North East needs to plan for thousands of jobs beyond oil and gas

I’m delighted that new research commissioned by the Scottish Greens MSPs from Platform shows how a planned transition to green energy could create over 200,000 jobs. This could secure the north-east’s energy economy for generations to come.

We all know that we need to begin planning for the end of oil and gas. That will mean investing much more in renewables. It also means harnessing the opportunities to

The study calls on the Scottish Government to ensure the north-east becomes a world leader in oil and gas decommissioning, and to capitalise on the region’s engineering skills to put Scotland at the forefront of the international offshore wind and marine energy industry.

The north-east has been built on the ingenuity and determination of generations of energy workers, but unless we fulfil our huge green energy potential, this could be the last one.

Oil and gas workers deserve a plan for what comes next, and they can rely on the Greens to make sure they get one.

The world needs a just transition away from oil and gas that protects jobs and creates new ones, and nowhere is better placed to help kick start this global process than the north east of Scotland.

With 470 platforms and 10,000km of pipeline coming to the end of their lives in the next 30 years Scottish Government must plan for the thousands of jobs needed in decommissioning North Sea infrastructure. Just as Aberdeen has become a world leader in the supply chain for oil and gas, so it must become a world leader in decommissioning, supplying services around the world to other decommissioning oil and gas fields.

We can’t let our renewable future be dependent on imports, because we failed to create the jobs here in Scotland. We have the world’s greatest offshore engineering tradition, and one-quarter of the European Union’s entire offshore wind and marine energy potential.

Dundee has a huge opportunity to expand its role as a major port servicing offshore renewables, and to add manufacturing and research and development jobs to its growing clean energy industry.

Our green energy future can guarantee the high-quality jobs that will underpin a fair economy and a fair society, but none of this will happen by accident. We need decisive government action, while we can still reap the benefits of being first into the race, to make sure that these enormous opportunities don’t pass us by.

The report makes a wide range of other policy recommendations, including:

— Creating a publicly-owned renewables company to encourage offshore wind, tidal and wave developments
— Prioritising North Sea decommissioning work
— Taking the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemicals plant into public ownership
— Converting Grangemouth to make and use synthetic gas to enable a long-term future
— Launching a national insulation retrofit programme
— Launching a large-scale reforesting programme
— Making available support packages for fossil fuel workers to aid their transition to new sectors

We must stand with the people of Greece in their fight against austerity

We are in the midst of a crisis caused by the rich. The great economic challenge of our time is ending their power to punish the rest of us for a crisis we did not cause. Austerity is the mechanism they use and the place that has borne the brunt of austerity more than anywhere is Greece.

We know austerity is doomed to fail, but in that failure it will only extend the economic pain felt by the most vulnerable people in society. All around Europe we must stand with the people of Greece in their fight against austerity, for a decent future and for democracy.

The election of an anti-austerity SYRIZA led government in January was a clear signal that the people of Greece have rejected austerity. Greece’s creditors, represented by the so-called Institutions – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – are trying to subvert that democracy. Their actions have been counterproductive and destructive. After 5 and a half years of brutal austerity Greek debt is higher, while the Greek people have suffered untold harm.

As a democratic party and a party opposed to austerity the Scottish Greens stand with the people of Greece. As Co-Convener of the Scottish Greens I stand in solidarity with my SYRIZA and Ecologist Greens comrades in the Greek Government as they lead Europe’s opposition to austerity. We call on the Scottish and UK Governments to intervene with the Institutions to secure the substantial restructuring of Greece’s debts and an end to austerity.

National demo against benefits cuts and sanctions

On Sunday I was privileged to share a platform with campaigners and others at the national demonstration against benefits cuts and sanctions, organised by Black Triangle and others, in Glasgow. This is (more or less) what I said.

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Scottish Green Party. It is a huge privilege to share this platform with John, Gail, Willie and others who spend their days fighting to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Thank you for organising this, John, and thank you for all the work you do.


We have heard a great deal about the impact of these cuts; cuts that have already happened, and the cuts that are still to come. The devastating impact of an inhumane government and the very real damage caused to people’s lives by this attack on social security. 

We must resist these cuts, as we have mobilised and tried to resist the cuts to date. We have stood, and we must continue to stand, in solidarity with those who are being driven to the very edge, and sometimes, devastatingly, over the edge. We must take practical action – supporting claimants, supporting foodbanks and supporting the organisations that work so hard to stop this like Black Triangle.
We know these cuts are far from necessary. Austerity is not the appropriate response to the economic crisis. We know the economic crisis was caused by the capitalist class, not by those whose support is being removed. It’s time we blamed those who caused the crisis, not those who have borne the brunt of the crisis.
We need to make it clear that the real scroungers are those who make profit by paying poverty wages, which the state tops up. The landlord class, who pocket billions in housing benefit. The bankers who took the £375bn of money pumped into the economy in Quantitative Easing over the past 7 years.
And we need to provide dignity and decency for all. As greens, our aim is a Citizens Income, which recognises that society and our economy are created by the people, and the people should benefit. No more conditionality. No more cuts. Security for all. Real social security. 
This Tory government wants a return to a Victorian notion of deserving and undeserving poor. This disgusts me. No one is undeserving of basic human needs. The problem we have is the undeserving rich. Those like Goerge Osborne, who lives off inherited wealth. Those rentiers who bought Council houses at knock down prices and now use these assets to extract wealth from the people. The lairds who own vast estates while their tenants live in substandard housing. The bankers who pushed the price of food up because their priory was profit.
We won’t go back to Victorian squalor. Instead of making the rich richer and the poor poorer we need to create a society with equality at its heart. We start by opposing these cuts, we demand a citizens income. Because everyone deserves their humanity, their dignity and the right to happiness.

Rector installation at the University of Aberdeen

Today I had the huge honour of being installed as Rector of the Univeristy of Aberdeen. This is my installation address.

“Good morning Pro-Chancellor, Principal, ladies and gentlemen, and for those of you who organised my campaign, comrades.

I am honoured to be able to address you today, and delighted to stand before you as your rector. It is a huge privilege to have been elected by so many of you to serve you over the coming three years, and I look forward, very much, to the challenges that I hope we will face together. One challenge that it appears I must face alone, however, is the small matter of being carried around on Angus the bull. I approach that with some trepidation, but rest assured, I won’t attempt to filibuster my way through the whole of today to mean that does not happen!


I must start with some thanks. Firstly, to all those involved in organising today: Julie Beattie, Emily Beever, and many others – I am grateful for all you have done to pull this together. I am immensely grateful to the students in involved in the Shared Planet society for asking me to stand for election last year – it really was an honour to be asked. And I would not have made it to today without the cajoling, organising, campaigning, banner making, and so much more by Eva, Lina, and the rest of my campaign team. And I’d like to thank the University for being so welcoming and open, helping me find my feet around this mighty institution. And my close friends and family for their tireless support, advice and love. Huge thanks to those who have managed to travel to share today with me. Unfortunately my mother cannot be here – Zimbabwe is just too far away sometimes – but I know she is with me in thought. I am sorry that my Dad didn’t live to see today – he would have loved the robes and Angus. And finally Peter – thank you for your patient support, and for being you.

I am very much aware of the significance of the job that lies before me. I have heard so many good things about my predecessor, Maitland Mackie, and his tireless energy and enthusiasm working for students here. His are certainly big boots to fill, even if the robe didn’t need altering! I am grateful for what I have learned of this role from hearing about his good work, and also the work of Rectors at other universities.

I believe that the role of Rector is at least three fold: 

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, to be an advocate for students, ensuring that student concerns are taken seriously by all parts of the university. I hope to make a nuisance of myself in as positive and nice a way as possible to achieve this. Secondly, to participate in the governance of the university, operating not from a management perspective, but from one that is about democracy and good governance, to ensure that learning is at the heart of everything that we do, and that we resist the ever increasing pressure to become commercial graduate factories. And thirdly, to encourage the university to be much better at transforming our world for good, not just by the education we pass on to our students, but by how we use whatever resources we have to make this world better for all who live in it.

We face two great crises as a society – one that is economic, and one that is environmental.

The economic crisis is manifest in so many ways: the increase in low quality, low paid jobs, motivated by the economic elites desire to turn a quick profit; the decline in standards of living for the majority, the unaffordability of basic human needs like housing, heating, food – things that should be a right.

And the environmental crisis, driven by fossil fuel extraction, the wasteful materialism of capitalism, and the destruction of so many human and non human lives in our quest for more stuff.

And young people are bearing the brunt of these crises – for the first time, our generation (or mine and those that follow me), face a worse economic environment than our parents, with record increases in house prices, poor graduate employment, low levels of economic security, and the threat of environmental catastrophe. Young people are paying for a crisis they had no role in creating. This generation faces greater responsibility, but has less support than any post-war generation, being excluded from higher education, secure work, decent housing, by people who benefited from free education and other universal benefits, and who were not shackled by systems designed to load them with debt.

Those of us growing up after Thatcher came to power in 1979 have been subjected to a brutal attack in the form of neoliberalism, where competition and individualist success, in our school system, in housing, everywhere, are what drive society. A system designed not to develop everyone, but to support the few at the expense of the many, to discipline and punish those who do not or cannot play the game. 

Our generation faces graduate unemployment of 20%, a vast reduction in the number of stable, rewarding careers available to us, the indignity and exploitation of unpaid internships. One and a half million people under 30 are unemployed. The average age of first time house buyers is 37. And that’s before you consider the long term impact of climate change and the privatisation of  the NHS in England. We must continue to create a better world, not abandon what we have achieved over the past 70 years.

And while this is happening to us and our future generations, the elite get wealthier, the inequity gap gets wider and the planet gets hotter.

So, what is to be done?

We need is a just transition away from dependence on fossil fuels to clean energy systems and from an economic system that creates huge inequality to one that puts people before profit. We need to create a politics that recognises generational differences. We need a generational politics.

And this is no mean task! 

We will face significant opposition and challenge, from those who are benefitting from the status quo. Already the criticism of the desire to change has started. Resistance similar to that faced by those developing a gender politics, a politics of race, or of sexuality – the important struggles that defined previous generations, but are still significant today. All of these must receive attention if we are to create a better world. And we will need to work hard to counter the voices that say it is not possible to reclaim a caring society for our and the next generations. We know from the struggles against slavery and apartheid that social change is possible.

But such change needs effort, it needs spokespeople, it needs a movement of supporters behind it. It needs a new politics. And it needs places for this new politics to thrive.

I believe that Aberdeen University can be one of these places – universities are often where social and economic change originate. By taking your enthusiasm for a better world, by drawing on your experiences of rent inequalities, dodgy landlords, poor employment prospects, you are crucial to the movement for social change. And I want to use my role as rector to support you in these aims. I hope to be able to bring this new politics to the role of Rector. To campaign on the things that matter to you, to improve the transparency and openness in our governance so you can take this out into the world beyond university. To make sure the university is in the lead in promoting sustainability and the transformation away from a fossil fuel based economy towards a green economy. Just as there needs to be replacements for the high paying jobs of the ff industry, we need to find new ways to generate energy that work for the common good. Aberdeen certainly has the potential to be a world leader for a caring, socially just and sustainable future.

I promise to work hard with you all, staff and students alike, with Emily and her team of current sabbaticals, and Genna and the new team, recently elected, to ensure our students are well prepared for this challenge ahead. I will continue to campaign against the terrible consequences of austerity, genera rational discrimination, and the demonising of the young and the poor. 

Together, we can create a better world, where we can all look forward to a fulfilling future, and where we put people at the heart of everything we do.

I hope you will accept my invitation to join me in this immense task.”

Memories, music and eclipses

Where has the last year gone?


Dad, in his hat! This pic was taken 4 years before he died, during a very happy trip to Cape Town.

At 3.10pm (Zimbabwe time) a year ago today, my Dad died. I can’t believe that it was 365 days ago that Mum and I stood holding each other up as he slipped away from us. In some ways, that moment seems like yesterday. In others, it was a lifetime ago.

And so much has happened in this past year that he missed; things of which I know he would have loved to be a part. He missed my failure to be elected to the European Parliament. He wasn’t there to see such a wonderful week of music that celebrated 50 years of Musicamp in Zim. He didn’t get to discuss the consequences of the No vote in Scotland’s Independence Referendum. He didn’t get to see me become Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen. He missed the snow on New Year’s Day in Perthshire, and the first snowdrops in February.

But he was there, through all of these times, with me, with my Mum, with us. In memory and thought.

This morning, I stood outside in the strange light that was the eclipse (93% complete in Edinburgh!), in the middle of Sighthill, with some of my students, marvelling at the world in which we live. I had the song I sang at Dad’s funeral – Schubert’s “Du bist die Ruh” – going through my head (for most of the time anyway, until one of my students started “Total eclipse of the heart” …). It seemed like the perfect way to remember him extra specially. He and I often used to lie on the lawn stargazing. He woke me up one night to see my first ever lunar eclipse. And he pointed out Halley’s Comet, when it passed our way in 1986, urging me to remember to look out for it as an 82 year old in 2061.

Here’s to you, Dad. xox

Something for nothing, but only if you’re rich!

There have been so many responses to and analyses of George Osborne’s budget, so I won’t pretend that I can offer much new insight.  However, one thing struck me very plainly: the real ‘something for nothing’ culture is alive and well, supported by millionaires, for millionaires.  The cut in Inheritance Tax means that asset rich families will become asset richer, whilst those who can never hope to own significant assets do not see any benefit.  The message: if you have lots, you’ll be rewarded with more.

This is NOT the politics of community or the economics for people I want to see.

Let’s stand up against xenophobia!

In a world where it is apparently acceptable to equate a government minister with a fundamentalist and a nation’s leader with a despot, those of us who fight for equality and against xenophobia and racism have much work to do. Part of this must be to call out xenophobia whenever and wherever it happens, which is the basis of the #notmyxenophobia campaign launched today by Jean Urquhart MSP, Roza Salih and me.


As someone who came to Scotland from southern Africa nearly 17 years ago, I’ve always found a warm welcome in this country. Sadly my experience isn’t shared by others. The ward I represent, Leith Walk in Edinburgh, is the most diverse in Scotland, and I want everyone in my ward to feel as welcome as I did when I came to Scotland. The crass comments by UKIP’s MEP for Scotland, David Coburn show that there is too much xenophobia in Scotland.