Why we must back Nursing Scotland’s Future

I spoke at two hustings organised by the Royal College of Nurses – one in Aberdeen and one in Dundee. In both, I pledged by support for their Nursing Scotland’s Future manifesto. Here’s why.

NSF-manifesto-cover-448-200

As a green, I believe that healthy individuals and communities are the basis of a socially just society.

 

The NHS and our network of social care services in every local authority, is an incredible national asset. But Scotland’s people face unacceptable differences in longevity and years lived in good physical or mental health. These inequalities in health are harmful to individuals and to society. Greens want to take every opportunity to strengthen the foundations for good health especially tackling income inequality and discrimination and prejudice. We believe Scotland can be a society where we fight poverty, build communities and support everyone in need throughout life.

 

To achieve this, we must put health and well-being at the centre of government, and focus on measures to make our society’s good health, equality and wellbeing the foundation of all Scottish Government policy. Most of the measures we currently use, GDP being the main one, do not deliver this for us. This will help us deliver the first pledge in the NSF manifesto.

 

Many of our health outcomes are determined by the conditions we face in our early years, sometimes even before birth. So we need policies that tackle child poverty, support healthy pregnancies, build children’s confidence and foster healthy lifestyle habits from a young age. In these ways, by giving our children the best possible start, we can focus on prevention, which is not only more cost effective, but also makes for happier, healthier communities throughout life.

 

If we look at the health inequalities in Scotland, and indeed across the world, it is very clear that economic inequality is a key driver of illness and poor health. We need economic policies, like a Living Wage, to help address these. We also need policies that will create healthier environments – air pollution kills over 2000 Scots annually and is one of the top avoidable causes according to cutting edge research from Professor David Newby at  the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in conjunction with British Heart Foundation. And we need social policies that tackle poor housing, promote active travel, and secure jobs with decent conditions.

 

Scottish Greens are committed to developing a health service fit for the future. Workforce planning is key to this – meaning we can cope with demographic changes and increased population. Such planning has to include engagement with universities to ensure we have enough nurses in the future, as well as funding these places appropriately, so we don’t lose potential nurses with great life experience simply because they cannot afford to train as mature students. We also need to ensure voices of different service users are heard – we must properly include isolated older people in society and enable them to maintain their independence.  

 

Importantly, we must also ensure parity of of esteem for mental and physical health – in spending, planning, and staffing. We know that between ¼ and ⅓ of all Scots experience poor mental health, and we also know that there are just not enough resources at the moment to support them.

 

Finally, none of these aspirations for a healthy Scotland would be possible without you, the staff that support us throughout our lives. Greens are committed to treating workers fairly, paying them well and supporting them to develop your careers.

Mental health must gain equal status with physical health!

These comments are taken from my opening remarks at SAMH‘s national mental health hustings that were held in Dundee. I was there representing the greens, and there were speakers from the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

 

SAMH_thumb

 

As a green, I believe that healthy people and communities are the basis of a socially just society. And I know that our health, mental and physical, is affected by so many things: where we live, our workplace, our education, and so on. So we must address mental health issues not in isolation, but in the round of our individual and social contexts. Greens want to take every opportunity to strengthen the foundations for good health especially tackling income inequality and discrimination and prejudice. We believe Scotland can be a society where we fight poverty, build communities and support everyone in need throughout life.

 

To achieve this, we must put health and well-being at the centre of government, and focus on measures to make our society’s good health, equality and wellbeing the foundation of all Scottish Government policy.

 

Mental health has been secondary to physical health for too long, and too long seen as something separate from inequality, poverty and poor local environment. Green MSPs will fight for equal consideration for mental and physical health – in spending, planning and staffing. We need more and better resources to support the ¼ to ⅓ of Scots who experience poor mental health.

 

We support the Declaration of Rights for Mental Health to ensure that all people with mental health issues are treated equally, with dignity and respect.

 

Our education system must also better support the mental wellbeing of the next generation. Green MSPs will fight for early action on identifying child mental health issues, and will support the broadening out of our education curriculum to ensure creativity, confidence and well being sit alongside numeracy and literacy.
I believe that, with more greens in the Scottish Parliament, we can, indeed, to quote Billy Watson in SAMH’s manifesto, be “bold, creative and innovative”. Scottish Greens have the radical policies that will help transform our lives and our country for the better.

Green priorities for development and industry

With Holyrood elections looming, most candidates have been kept pretty busy speaking at hustings and debates. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been saying over the last few weeks. The comments below are more-or-less what I said in my opening remarks at a breakfast hustings (yes, it did kick off with breakfast at 7.45am!) in Aberdeen last Thursday – organised by the SCDI – the Scottish Coalition for Development and Industry.

 

Good morning everyone, and thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this discussion this morning. I am Maggie Chapman, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, and I am the lead candidate for the North East of Scotland regional list.

 

Greens stand for a radical politics, one that demands better for Scotland from its politicians and its institutions, one that gives people the power the transform their lives, one that will create a better, more equal Scotland that puts communities at its heart. We need greens in Holyrood to deliver the feisty parliament that will stand up for all of our people.

 

We all know that we face two crises in the North East – a jobs crisis as the oil and gas market becomes less reliable, and a housing crisis, as we price people out of decent homes by inflating the speculative housing bubble.

 

Greens have plans to address both of these issues, and there are clear links between them.

jobs

Firstly, on jobs. We desperately need a diversification plan for the North East. We want to create over 200,000 high skilled, well paid jobs, many in the North East, by investing in a transition away from oil and gas, by focussing on decommissioning of oil infrastructure, and on retrofitting and insulating buildings. And with proper investment in our creative industries, we can give back the jobs that have been and will be lost. And these jobs will pay well – our economy needs more high wage, secure, sustainable jobs.

buildhomes

 

In terms of housing, we must not pump up another housing bubble like we did prior to 2008, but instead deliver a radical programme of reform that focuses on making rents liveable, tackling fuel poverty by improving building standards and rolling out mass insulation schemes, and, importantly, building social housing.

 

transport

In order to deliver all of this, we need a clear economic strategy, one that is based on high quality manufacturing and increasing productivity from innovation in renewables, decommissioning, bioscience and so on. We must drive better decision making by using big data effectively. We need stronger knowledge transfer from universities, and we need to build the industrial base to allow complementary research and development in the private and university sectors. We need investment in infrastructure – particularly broadband – to allow us to work on the advantages provided by the digital economy. And we need regional planning that allows from proper partnership working and knowledge exchange.

 

A strong group of MSPs in Holyrood will push the Scottish Government to develop this strategy, with communities and places at their heart.

International development, social justice and radical democracy

International development, social justice and radical democracy

A few weeks ago, I was going to be representing the Scottish Greens at a debate about international development, hosted by NIDOS (Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland), the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP), and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. Unfortunately, the event could not go ahead, due to an important debate and vote in the Scottish Parliament. However, this is some of what I would have said:

stop-ttip

International development and foreign policy are both very close to my heart. As someone who grew up in the global south, I want the Scottish Parliament to do whatever it can to lead on these issues. Despite the limited powers Holyrood has in this area, I think three things are crucial for us to work on.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Scotland can be a force for good in the world. We may not be an independent country, but that does not mean that we cannot encourage responsible global citizenship, and lead by example.

Everyday, if we look for them, we can find tales of utter devastation due to foreign policies that are driven by and for private profit, imperialist power trips and a Eurocentric view of the world. We know that our  military engagement in the Middle East, our determination to impose Western democracy on other countries, has left hundreds of thousands of civilians worse off. We know that our greed for cheaper resources has destroyed the local economies of farmers in the global south. We know that our addiction to oil is polluting the soil, air and waters around the world. We can change this.

Scotland can be leading the world in challenging unjust and oppressive systems. We have to say no to TTIP and other trade deals that will destroy democratic oversight of the institutions we all hold so dear. We must be at the forefront of welcoming refugees and others to our country, and make sure that those who are suffering the brunt of the humanitarian crisis in the middle east and elsewhere are supported, welcomed, and treated with dignity and respect. We must stand up for climate justice, whether it with those suffering drought in zones arid zones of sub-saharan Africa, or  with those facing inundation as sea levels rise and flood their island or low lying homes.

Scotland can be a force for good in the world.

Secondly, we need to be building the institutions we want to see in the future now. We must be creating the building blocks of the

We can see, if we look hard enough (the media won’t help us here), the destruction that the military industrial complex causes people’s lives. We see the powerlessness in the eyes of those left destitute by governments selling the land on which they depend from underneath them, unable to engage in any democratic challenge to these actions. We see the devastation caused by the proliferation of nuclear technology, driven by ever more ridiculous claims to power and influence.

We want our institutions to be driven by the desire to promote peace, facilitate the understanding of and spreading of real, people-focussed democracy, and diplomacy that puts people first. We want our government bodies here in Scotland to throw their weight behind international organisations such as United Cities and Local Governments or the Council of European Municipalities and Regions to make progress on global issues where national efforts have stalled. We want the Scottish Government to have observer status (at least), on international bodies such as the UN, WHO, and Nordic Council.

Scotland can be a beacon of hope, peace and democracy in the world.

My third point is the culmination of the first two. We need all of our interactions in the world to be governed by an ‘ethical foreign policy’. This should inform and guide all of our international dealings, ensuring that we act in accordance with our principles of peace, equality and climate justice. So, we should not do deals with despotic dictatorships, whether those are deals for the nuclear arms industry or for the oil and gas industry. We should not be engaging in trade deals that we know will result in the marginalisation of people’s voices in decision-making and institutional control. We must not let our commitment to Human Rights, Universal Human Rights, be eroded by the neoliberal agenda that seeks to isolate us from our brothers and sisters around the world.

As a Green, I believe that Scotland can play an active, powerful and compassionate role in the world, promoting sustainable solutions, human rights, peace and democracy. A world of changing climate will face enormous challenges to past and long-held certainties and Scotland could play a pivotal role in meeting these challenges head-on.

Caroline Lucas’ Bill will reinstate England’s NHS and protect Scotland’s

 

UPDATE – The bill fell because not enough Labour MPs – only 15 of their 230 – turned up to debate it. I’m incredibly disappointed by this. You can see Caroline explain why above

I am delighted both that the NHS in Scotland is in much better shape than in England and that the determination to defend Scotland’s NHS remains as strong as ever. But the threat to Scotland’s NHS from the Tory destruction of the NHS in England remains. The NHS in England is in such a perilous state that the World Health Organisation says it has, in fact, been abolished.

That is why I am even more delighted that Green MP Caroline Lucas has a bill to reinstate the NHS in England. This Bill has its first reading today, and I very much hope the MPs Scotland elected last year – in no small part to save the NHS – will be there to vote for England to get back its NHS.

SNP Health Spokesperson Philippa Whitford has been a vocal and effective critic of the Tory attack on the NHS, and I hope that the SNP will help to provide the 100 MPs who are needed to ensure the Bill passes to its second stage. Her astute analysis is that changes to the NHS in England make the NHS in Scotland much more vulnerable – and that is made worse by international trade treaties, like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that seek to impose free market economics on our public services. A key part of any approach to secure our health service in Scotland is to end the destruction of health services in the rest of the UK.

Of course, the structural changes to the NHS have paved the way for an attack on Junior Doctors. Again, this is something that hasn’t happened in Scotland. But it is a real issue for many voters in Scotland. And rightly so, medicine has always been a global mission, with professionals moving from country to country. I am absolutely committed to ensuring that Greens do what we can to protect Scottish Junior Doctors from these changes. Greens will protect Junior Doctors both by opposing any moves in Scotland, and by opposing the changes in England.

The NHS is a crowning achievement of the welfare state we created in the wake of the two world wars. That state is hated by the Westminster government, which is seeking to destroy it. I am totally committed to opposing that destruction. I will stand with Junior Doctors, with patients and with other health workers to oppose that destruction. And Caroline’s Bill to reinstate the NHS in England is a great way to ensure we protect free, universal health care for all as a central part of that welfare state.

Spring Conference Speech

Spring Conference

Welcome to conference. It’s exciting to see so many of you here, ahead of such a key election for our party: elections which will be the culmination of four extraordinary years in Scottish politics.

 

My original speaking instructions were to speak from the podium on the right of the stage. That didn’t feel particularly politically appropriate. So we moved the podium. But I assure you this is the last time I’ll be moved into the centre in this campaign!

 

Four years ago, when the independence referendum was announced, a group of white, middle aged men gathered to launch a Yes campaign which, for those who remember it, promised that independence would mean no change, that a yes vote would mean more of the same, and that Scotland leaving the UK wasn’t something the establishment should be afraid of.

 

We weren’t having any of it. We Greens launched our Green Yes campaign, arguing that bringing power closer to the people meant that they could use it to transform our country.

 

We worked with friends across the left to build the radical independence movement, and made the case that another Scotland is possible.

 

The job of the radical is to make hope possible, and that is what we did. And we did it in the face of those convinced by their own despair.

 

Thousands of people got involved, bringing life and energy to the referendum… and bringing Britain’s elite to its knees.

 

And we came closer than most had ever imagined. And as the Holyrood election fast approaches, friends, we’re going to have to do it all again.

 

As the Holyrood election approaches fast, friends, we’re going to have to do it again.

 

Don’t get me wrong. The SNP are popular because people compare them to the horrors of the Tory government at Westminster. And if that’s the choice, I’d choose Nicola Sturgeon every time.

 

But everywhere I go in Scotland, people say the same thing to me. We, as a country, are restless for change, but the government is only willing to tinker at the margins.

 

The SNP are sitting on a record breaking lead in the polls, but they are afraid of confronting Scotland’s biggest challenges, and they are refusing to take on the vested interests in our society.

 

What I hear is the echo of our message from the referendum. We came out of the referendum with the foundations of a society that expects better from its politics and its institutions. We have communities determined to stand up against injustice. We have a movement, our movement, that gives me and so many others hope – the really inspiring message that another Scotland is possible.

 

All across the country, we hear that people want Holyrood to be better, to be bolder.

 

And it’s no wonder. This week, after nine years of promising real reform to local taxation, the SNP announced their proposal: they do want to keep the council tax after all. They just want to make it very slightly more progressive than the current system: a system introduced by John Major in 1993!

 

Greens demand that Holyrood be bolder. Greens demand a new, fair system of local taxation, capable of raising the money our public services and communities desperately need.

 

It’s all too easy for this to become an abstract debate about variable rates and cut-off points and gearing.

 

But let’s remember what this is really about: the failure to confront this problem is what makes it so much harder for Holyrood to block Westminster’s austerity.

 

The SNP refusal to grasp the thistle of local taxation makes it impossible to cushion the blow of Tory cuts. And that has a real, human cost. We see suicide rates increasing. We see the need for food banks escalating. We see lives being ruined, and in some cases ended, because the Scottish Government has not been bold enough to stand up to Tory cuts.

 

In Dundee, Scotland’s benefit sanctions capital, I have had the privilege of working with some incredible people struggling to stay alive in the face of austerity. One intelligent young woman, let’s call her Amber, lost her job. She was told she was not entitled to benefits – her family members could support her. The same family members that had been abusing her.

 

She lost her home. She was told that, because she wasn’t in any immediate danger, she would have to wait for a suitable flat to become available. She lost her health. Her physical and mental wellbeing deteriorated to such an extent that she seriously contemplated suicide. She eventually managed to get a place to live and started receiving some benefits. But she missed an appointment with the Job Centre and was sanctioned. She missed the appointment because she was in bed, in the depths of depression. No one was there for her. There was no social security safety net.

 

Amber did, eventually, get some support, and is still fighting to stay alive. And she is one of the lucky ones – she is still alive. Just.

 

What I realised was that people like Amber need the Scottish Parliament to be bolder. And that’s why we need the biggest ever Green group in Holyrood. This week’s council tax disappointment isn’t the only example of the SNP being too cautious.

 

Last weekend in Arbroath I got speaking to a man out for a walk. Unprompted he raised with me a long list of businesses locally that used to provide good quality jobs. Companies like Keith & Blackman have gone – closed in 1985 and Giddings and Lewis-Fraser also passed into history in the mid 1980s: an industry in the town which once made sails for the Cutty Sark has gone with the wind.

 

As those jobs went, a new industry emerged offshore. But now, as the oil age winds down, more and more are seeing their livelihoods disappear. And those people need a bold Holyrood too, willing and able to move fast, and embrace the future.

 

We’ve been working hard to promote a plan for good jobs to replace those lost as the oil price has crashed. While some ask: “crisis, what crisis?” we recognise that action is important and that action must be urgent.

 

With a transition from fossil fuels to renewables, leading the world in decomissioning oil infrastructure, we can give not just Arbroath those jobs back, but the whole of the north east of Scotland. We can build new industry in the areas of central Scotland being hit by the move from oil. We can regenerate the communities still scarred by the closure of coal and steel in the 1980s and 90s.

 

We won’t stick our heads in the sand, we won’t ignore the problem and hope it goes away. We are bold enough to give people hope. Hope of a good job for the future. We are bold enough to imagine a future beyond oil. Our parliament needs that vision. That boldness.

 

When I was the Party’s candidate for Europe, I remember clearly going to Ullapool to campaign. I had a long conversation with the ferry workers about their day to day jobs. Having spent quite a lot of time in the Western Isles I was familiar with many of the issues. But in the 6 or 7 years since I’d been regularly in the Western Isles things have changed.

 

These ferry workers feared what had happened to their colleagues on the northern isles ferries – privatisation. Northlink has been handed over to Serco. The  result has been longer hours, lower wages, less focus on health and safety. I realised then the need for a bold voice. One that would stand up for those ferry workers.

 

I said then to the ferry workers that we would never support privatisation. And we won’t. We believe that public transport should be in public hands.

 

That goes for Scotrail too…

 

I, like many, was very disturbed by the story of Andrew Stoddart in East Lothian. As Sarah Beattie-Smith, our amazing candidate for the South of Scotland, can tell you much better than I can, the Stoddart family had been farming Coulston Mains for 22 years when the lease expired, with no hope of challenging it due to Scotland’s ‘Waygo’ laws. His family lost their home, the farm, their livelihoods. The two workers they had employed also lost their means to survive.

 

It is clear to me that our governments have failed to protect people like Andrew Stoddart and his family. We need laws that protect those who work the land, who make the land productive, who live off the land and provide for others. Greens wouldn’t cave in to the vested interests on support for tenant farmers.

 

There has been much discussion over the last few months about standardised testing: the SNP solution is straight from the Blairite playbook. Thinking for the past when we need solutions for the future. Similarly we discover that the Scottish Government is looking to the big corporations who make profit from unemployment to guide their review of social security. Not good enough. Simply not good enough.

 

These are just some of the challenges that we face in Scotland today. We know that we, as greens, have alternatives to these challenges. Nine years ago, as a councillor in Edinburgh, I proposed that the City Council should pay its workers a Living Wage.

 

The other parties laughed at the idea. Now, Living Wage is understood, across Scotland, and across the political spectrum, as what we should be doing. Greens were instrumental in bringing radical democratic ideas into the mainstream with our support for participatory budgeting.

 

In Parliament, Greens have secured significant wins since 1999, including the world-leading climate change targets, the Fans First campaign that gives football fans the right to buy their clubs, and the first Green bill – on aggravation by hate. We were the first party to commit to free higher education following the Tory’s £9,000 tuition fees in 2010. Labour and the SNP followed us.

 

We’re on a journey. For some of us that started with the first Scottish Parliament, for others with the referendum, and for some since. All the way we have prompted, cajoled and – stage by stage – given Scottish politics its radical edge.

 

This election is the latest staging post on that journey. It won’t see us reach our destination, but it will get us damn close. The stakes have never been higher. And we have never been stronger.

 

We must have a bolder Parliament, a braver Holyrood. We must have a Green Holyrood. We have made hope possible. Now we need to make change inevitable. It will be hard work. But it will be fun work. And we know it is the important work that can transform our country and our world.

 

So join me, join all of our candidates – all of our soon-to-be MSPs – in bringing us a big step closer to a Better Scotland. 

We are on the brink of revolutionary change: thoughts on #BernieSanders

 I shared a platform last night with Bernie Sanders’ brother, Oxford-based Larry, who is campaigning as part of #BritainforBernie and came to speak in Edinburgh. Here is my speech:

I’d like to begin by welcoming Larry to Scotland. February is maybe not everyone’s idea of the best time to visit, but I hope the sunshine and snowdrops are making the iciness bearable.

Larry has had a substantial career of his own. In politics, in academia and in social work. As a Green Councillor in Oxfordshire he was responsible for finding creative ways to oppose the austerity being imposed by the Westminster Government and the Tory-run County Council. He may be responsible for getting David Cameron’s own family to come out against the cuts. I like to think he is.

It is clear to all of us that we have a rigged economy, one that works for the few, not the many. One that blames public sector workers for the bankers’ crisis. One in which government allows the wealthy to make bets where the only risk is how much not if, they win.

Around the world people and popular movements have been resisting this rigged economy, be it Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, or indeed the radical indy movement in Scotland.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign takes this fight to the belly of the beast – to the heart of the American establishment – and its success shows that we are growing in strength. There is every chance that Bernie can become President.

The thing that the Sanders’ campaign has in common with those popular movements around the world is its critique of late capitalism. A critique many of us including those of us here on the panel have been making for a long time. We see now as we await the next global crisis that the elite no longer have answers. They are left with a system that you could almost say contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.

But we can’t let a sense of inevitability about the demise of the rigged economy lull us into inactivity. We must resist the rigged economy every step of the way. Every day in Greece, in Spain, in Scotland and in the US people face destitution because of a system not yet in its death throes.

We must shape what comes next. We must create the alternatives to the rigged economy. A society based on equality and justice. A society where it is the people that rule, not the banks, not the elite, not the capitalist class. A truly democratic society with a truly democratic economy.

A Sanders win would mean having an American president willing to stand up to the corporations. Corporations which are attacking us as much as they are attacking Americans. It would mean a White House whose foreign policy isn’t dictated by the military industrial complex. And it would mean a commander in chief who understands that the biggest threat to the world is climate change.

I remember being excited at the election of an independent Senator from Vermont. One with a long record as a progressive in the House of Representatives. One who had vehemently opposed the Iraq war, one who had a long record of advocating on behalf of civil rights, LGBTI equality and universal healthcare. I don’t agree with Bernie on everything, but I am excited by his run for President. I’ve been following Bernie’s rise for years now, and that it’s damned exciting. But what excites me most is the thought of a democratic socialist in the White House.

I encourage those of you with a vote to cast it for Bernie, in the primaries. If you haven’t got a vote, find someone who does, and get them to vote…

We are on the brink of revolutionary change. We have a duty to create the new world out of the wreckage of the old. We are all part of that change. The new world we create must be one with people at its heart. With peace, justice and equality at its heart. A world we all need, and we all deserve.