A manifesto launch would normally be a bustling event, where we could chat with journalists and showcase our amazing candidates. Instead, we had a couple of broadcasters in the room and the rest staring at us through a screen.
Of course there was plenty of buzz online, and I was delighted with the many supportive comments from those seeing our proposals for the first time. But it has been strange campaign without the valuable conversations we normally have on doorsteps.
This is the new normal. Video conferencing is such a strange way to run an election campaign, but it has also been a strange way to deliver my projects at work too.
In the many online hustings I’ve taken part in, I’ve been struck by the things the parties seem to agree on. I’ve heard cross-party commitments to working on issues like a National Care Service, stopping violence against women, ending racism and ensuring fair pay for workers and opportunities for young people. Away from the high-profile, set-piece TV ding dongs, it’s heartening to know parties can work together on these issues.
As encouraging as these online events have been, just like everyone else, I’m desperate to see people in person again, but we can’t rush this. The images from England of hospitality businesses reopening was a concern. Large crowds of people, many of them unvaccinated, took to the bars and cafes.
I think these images are part of the reason Scotland has shifted to allow families to meet outdoors from yesterday. This will allow people to see each other before we add in hospitality and alcohol into the mix.
We also need to see much better protection for those who work in hospitality. That starts with better pay and conditions for a workforce often treated as dispensable.
The Scottish Greens support a cautious approach, especially when we see a third wave of the pandemic across the world, in part driven by countries easing restrictions, but also because there is inequitable distribution of the vaccine.
Where we cannot afford to be cautious, however, is in tackling the climate emergency. We have less than ten years left before 2030, the year identified in the Paris Agreement as the point of no return.
Yet it has been clear in the election campaign that while they have taken up our challenge to produce green policies, the other parties are not treating this with the urgency it requires.
The next parliamentary session needs to be transformational. We need to pull together to do everything we can with the technology we have. Our manifesto is a programme for change that is bold, but it is also the minimum Scotland needs to do to keep up with the rest of the world.
Governments across the world are investing in their nation’s recoveries. We need to invest too, and our priority must be securing our survival.
President Joe Biden has launched his American Jobs Plan – a trillion dollars in infrastructure and jobs, the biggest investment plan seen in the US since the Second World war.
In Germany, the green recovery is already being seeded through bold public investment plans. They’re spending an extra billion euros this year alone to upgrade homes and buildings.
The EU is making 265 billion euros available to invest in a green recovery as part of their Recovery and Resilience Fund, and individual member states are adding much more to that.
Scotland must not be left behind. In fact, we can and must lead, but the UK’s ideological obsession with austerity threatens that. We know even the UK government will borrow and invest, but it still isn’t clear how that will impact on Scotland’s finances.
What is clear is the pressing need to invest in renewable energy, public transport, warm homes and restoring nature so it can capture carbon.
And we will not duck the tough decisions when it comes to fossil fuels either. This is not about losing jobs, an accusation the other parties try and level at us. It’s about securing a future for those communities that work in an industry in decline.
It is a basic scientific fact that Scotland and the UK cannot burn the known reserves of oil and gas in the North Sea and comply with the commitments under the Paris Agreement. That’s why we need to start investing in the alternatives now.
The UK government pushed the onshore wind industry off a cliff, and the Scottish government has done little if anything to save it. Similarly, tidal power is being largely ignored. The Scottish Greens will change this. We will invest, nurture and support the growth of a world-leading renewables industry, with conditions that jobs are created here in Scotland.
Our Rail for All proposals to upgrade Scotland’s railways; restoring forests and peatlands; rewilding initiatives; expanding Scotland’s national parks; and our measures to retrofit homes to meet new efficiency standards and tackle fuel poverty will create thousands of jobs too.
We’re focusing on quality jobs because that is the best way to recover from this public health crisis. The last year has had devastating economic impact but it has also revealed how broken our economy was, with far too many people on insecure work and far too many holes in the social security safety net.
We can’t go back to that broken system, which sees vast wealth taken out the economy and put into offshore tax-avoiding bank accounts.
It’s time for us to pull together and invest in a new Scotland that leaves no-one behind. A Scotland that can play a leading role in Europe’s effort to tackle the threat to humanity’s survival. The Covid-19 pandemic was such a threat, but the climate crisis is an even bigger one. Our future depends on getting this right.
Lorna Slater is co-leader of the Scottish Greens