100 days to go: why you should #VoteGreen2016

vote-green-thistleIn 100 days, Scotland will be voting for its next parliament, and choosing its next government. I have the huge honour of being the lead candidate for the North East of Scotland region, and I hope that, come 6th May, I will be joining a strong group of Greens in Holyrood.

Scotland desperately needs a radical voice in parliament. We need to ensure that the next government puts people before profit, communities before corporations. Greens will be this radical voice.

The North East is a wonderfully diverse region, with Yes city Dundee in the south, the fishing towns of Fraserburgh and Peterhead along the north east coast, the city of Aberdeen and its oil and gas wealth, and of course the agricultural lands of Aberdeenshire and Angus. This diversity brings so many benefits to Scotland as a whole, but it also presents us with some of the most significant economic and social welfare challenges, for us as Greens, and for our country.

We keep hearing about job losses from the oil and gas industry, with over 23,000 jobs to go in the next 4 years, many from Aberdeen. With an economy reliant on fossil fuels the region requires a plan. Our plan is a just transition from fossil fuels. We want to see the North East lead the way on decommissioning and creating green jobs that make use of the engineering skills and expertise that exist in the region. We also want to see planned diversification of jobs, enabling growth in the creative industries, and seeing social enterprises and employee-owned ventures flourish.

This is not going to be popular with the rag-tag bunch of neo-liberal ideologues we have governing us from Westminster. Their “long term economic plan” is all about encouraging people to pump up the housing bubble. And this is the second most pressing issue in the North East.

Housing is unaffordable. House prices mean that few people can get decent mortgages. And those who can’t are forced into the rental sector where, as has been said many times, the rent is too damn high. Rent increases have outstripped income for decades. We have to reverse this, with Living Rents and rent controls. We also have to work to eradicate fuel poverty. People must not have to choose between heating and eating.

The social security of all of our citizens relies of jobs, homes and heat. Only with social and economic justice can we hope to deliver the environmental justice that we all so desperately need.

There are many other issues for us to tackle: securing the futures of our young people, paying those who care for others a Carers Wage, reforming our relationships with land and power, providing care and safety for those fleeing conflict abroad. Over the coming 100 days, I will be doing what I can to raise these and other issues on the campaign trail.

Please do join me!

Maggie calls for Donald Trump to lose his Scottish honorary degree

Maggie Chapman has called on Robert Gordon University to tear up Donald Trump’s honorary degree over his repeated racist diatribes against on Muslims. Trump’s most recent islamophobic outburst came yesterday, when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”.

Maggie is Rector of Robert Gordon’s neighbouring Aberdeen University. She said both institutions – and the city as a whole – would be damaged by continued association with the far-right Presidential candidate. Robert Gordon University presented Trump with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree in 2010.

Maggie said:

“Donald Trump’s disgustingly racist campaign shows he is an utterly unacceptable ambassador for our gloriously global city and its international universities.

“His fascistic proposals to make Muslims wear identifying badges and, now, to ban all Muslims from entering the country are the policies of far-right extremism.

“While we hope that he will not get the chance to implement them, pronouncements like these from politicians and media drive islamophobic aggression, exposing Muslims to more and more discrimination, harassment and violence.

“Continuing to honour Donald Trump risks sending a signal to current and potential students, staff and partners that they are not respected, and that they are not safe.

“Robert Gordon University would never give an honorary degree to a leader of the BNP or the National Front. Donald Trump is no less a racist extremist, and is just as unfit to hold that honour.

“I urge Robert Gordon University to revoke Donald Trump’s honorary doctorate immediately.”

An online petition calling for Trump’s degree to be withdrawn is set to easily pass its target of 5,000 signatures.

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!

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.