#repealthe8th: stop criminalising and killing women

#repealthe8th rally with Aberdeen Feminist Society and others, photo by Patrick Neville

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a day of reflection on the achievements of inspiring women, a day to acknowledge the important yet often unnoticed and unvalued contributions women make to our communities, a day to highlight just how far we have yet to go to achieve gender equality.

As the female co-convener of the Scottish Greens, I wrote a short piece, partly inspired by Mary Beard, on why I think it is important for us to redefine what we mean by power, and the crucial role that women in politics need to play in this. Equality in politics must be more than just a numbers game.

I was also pleased to be able to stand, along with students from Aberdeen University, in solidarity with Irish women who used #IWD2017 to highlight the anti-choice legislation that limits safe access for women to abortion by striking to #repealthe8th Amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland. This amendment criminalises abortion in all cases except where to continue a pregnancy would result in the death of the woman.

Let me be clear. Criminalising abortion in this way kills women. Preventing access to safe and secure abortions kills women.

It drives women into dangerous and desperate situations, physically, psychologically and financially. It disempowers women. It limits healthcare for women. It discriminates against women.

As if all these reasons weren’t enough to repeal the 8th, it also creates a dangerous distinction between risk to health and risk to life. It makes it very difficult for health care professionals to provide the care they have been trained to provide, and have sworn and oath to deliver. It creates a black market economy in women’s reproductive health.

None of these consequences is good for women’s health, good for communities or good for equality.

But a society dominated by out of touch white men and religious institutions controlled by patriarchal systems still imposes this law on women and those who seek to help women.

It must stop.

Please support the Repeal the Eighth campaign and show solidarity with women who seek the right to have control over their own bodies and fair access to healthcare.

“A green future for our great city” – Edinburgh Greens launch their local authority election campaign

I was asked, as co-convener of the Scottish Greens, to say a few words at the launch event of Edinburgh Greens’ local authority election campaign. These are they. 

Good evening everyone. It’s great to be here, at the launch of what will be Edinburgh’s best ever local authority election campaign. Thank you so much to Alys for inviting me to speak, and to everyone else behind the scenes for making tonight happen.

As many of you know, I had the huge privilege of representing the people of Leith Walk, and the greens, for 8 years as a councillor, and I am looking forward, very much to seeing the Green Group of Councillors in Edinburgh increase in number, and in voice, activity and fight, come the May Local Authority elections.

I know it feels like we say this every year at about this time – a few weeks – just 10 weeks now – out from an election – that this election is our most important yet. And tonight, I really do mean this!

In our Holyrood campaign last year, in the approach we took in Green Yes and continue to take around questions of devolution and independence, we have always said that we don’t just need more power in Holyrood. We need more power in communities across Scotland. I am delighted that the national slogan for May’s elections is “Power in your hands”. We know that Greens in local government, supporting and engaging people where they live and work, are the best way of making that happen.

It is so important that more wards in Edinburgh, indeed, more areas across Scotland, have a Green to stand up and fight for them. To fight for the green values of inclusive politics, and of social, economic and environmental justice for all.

Now, I know that it is not always easy to make the case for the kind of world we all want and need. When I was a councillor, I wanted to give communities the right to decide how community grant money was spent. Not everyone agreed. They said it would result in worse decisions – because, as we know, politicians always know best, and never make mistakes. They said there would be very little interest. In the first year well over 300 Leithers of all ages turned up – surpassing everyone’s expectations – and it has gone from strength to strength every year since. Participatory budgeting, as an idea, has taken off – not only in Edinburgh, but across Scotland – the Scottish Government has decided to put £2million into PB projects like £eith Decides across the country.

Similarly, when I suggested a Living Wage for all Edinburgh Council employees, people got it confused with the minimum wage, argued it wasn’t practical, or just brushed it off as greens being utopian again. They thought it was not practical to pay workers a wage that enables them to live in dignity and comfort. Now, that once radical idea is seen as common sense across the political spectrum. And I am delighted that one of Edinburgh’s key pledges this year is to really value the worker who care for our loved ones, and pay them a Living Wage plus of £9.20 per hour. Justice for our workers is most certainly a cornerstone of social justice overall.

Green ideas are the future. We know that where we get greens elected, we bring these ideas into the open. We push them onto a wider stage. We find ways to show that our ideas work. And often, we find other parties quickly shift from mocking our proposals to pretending they always agreed with us. Every community across Scotland needs a local Green presence. The people of every Local Authority in Scotland deserve Green councillors.

And as we know, the job of the radical is to make hope possible. By electing greens across Edinburgh, and across Scotland, this is a very real way in which we can make hope not only possible, but make change real.

So the elections in 10 weeks time give us the opportunity to ensure our green principles of participatory democracy and equality form the bedrock of our local government.

Now there is much more that Greens in the Council can achieve … you’ll hear from the current group about their achievements over the last 5 years in a moment, so I won’t steal anymore of their thunder.

Looking ahead, I know that the current councillors and councillors-in-waiting have put together a strong case for a “Green Future for our Great City”. In addition to valuing those who care for us properly, I know the Group’s commitment to delivering warm, safe homes and taking real action on empty homes is genuine, and one the oldies have been working on already. 

We all know that connected communities are happier and healthier communities, and the pledge to deliver a more accessible and better integrated public transport system for our capital city is at the heart of this. And there are so many other fantastic pledges and commitments in the Green Future for a Great City manifesto … I’m not going to mention them all now. But please, make sure you know what they are, so you can be ambassadors on behalf of the candidates over the coming 10 weeks.

It is important that we remember, though, that having greens in the Council will do more than just deliver specific policy changes and improvements for the city. Our approach to politics is just as important as the policies we hold dear. We offer an alternative to the centralising tendencies of the SNP. We know that our plans for local government are truly inclusive and participatory, and don’t just pay lip service to listening by consultations that go nowhere, or asking people to cut their own services.

Green Councillors make a huge difference to the communities they serve because they remain rooted in the communities they serve. They don’t get stuck on the hamster wheel created by officials to keep councillors busy with rounds and rounds of meetings, chasing paperwork and processes all over the place. And it is important that all of you help them in that – get involved in your local teams to support your candidates and councillors to be.

It is so important that green councillors have a local support network, not only to provide the muscles needed campaigning activism and give moral support, but also to be additional eyes and ears in your local areas and beyond. We have and will continue to lead the charge against austerity and cuts to local jobs and services, but our councillors need real life stories to help them in this fight.

We know that austerity is an ideological tool used to hammer the poor. It was sold to us as a way to pay down the national debt. Yet Britain’s government debt has doubled since 2010. Someone, I can’t remember who, was fond of saying “We are all in this together”. Yet, in the midst of austerity, the wealth of the richest in society has doubled. Some of us are clearly more ‘in this’ than others.

Austerity is about disciplining the poor and the workers, making people unable to rock the boat for fear of losing work or benefits. We must continue our fight against this. And the local elections in May give us another opportunity to shout loud and clear that we say no to austerity, we say no to privatisation, and we say no to isolating and demonising our communities.

And importantly, green councillors need your support to get them through difficult times. Being a councillor has its challenges, and it is always better to face such challenges as a group, as part of a team. 

I‘ll share just one more story from my time as a Councillor. Back in 2007 – I think we were less than a fortnight into the job – we had a training day for new councillors at Murray field – very plush. After the training, Steve and I were on the bus heading back into town along with a Tory councillor, who will renmain nameless. We were talking about how and why we got into politics, and why we wanted to be councillors. He looked at me and said, deadly seriously, that he didn’t believe women should be in politics. In 2007. I think Steve initially thought he was joking, but it was clear he was absolutely serious. Incidentally, a year or so later, the same councillor accused me of being ideological in my commitment to public services… Like that’s a bad thing.

So all of us, but perhaps specially women in politics, will face challenges way beyond the political positions we hold. And it is important that we are all ready to stand, shoulder to shoulder, with each other in solidarity when this happens.

If we show how solidarity works for us, we can help and encourage all those seeking support against the barrage of sexist, racist, xenophobic abuses that we see being normalised by Trump and his administration, and by Theresa May and her approach to immigrants, vulnerable people and those on benefits.

Solidarity is fundamental to our politics, and it is fundamental to the movement of which we are a part. I know that all of us want to be part of delivering a new, better world, and we will only do so by standing together.

In the same way that we want to rescue our country from those who spread racist, xenophobic and sexist hate, we want to give our communities the opportunity to flourish. And that’s why we are here this evening, to celebrate those who are standing as candidates, to give them our support in whatever ways we are able, and to wish them all the very best.

So, in closing, can I just say a huge well done to all those who have worked hard to get you, the Edinburgh branch, to where it is, and to wish all of you, but especially the wonderful candidates, all the very best.

Thank you all, and good luck!

My #NoBanNoWall speech from the Edinburgh protest

Good evening everyone.

Thank you so much for coming this evening. For coming out to show solidarity with Muslims and others who are bearing the brunt of the racism, the xenophobia, the fascism of Trump.

I stand before you as a woman. A nasty woman.

I stand before you as an immigrant. An immigrant from the global south. But an immigrant whose skin colour and accent gives me status, privilege and advantage that many of the people Trump demonises and dehumanises do not have – and can never have.

And so, I stand before you, with you, and with all those at similar protests in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, and in so many other places across Scotland, the UK, the world.

Together, we stand in solidarity.

We stand together, for the rights of those who need freedom of movement most: refugees. We stand together against those who attacked a mosque in Quebec, and the Trump administration’s description of their policy as ‘very successful’. We stand with those who have spent hours in limbo in airports. And we stand with those lawyers who have given their time freely to help those stranded in airports.

We stand together here in solidarity. But more than that. We stand together in HOPE. And in love.

And together, we have strength. Together we are not afraid. Together, we will win.

We will not be silenced. We will use our voices, our bodies, our hearts, to resist the petulant bully that is Trump.

We will not be discouraged. We will take courage and strength from each other and use that courage and strength to tear down the walls of hate and division that Trump wants to build.

We will not be defeated. Because we have hope and love on our side.

We will show Trump that his bigotry and hatred has no place in our politics. No place on our streets. No place in our communities.

And we will show Trump that he is not welcome here. We will not welcome him to our parliament. We will not welcome him to our country. We will not accept his racism, his prejudice, his fascism,

Over the last few days, weeks and months, I’ve often felt like crying in despair because of all the truly awful things that are happening. But you all, gathered here in hope and love tell me that coming together in solidarity really is the way forward.

So thank you. A million times, thank you.

Let us continue to stand together. In love. In hope. And in resistance.

Together, we shall overcome.


Scottish Independence Convention speech 

Scottish Independence Convention speech 

Good morning friends. Thank you very much for coming along: I am really looking forward to today’s discussions and debates and I know that we are all keen that today kickstarts the kind of campaign we need to deliver the change we want to see in our country.

We do, indeed, need to build for independence. Everyday, all around us, we see the consequences of the broken British state, crushing people’s spirits, destroying their lives. We see the stirring up of racism and anti-immigrant feeling by people determined to blame those not born in the UK for the failings of the NHS or the lack of jobs, when we know the real reasons are much more sinister: the British state has been captured by a neoliberal elite determined to run down public services in the interests of private profit.

And, as an immigrant myself, I’d like to thank Nicola Sturgeon for stating so clearly that I, and others from around the word who have chosen to make Scotland home, us Scots by choice, are welcome.

A couple of years before the Independence Referendum in 2014, social attitudes here in Scotland were very much like those in the rest of the UK. However, that has changed. And we changed it. We were able to use the Independence Movement to start to create the kind of Scotland we want and deserve. And we see the evidence for this shift in the rapidly diverging attitudes between us and England in our approaches to immigration, to welfare, and perhaps most clearly in the Brexit vote.

Scotland didn’t need to vote for the Leave campaign’s lies. The hope for a better country and a better politics lies in a genuine movement for change. Not in the duplicitous claims of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

It is a good thing that we have secured this shift.

But it is only a start. It is only the beginning of our new future.

The Scotland we deserve has a vibrant political culture, where people feel that political decisions are made through a profoundly democratic process. It means we need not just the incredibly effective national campaigns run by Women for Independence against the proposed new women’s gaol, not just the brilliant campaigners from across Scotland who have helped to stop fracking, not just the achievements of the Living Rent campaign.

But it means giving people power to make as many decisions over their lives as they can, and to support them in doing so.

It means living in the early days of a better nation.

We have a democratically literate society, and it is our job to create the democracy that society deserves. That is why independence matters. It is about democracy. It really is about taking back control.

We need the power to make the decisions about our economy: we say no to austerity, no to passing on cuts to the most vulnerable in our society, no to an economic system that destroys our climate. We want our economy to be based on meeting human needs that harnesses technology and automation to increase human happiness. We must equip ourselves to make best use of our renewable resources, not destroy decent work, plunder our natural environment or destroy our climate. We want a social security system for all and an economy that puts people and planet first.
We need the power to make decisions over our foreign policy: we say no more illegal wars, no more nuclear weapons. Rather, we want a Scotland that leads the world on human rights. We already recognise and stand with people struggling against injustices elsewhere, but I’d like to see Scotland use its soft power to support just causes: I would love to see Scotland officially recognise the Palestinian state, and support the development of a Kurdish state.

In the same way that Oslo is the place people go to negotiate peace, Scotland could be where people come to negotiate on climate change and human rights. When the Scottish Parliament passed world-leading climate change legislation, it gave others the impetus to do something similar.

We already know some of how we can achieve these changes. Many of us have been working on these ideas and today will develop them further.

One of the most exciting developments is the work being done around the Citizen’s Income. But even with the new powers over welfare we will have, it will be difficult to deliver the full benefits of a CI because we don’t have the full powers of an independent state. We must use the powers we have to demonstrate what powers we need.

Every year, we have a fight about Government expenditure and revenues in Scotland: does the money spent in Scotland by government exceed the money received by government in Scotland? Yet this debate takes place in the context of a UK Government which facilitates avoidance of tax for people around the world. From the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda to Jersey and Guernsey, the country that leads the world in helping rich people to avoid paying tax is the country that Scotland is shackled to. In an independent Scotland, we know that we can have a tax system that helps the rich pay their fair share, and a social security system for all.

It is clear to me that, without the full powers of an independent state, we cannot achieve the kind of societal change we want. We must have that democratic power over all aspects of our lives. But more than this. We then need the courage to hand that power away: to people and communities across Scotland. It is clear to me that independence must not be about replacing the broken machinery of Westminster with similar structures in Holyrood. The Scotland I want to live in gives power to people, to communities, and supports and facilitates them to wield it effectively.

So, in our discussions today, we must remember that the policies and strategies we develop must provide the building blocks for a radically different Scotland: a Scotland where power is distributed across different levels of government, and where people always come first.

With the independence campaign in the run up to September 2014, we gave people hope that this was possible. We showed that politics could be different. Importantly, we created a movement, this movement, that was able to shift the opinions of many Scots: a movement that saw record numbers of people turning out to meetings to discuss the political issues that affected their lives. This is a strong foundation for our work today.

And it is something of which we should be proud.

When I go to England, I see people envious of this, shaken that people’s concern for the NHS and its funding crisis can be so easily subverted to deliver blow upon blow to immigrants. At a political economy workshop in Sheffield a few months ago, I was struck by the despondent and depressed mood that was being described in local communities. I think that, if we succeed in our quest for a different Scotland, we can pave the way for communities in the rest of the UK and the rest of the world to develop their own, better, radical future.

So today is really important: not just for us, but for others with whom we share these islands, and for those beyond these islands’ shores.

We have the opportunity over the next months and years to bring people back together, without our only focus being on electoral politics. We must remember this: it is politics in the everyday, not just Thursdays in May, that really matter.

We need to repeat what we did, against all the odds, 2 and a half years ago: bring discussion of political issues into our daily lives.

We need to build an understanding that a radical, popular democracy, can deliver the change that is so badly needed through staples of debate, discussion, and listening to others. This might seem somewhat old fashioned or traditional, but we must escape the empty and vacuous marketing politics that has stripped our society of its ambition and its creativity.

For too long, politics has been reduced to marketing campaigns and slogans that assumed you could not change people’s minds.

We know that our ideas, our values and our principles can change people’s minds. And we know that, in a relatively short space of time, we did change people’s minds.

We now need to do it again. With better ideas, more well-formed policies, coherent approaches, and above all an enthusiasm for and belief in a better world.

I look forward to joining you in this journey, to working hard with you today, tomorrow, and in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Together, we can create the Scotland that we all know is not only possible, but so desperately needed.

Thank you!

Scotland in Europe: comments from #EGP25


This past weekend, Glasgow and the Scottish Greens welcomed the European Green Party Council to the Strathclyde Technology and Innovation Centre. It was a great opportunity to see old friends again, like Ska Keller MEP and Mar Garcia, and to meet lots of new green friends from many green parties across the continent. I had the honour to welcoming the EGP Council to Scotland at a press conference on the Friday morning, and this is what I said.

Good morning everyone, and thank you for coming along today. I am Maggie Chapman, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, and it is a huge pleasure to welcome Monica [Frassoni, the Co-Chair of the EGP] and the European Green Party Council to Glasgow this weekend.

The timing of this event, as far as we are concerned, could not be better. With so much political turmoil and instability in the UK following the EU referendum, it is important that we show solidarity: solidarity within and across state borders, with all those who believe that we must stand up for equality and diversity, against racism and bigotry, and work together to protect the principles of respect and dignity for all people that are at the heart of the European Project.

So, we stand together today, at what I think is the largest pro-European event to take place in Scotland since June, perhaps ever.

Scotland’s position is very clear: we voted, by 62% to 38%, to remain part of the European Union. Every single local authority area returned a Remain vote. Respecting the will and the interests of the people of Scotland is clear: it means doing what we can to remain a part of the EU.

And we are only too well aware that there is no clear plan following the Leave vote in England and Wales. Many of the promises of the Leave campaign have been revealed as misinformed or outright misrepresentations of the economic impact leaving the EU will have on all parts of the UK. Recent evidence done by academics at Strathclyde university, just down the road, suggests leaving the Single Market would mean 80,000 lost jobs and a £2,000 drop in the average wage in Scotland. Given the years of austerity and cuts we have already faced from Westminster, it is clear that our communities cannot absorb further economic hits.

So, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We must work with other political parties, campaign groups and individuals within Scotland, as well as build stronger links with the extensive Green network of politicians and campaigners across Europe who share our goal of staying in Europe. We’ll hear more from Nicola Sturgeon later on today, but she has been pushing for Scotland to have a say in the UK’s Brexit talks with the EU. We are supportive of her efforts in this.

We remain in favour of independence for Scotland, both as a way to retain EU membership and to achieve a fairer Scotland for all who live here. Our commitment to a Scotland that is open and outward facing, that welcomes people regardless of their origin or ethnicity remains strong. We believe that Brexit has been and is continuing to be weaponised to attack these values. We in the Green movement are clear that we will not be bystanders in such attacks.

So, the Brexit process gives us as an added cause for urgency – we will support moves by the Scottish Government to prepare legislation for another independence referendum, if this proves necessary. However, we are still willing to consider, along with others, whether other options, short of independence, exist that respect the mandate for Scotland to remain in the EU.

Scottish Greens, today, reaffirm our commitment to build a better, more democratic and more participative Europe that has environmental, social and economic justice at its heart. We have asserted since the European referendum: Scotland is an ancient European nation. We voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. Yet we face being dragged out, against our will by an uncaring Tory government we didn’t elect.  

We are not simply going to stand by and let this happen. We have been fighting since the 24th of June to keep Scotland where we belong: at the heart of Europe. And we are grateful to our European Green comrades for their support.

Grateful for my re-election as co-convener, there is still much work to do!

radical-hopeI have been re-elected as female co-convener of the Scottish Greens!

A huge thank you to everyone who voted for me – I appreciate the confidence you have placed in me, and I will continue to work hard to ensure that our Party gets stronger and our ideas to transform Scotland reach more people in communities across Scotland.

It is a difficult time at the moment – with ongoing austerity, with rising fear, bigotry and xenophobia, with the far right threatening the most basic principles of social justice and human rights.

So we have our work cut out for us: we must stand together in solidarity with those who are suffering economic, social or environmental injustices. We must fight for equality across our communities, across Scotland, and across the world. We must continue to build the movement for social transformation that delivers sustainable jobs, warm, affordable housing, and dignity and respect for all.

I am delighted to be able to lead you in these struggles, and I look forward to joining you in your local campaigns and activities over the coming weeks and months.

Thank you again! In solidarity.

Love trumps hate: solidarity rally and march

Today, in Edinburgh, a couple of hundred folk came together in solidarity across continents with those who have been and who will be victims of the misogyny, racism and bigotry that Trump’s election success is normalising. I was invited to speak. Here is what I said.

Good afternoon  friends.

Thank you so much for being here. For being here in solidarity, in hope, and in love. And thank you for inviting me to say a few words to you all.

I am Maggie Chapman, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens. But, for today, I am just a woman, an immigrant woman, standing with you all to gain the strength, share the determination and show the resolve I know we are going to need over the coming days, weeks, months, years.

The US election result devastated me. Trump’s win is, I think, the culmination of years of a political system and a political elite working to support an economic system that marginalises, that alienates, that excludes.

These two systems have worked together, have collaborated

  • To cause people to act against their own interests,
  • To give the majority of people little hope that their lives can be better,
  • To treat people like they don’t matter, like they are expendable.

This is devastating and I am mourning. Mourning for what might have been, mourning for the destruction that is to come. Destruction of people’s lives, of communities, of democracy, of our climate.

But grief is a funny thing. You learn to live with it in so many different ways.

I think we are all gathered here today to work out how to live with our collective grief. What to do with it. What to do with ourselves.

For me, I have to remember what has happened over the last couple of years, to remind myself of the horror that has been, so I can better equip myself to fight it.

I have to remember just how abhorrent Trump really is. During his campaign over the last couple of years, Trump did lots of horrific things: 

  • He promised to create a system of surveillance targeted specifically at Muslims
  • He promised to deport US citizens with whom he disagrees
  • He promised to build a wall between the US and Mexico
  • He advocated war crimes and endorsed torture
  • He threatened women generally, and his opponent specifically
  • He showed himself to be a chronic liar, a sexual predator, a tax avoider, a climate denier.

This is a man who is not worthy of our cooperation, our diplomacy, our understanding, our silence.

We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming normality of politics as usual, or his failure to act, immediately, on the promises he made during his campaign, of the accommodating noises being made by the establishment.

It is not going to be alright!

We must be extra vigilant, extra aware, extra willing to condemn fear, hate and bigotry.

We are going to have to work very hard, with friends across the world, to prevent the institutions of democracy and justice being dragged into Trumpian dystopia. We are going to have to resist the normalisation of his hate, his bigotry, his fear, in the media, in our places of work, in our schools, colleges and universities.

And let us remember that we do not fight alone, even in the United States: Trump did not win the popular vote. The majority of Americans did not vote for his hate, his bigotry, his fear.

So, we will not be silent. We will not maintain diplomatic politeness in the face of racism, sexism, misogyny, intolerance.

We will not lose our ability to notice, be shocked at, and show our outrage when Muslims, immigrants, women, people of colour, disabled people, poor people or anyone is targeted.

We will not compromise our values of tolerance, respect for diversity, love of difference, compassion, justice and equality.

Instead, we will come together, as women, Muslims, people of colour, disabled people, poor people … as human beings.

And we’ve got our work cut out for us.

We know that demagogues like Trump, those that will allow fascism to take a hold of our societies, exist closer to home too. We see it in France, with the Front National. We see it in Austria with the Freedom Party, and we see it in this country with UKIP and May’s Tory government.

We must organise. We must stand firm. We must be clear that we will not be silent bystanders and let fear and hate take hold in our lives.

We must win the argument for an enlightened society. We need to develop an exciting vision of the future that defeats the racist, sexist, bigoted future that Trump and others herald.

And the way we do that needs to be through actions that reject the politics of division by gender, race, religion and nationality. We must act to unify just as Trump acts to divide.

The antidote to Trump and his ilk, to their vile-ness, to the strategy of dividing us by race, by gender, by religion, by ability, is to come together. To fight inequality and injustice in all of its forms, every day.

Let us remember that our feminism, our intersectional activism, is powerful.

And together, we will show that love really does trump hate!