSP and Scottish Green Party member John Wilson commented that, if the UK Government can support bankers and financial services through difficult times, it should be able to support important business in Scotland too.

The Scottish Government has a national infrastructure plan that requires substantial amounts of steel. If we are to generate the equivalent of our electricity demand from renewables we will need massive amounts of steel. The houses we must build to solve the housing crisis will need steel for frames. This steel could be finished in Motherwell and Cambuslang. In fact, it would be deeply foolish not to use the steel finished in these plants. We must plan for our transition to a low-carbon economy to gear up our people, skills and infrastructure in traditional industries such as steel, energy generation and shipbuilding before more task forces are needed.

Last year the Scottish Green Party conference agreed a policy that would allow workers a right to buy out their workplace. It would then be run as a workers’ cooperative. This was a response to the Ineos crisis, where billionaire tax exile Jim Ratcliffe held the workers at Grangemouth to ransom: they could accept serious reductions in their terms and conditions, or they could lose their jobs. The Scottish Government was similarly held to ransom.

By giving workers a right to buy, and financing it using a national investment bank, Scotland could protect the jobs and livelihoods of people in the steel industry. We could have a not-for-profit steel sector. The Scottish Government could go further and act as guarantor for the steel finished in Motherwell and Cambuslang. By guaranteeing a price for Scottish-finished steel we would benefit doubly from the infrastructure we need to build. Not only will we get low carbon electricity, new schools and more houses; we will also benefit from the jobs in steel finishing and all the associated supply chain jobs.

Once the Chinese steel industry adjusts its capacity to meet the demands of the domestic market we will be left with our own steel industry. We will not be subject to the vagaries of a market in which the price of steel has rocketed and plummeted in the past 10 years. We will benefit from the jobs associated with steel finishing, and we will no longer be subject to the whims of billionaire tax exiles. The old economic orthodoxy has failed. It’s time to create a new orthodoxy, based on cooperation.

How Greens can be the Holyrood opposition by 2021

An edited version of this article appeared in The National on the 28th October:

The Scottish Greens today have around the same number of members as the SNP had in 2003. I see no reason why our party can’t grow from that base to become the official opposition in the Holyrood elections after next.

History, after all, operates like tectonic plates: it creeps along at an almost indiscernible speed, then suddenly it changes radically in an earthquake. Politis is different to geology though: we can shape our politics. As we Scots have been discovering in recent years, we don’t have to accept the future dealt to us by those who controlled the past.

Partly, I think Greens can take up such a significant position because it seems the next logical change. Now that the SNP, not Labour, is clearly the dominant party in Scottish politics we can expect voters will seek to rearrange their opposition parties. Since the referendum, the main left opposition will have to be one that’s pro-independence.

But I also think it’s possible because we’re arriving in the future which we Greens have been anticipating for years, and we have ready-made policies designed for exactly the economic, social and environmental changes which are happening around us. As I said to our party conference earlier this month, our time has come.

Mostly, though, I think it’s possible because there’s a clear path from here to there: a path we’ve already started treading. The first steps were breaking out of the single issue the media has always been so keen to put us in. Green politics is rooted in an understanding that all issues are connected and that unless we flatten the pyramids of power in our society, we’ll never win our battles for social justice or for the planet.

We are a some way down that route, though we must keep pressing on. Our messages need to resonate ever more with the lives of ordinary people. We need to continually be relevant to changing realities, and to never be afraid of afraid of standing with the downtrodden, no matter how controversial it is. In the European elections, for example, I insisted we put migrants rights front and centre, and we were rewarded for our principled stand with our biggest ever national vote share.

We need too to invest in our membership. In 2006, the Green Party of England and Wales had fewer members and less money than the Scottish Greens have now. Yet it was then that they invested in a permanent staff member to support the Young Greens: a position which helped transform the organisation into one which was instrumental to the election of Caroline Lucas and the party growth that was to come. We should learn from that, and become the dominant force in Scotland’s youth and student movements.

We need to work closely with Scotland’s trade unions. The party which traditionally claimed to represent them is falling apart, and now faces collapse into a pit of contradictions. As a long term EIS organiser, I was delighted with the launch at our conference of the Scottish Greens’ new Trade Union Group. The party needs to invest in supporting this vital work, and, to quote Natalie Bennett “ask not what the trade unions can do for us, ask what we can do for the trade unions”.

We need to be better at organising in Scotland’s working class communities. As councillor for Leith Walk for 8 years, I saw first-hand how powerful Green politics can be to those who need it most. The participatory budgeting scheme I launched, £eithDecides, has involved many thousands of Leithers in agreeing together how their public money is spent. I was the first politician in Scotland to demand a Living Wage for public sector employees, and thousands of my constituents directly benefited when it was introduced.

As an immigrant who has had to work two jobs most of my adult life to send money home to my family, I know that empty platitudes and abstract slogans about change aren’t enough for those for whom politics is more than a game. As Greens, we need to be able to communicate our radical economic ideas as the sensible proposals they are to work together to take back control of our jobs and our lives and to ensure that we all have the stability that so many of us crave.

We need to get better at the mechanics of winning elections. This means tapping into the skills of the hundreds of members who have joined us from other parties and of our friends in England and Wales and across the world. It means more internal training. It means we need to think hard about how to be a political party in an increasingly digital age: we’ll never have more or better spin doctors than Labour or the SNP, but we saw during the referendum how investment in online can transform debate.

It means not just concentrating on each election successively, but building long term. We should aim to win representation in Council Chambers across Scotland in the 2017 local elections, and that means building now. Being co-convener of the Scottish Greens is a voluntary post, something I’ve done over the last two years alongside my two day jobs. So obviously I can’t do all of this on my own if I’m re-elected. But I can continue to work with members to push the party forwards, because when I look at the injustice in the world around me, I get restless for change.