So, a General Election in June …

I have said, often, that I want our politics to be about more than elections, more than putting an ‘x’ or a number in a box every May, and certainly more than political parties. I want our politics to be embedded, consciously, in the everyday, to have citizens across the country who have power over their own lives and the decisions that affect them, to have communities who thrive because they have the resources and support they need to do so.

Today’s events have made it more difficult to make this ideal a reality. A General Election in June, just 5 weeks after the local elections, will not only shift the focus away from local democracy (which already does not get the attention or focus it needs!), but it will also reduce the opportunities for doing politics differently … again.

The electoral system for Westminster belongs in the history books, not in the politics of a forward looking and open democracy. The context for GE17 – Brexit, Scotland’s future, and so much more – means that it will be very difficult to have a mature discussion about the future of the UK. And the timing means that there will be little time for genuine voter engagement.

So, what is Theresa May up to? It is clear that she has no interest in doing politics differently, that she is willing to wield power over people rather than sharing power with people, and that she really does not care for Scotland.

Her decision today is a sign of weakness and desperation. She is vulnerable because Brexit is a mess and she does not seem able to work constructively with others to find a better way through the chaos.

The one silver lining that I can see at the moment is that maybe, just maybe, we can use this as the opportunity to focus the political debate away from her unyielding, racist and hate-filled politics. Maybe we can use this as a way to get something better for Scotland, to do something to secure our desire to remain in the EU, to let Scotland’s voice be heard.

Maybe. If we’re not all too exhausted.

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Another Europe is Possible 

Here is my speech to the Another Europe is Possible conference (Another Europe is still possible: resisting hard Brexit & Trump) in  Manchester on 1st April 2017.
Good morning everyone and thank you very much for inviting me to speak today.

I’d like to start by remembering the great anti-apartheid fighter and struggle icon, Ahmed Kathrada – or Kathy – who died this week. So much has been said and written about him and his life in the past few days, so I will simply use some of his own words to remember him:

“In death, you once more challenge people from every strata, religion, and position to think about how their own actions do and can change the world for better or worse.”

And that’s what we are here to do today: to be challenged to think and act differently, to work out how exactly we can create another, better, Europe – one with social, economic, and environmental justice at its heart. And I am looking forward to today’s discussions, to hearing about your experiences and opinions on the current shambles in which we seem to find ourselves, and thinking about how we can do and be so much better.

I am Maggie Chapman, Co-convener – co-leader – of the Scottish Green Party. I am an immigrant from the global south, and not a citizen of either the UK or any other EU country. I think it is important that we acknowledge who we are, to make us better able to use every weapon at our disposal to work together for a better world. So, as a Green, as a Scot – a Scot by choice – an immigrant from beyond the EU but one who looks and sounds (to those who care about such things) as if I belong here, and as a woman in politics, I have a voice and privileged position. I therefore have a duty, a responsibility, to use my voice and position as best I can to bring about the change I want to see in the world.

But where are we all just now? Well, in the week in which Article 50 was triggered, a week after an attack on Westminster, things for us on the left seem very bleak. We know that the wealth gap is increasing. We know that austerity has punished many poor and vulnerable people. We know that many lives have been lost as a result. We know that immigrants are being targeted and blamed for failing public services. We know that racism and xenophobia are being nurtured by our media and political elite. And we know that those responsible for our economic and political uncertainty will be the last to pay the price for the destruction and havoc they have caused.

The right has carefully built a coalition around Europe, regulation, immigration, blaming them for the UK’s failings. They’ve taken 40 years to do this. In reality, these things are all either good – regulations to protect people at work, immigrants who contribute so much to our communities and cultures – or in no way the problem that the right makes them out to be. But they’ve told people a really strong, convincing story, a very powerful narrative, about what’s wrong with their lives, their country, their world. And, importantly, they’ve told us who is to blame: immigrants, benefits ‘scroungers’, welfare cheats.

The left has hoped that these fears would just go away, or would be rendered redundant by the fact that they were not true. In 2014, I ran for the European Parliament on a pro-immigration platform which almost everybody else thought was foolhardy. For too long they’d sat with their buttocks clenched as political debate resembled that family meal where you hope your racist uncle will just stop talking, because you’re too afraid, or can’t be bothered, to tackle his prejudice. Across the UK, Scotland was one of only two regions where Greens put their vote up. But it had a bigger effect than that – it forced the SNP into taking a pro-immigration stance publicly. That has, over the past three years, had a huge impact on the debate in Scotland. It became part of the independence referendum debate and, in no small part, contributed to the 62% remain vote in Scotland last June, where all 32 council areas voted to remain.

The argument on immigration can be won – we just need to tackle it head on, instead of sitting with our buttocks clenched waiting for Nigel Farage, Paul Nuttall, Theresa May, or Donald Trump, to shut up.

It is quite simple: we are not going to let our NHS be stripped of its workers, our schools be deprived of their staff, and our friends be wrenched out of our communities, just to satisfy bigots. It’s gone way beyond empty moaning to become a real threat to people’s lives. And we must recognise that immigrants are much more important to our communities than simply cogs in the labour market.

Similarly, the right has told us that European regulation and red tape has led to public sector inefficiencies and prevented our national and local governments delivering the services we need. Regulations that save lives, protect our environments, and promote equality all face being discarded in favour of a laissez faire approach that we know will lead to greater inequalities, increased environmental destruction, and poorer standards of living.

So we need to win this fight too – by highlighting the true benefits of regulation – but more importantly, by ensuring our citizens understand why these things matter. The only way we can do this is to change the way we do and think about politics: we need active, engaged citizens participating in democratic processes and discussions on a daily basis: it is too important to leave to 650 people in Westminster, or 129 in Holyrood, or to a Thursday in May every other year or so.

For too long, we have left the garden untended – we have not made the case for what we want politically, but have instead chosen to avoid conflict. We need, now more than ever, to make the case for the world we want to see. And that is about building movements for participatory democracy, for a better environment, for workers’ rights, rather than hoping that some distant body will impose them upon us.

Our societies have radical traditions running through them. In England you once beheaded your King. Now, I’m not suggesting regicide … but I am suggesting that we find those radical traditions and that we build a progressive politics on them. In Scotland, Tom Nairn and others made a start on this over 40 years ago, and the 2014 independence referendum allowed us to make clear progress on this. Maybe, just maybe, Brexit puts this need into sharp focus for the rest of the UK, and enables the kind of genuine engagement with politics that we so desperately need.

We all know that the cause of the problems we face is a rigged economy – rigged because it delivers only for the 1%. The discontent that has focussed on Europe and on immigration is not caused by Europe or immigration. It is caused by alienation and a capitalist class running amok. If there is an upside to Brexit, it may be that it calls their bluff. Just as they built the story about immigration, regulation and Europe, so we need to create a story about the economy and society we want and need: an economy for people not profit.

Local democracy: power in your hands!

The Scottish Green Party’s Spring Conference is in Glasgow today, and I opened proceedings with this speech. Thanks to @FalkirkGreens for the photo – just some of the Council candidates at conference, with Patrick and me.

Good Morning Conference! Welcome to Glasgow. And welcome to our Spring Conference 2017.

Since we last met in Perth in October, so much has happened. We have a right wing fascist in the White House, who governs by diktat and seems content to rely on lies and prejudice to determine policy. We have a UK Government determined to use immigrants as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations, dividing communities and making more and more people feel vulnerable and marginalised. We have a PM who seems intent on turning her back on the people of Scotland by rejecting our right to be an ‘equal partner’ in discussions about our future relationship with the European Union.

That old adage that in some weeks decades happen has clearly been borne out in recent weeks!

But this last week has also seen the celebration of phenomenal and inspiring women as part of International Women’s Day on Wednesday. In various ways, women used their voices to highlight their often unseen and unvalued contributions to their communities, their worlds. And we used it to highlight just how far we still have to go to achieve equality. We’ve made huge progress as a society over the last century, but we still have to fight for equal pay, campaign for fair access to reproductive health care, and perhaps, more fundamentally, to feed our families, to house our neighbours.

And we don’t need to look very far at all to see the consequences of inequality more generally: increasingly precarious employment leading to drug misuse and mental health issues; children from poorer backgrounds not achieving their potential in our schools; communities becoming increasingly isolated because of inadequate public transport; people living shorter lives because of poor housing.

And that is what motivates me to do what I do day after day. And I am sure it is what motivates many, if not all of us, in this room. We Greens believe that the world can be different. That we can create the kind of societies that treat all members with dignity and respect, regardless of gender, background, age, or any other label or characteristic of identity. That we can harness the creativity and caring capacity in our communities, so that everyone can reach their potential, and lead fulfilling lives.

And, as a political party, a crucial way in which we strive to create this different, better, equal world, is to engage with the structures of power and the communities in which we live, and stand in elections.

In just 54 days, communities all over Scotland will go to the polls to elect the people who will run their Councils, making decisions about their health and social care, education, their cultural facilities, their housing and green spaces, and so much more. And it seems that we Greens are unique in taking these elections seriously for what they are: a chance to focus on our local democratic structures, that are in desperate need of renewal. Whilst the Tories and others are desperate to turn these elections into a referendum on independence, we want to talk about local democracy, local services, local powers. If the Tories want a referendum on constitutional matters, then let’s have a referendum on constitutional matters. But to turn the vote in May into an independence referendum is, quite frankly, insulting to to all those who believe in the importance of local democracy.

And we do believe in the importance of local democracy. However, we also know that our Local councils in Scotland are not really local. The work our very own Andy Wightman and others like Lesley Riddoch have shown that we have the least local local democracy in Europe. Our citizens do not have the powers over their lives that would enable better decisions to be made, better services to be delivered, or better communities to be created.

So we need to change that. And whilst we won’t be able to revolutionise the structures of our local councils on our own, we can be the champions for change and be the voices of renewal that our councils need.

That is why, today, we come together as a party for one last opportunity to make sure we are as well prepared as possible for the 4th of May, and for what we hope will come after the 4th of May. We want more green councillors elected across Scotland. Greens who will fight for local democracy. Greens who will listen to the people they represent. Greens who will put power back in people’s hands.

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. We know that Greens in local government, supporting and engaging people where they live and work, learn and play, are the best way of making that happen.

It is so important that more people across Scotland have Greens to stand up and fight for them in their local wards. To listen to them. To give them a voice. To fight for the green principles of inclusive, participative politics. And to fight for the intertwined green values of social, economic and environmental justice for all.

And we are working towards our biggest ever local authority election campaign, where we want to convert the success of becoming the fourth largest party in the Scottish Parliament last year to having more Greens elected across Scotland than have ever been elected in our party’s history. Just enjoy that thought for a moment … on 5th May, when all those votes and transfers have been counted, we hope to have more Greens elected than we have ever had in Scotland.

What an opportunity! And what a privilege.

Now, I know that it is not always easy to make the case for the kind of world we all want and need. As many of you know, I had the huge privilege of representing the people of Leith Walk in Edinburgh, and the Greens, as one of our first ever councillors, for 8 years.

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 Leith Decides 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 our candidates will be campaigning for a Living Wage Plus for those who care for our loved ones. Justice for our workers is most certainly a cornerstone of social justice overall.

And there are lots of other examples of changes that we Greens have delivered for our local communities. I am thrilled that our long-term policy of a Citizen’s Income is at last being taken seriously, and I wish the Fife pilot all the very best.

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 Council in Scotland deserve Green councillors.

And as we know, the job of the radical is to make hope possible. By electing greens across Scotland, this is a very real way in which we can make hope not only possible, but make change real. And come the 5th of May this year, with more Greens than ever before elected, we will have the opportunity – the responsibility – to ensure the green principles of participatory democracy and equality form the bedrock of our local government.

We want to support and enable our communities to harness their creativity and use it for the good of everyone. Despite the problems and restrictions of current local government structures, we need to be doing so much more to enable the inclusive transformation of people’s lives. Our ideas can help us do this, but we can also learn from elsewhere. We can learn from people in Rojava, where, in the midst of war and desolation, they are coming together and building strong communities that reject hatred and oppression. From those in North Dakota who, seeking to protect their environmental and cultural inheritance for future generations, stood firm against state-sanctioned brutality. From those women in Dublin who were out on strike on Wednesday to secure rights over their own bodies and health.

We can learn from these and many other examples of community. And we can stand with them in solidarity. Just as they stand up for justice, so we must continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with those facing the brunt of austerity: the economic violence that Westminster is using to discipline us. 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”. That individual has just taken up two jobs paying over £1million per year. 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 be loud and vocal in our opposition to austerity: council elections give us the opportunity to shout clearly that we say no to austerity, we say no to privatisation, and we say no to isolating and demonising our communities.

Solidarity is central to Green politics. Solidarity with women facing discrimination and abuse. Solidarity with those suffering in-work poverty. Solidarity with those facing benefits sanctions because the inhuman welfare system fails to understand their individual situations. Solidarity with those whose housing security is threatened because years of inflexible funding and poor vision have meant a lack of decent homes.

But it is more than this. It also means standing with those who are targeted and isolated by the UK government because of where they come from. It means standing with those facing 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 and refugees.

We want our councils to be places of refuge, hospitality and safety for those whose lives are threatened elsewhere. We want our councils to work with local communities and organisations to provide safety and security – sanctuary – to people who have had hope stolen from them. We want our councils to build on the work many have already done supporting Syrian refugees and others, and to become places of sanctuary. And not just at a rhetorical level, but taking practical actions to welcome people.

We want the world to hear us when we say: Scotland welcomes immigrants and refugees. Scotland will stand up for the rights of the vulnerable. Scotland welcomes those who choose to call this country home.

We know that Greens can help create strong, resilient communities. Inclusive communities that look out for each other. Healthy and happy communities where social and environmental justice thrive. And engaged and motivated communities were participation in the structures of power and day-to-day decisions is not only possible, it is supported and expected.

In the last few extraordinary years in Scottish politics, so many people have been motivated to get involved, often for the first time in their lives, in the political debates that affect them. We have a responsibility – and an opportunity – to keep alive the belief in the power of democracy – local democracy – to bring people together and affirm the feeling of solidarity between us all.

Everyone deserves the chance to be a part of designing and determining the future of our communities. On 4th May, all of those aged 16 and over – yes, remember our young people are better enfranchised that they have ever been – will have the chance to play their part in shaping their futures. It is only one way of doing this, but it matters. It is up to each and every one of us here today, and our friends across Scotland, to ensure that as many people as possible vote Green. With Greens in councils across the country we can make a real, positive difference to people’s lives: fighting for social and environmental justice; safeguarding and investing in public services by securing decent pay and conditions for workers, and creating meaningful jobs; standing up for the most vulnerable members of our communities; harnessing the creativity and imagination of our citizens; and giving people power over the decisions that affect their lives.

I will finish by wishing all of our fantastic candidates and their campaign teams all the very best of luck over the coming 8 weeks. Let us use these next 8 weeks to get our message out to as many people as possible. Let us use the next 8 weeks to act as though we are living the early days of a better nation. Let us use the next 8 weeks to tell the story of a future where we live, work, learn and play in communities that are supported by vibrant, caring and creating economies. A future where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and where equality is a given. A future where everyone has power in their hands.

A future that is coming. For a’ that, an’ a’ that, it’s coming yet, for a’ that!

Thank you!

#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!