Scottish Election 2021: A Green New Deal would help create well-paid jobs and a world-leading, low-carbon manufacturing sector – Lorna Slater

Amid a very shouty, macho debate on Channel 4 this week, my fellow Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie seemed to be the only one talking about the stakes at this election.

“This is a moment in history,” he said, and he’s right. We are having an election during a global pandemic the economic and mental health cost of which we don’t yet fully know. We are seeing the ice caps melting, forest fires, droughts, hurricanes and other extreme weather events become more common.

In Scotland, this has meant extreme flooding and landslips that have derailed trains, burst canals and closed major roads.

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This is an election where we decide what to do next, how we develop and grow our country so that no-one is left behind, and what we build to secure our survival. The stakes could not be higher, and how we vote needs to reflect that.

And whatever your views on the constitution, it is surely right that part of that discussion is about who we want to make the decisions about the kind of country we want to build.

To deny that debate is to accept that we trust Boris Johnson with important issues like energy policy, that we accept his priorities to increase spending on nuclear weapons, to hand out public contracts to party donors.

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It is galling to hear Douglas Ross talk about the “security” of the United Kingdom. You don’t get security from increasing arms trade or from expanding your stockpile of nuclear weapons. Real security is achieved by reducing inequalities and working to heal the huge amount of damage done to our environmental and social fabric.

Former US President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal helped lift the US out of the Great Depression in the 1930s and a similar policy is needed today to grow a world-leading, low-carbon manufacturing sector in Scotland (Picture: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The pandemic recovery is the opportunity to look at the country as the post-war UK government did, to use the powers of the state to create a new social contract and build a sustainable future for all of us.

It is therefore a source of huge frustration and disappointment that Labour has forgotten its greatest achievement. Indeed, successive Labour governments have unpicked that social contract and we have heard nothing like the ambition required from Scottish Labour at this election.

Our manifesto is the only one among the major parties to talk about progressive taxation. The only one with a costed and detailed investment proposals for a green recovery.

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hardly the voice of the radical left, has called for wealth taxes so nations can invest in a recovery. Yet only the Scottish Greens have a proposal for wealth taxes at this election.

A statue of unemployed people queuing for help during the Great Depression at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC (Picture: Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

There is nothing remotely similar to our millionaire’s tax or Covid windfall tax in the SNP or Labour manifestos. It seems clear and responsible that those who have seen their wealth grow during this pandemic should pay more to support those who have been plunged into crisis. Only the Scottish Greens have grasped this thistle.

We need to grasp the thistle on the climate emergency too if we are going to build a better future for all of us over the next five years and through to that 2030 crunch point. That does mean making bold decisions about our economy and investing in public services, and those decisions need to be taken soon, before we run out of time.

In the last parliament, a handful of Scottish Green MSPs were critical in securing ambitious targets on reducing Scotland’s emissions, but we have been clear that targets are nothing without the action to meet them. In fact Scotland has missed existing targets for two years in a row and, more worrying than that, emissions from transport have been going up.

We need to get real on climate, and do it quickly. We believe this needs the scale of ambition we haven’t seen since the 1940s, to tackle the things that are causing the most damage to our ecosystem and restore the things that can rebuild it.

That means the hoarding of vast amounts of wealth offshore needs to stop. It drains our economy and is spent on highly damaging things like private jets. We also need to face up to the fact that the end of the era of fossil fuels cannot be put off for decades to come.

Instead, we need to be strategic about where we direct public investment. We call it a Scottish Green New Deal. The term “New Deal” originates from the programme launched by President Roosevelt in the 1930s to lift the US out of the Great Depression, but could equally be applied to post-war Britain.

Such a new deal for Scotland could redirect massive investment into low-carbon industries like renewable energy, grow a world-leading, low-carbon manufacturing sector, restore our natural environment, give everyone a warm home, and provide access to cheap, reliable and green transport.

We’ve shown in our manifesto that this will create jobs, but we also need those jobs to be of high quality and well paid. There must be no one left behind in this new Scotland.

At the heart of our vision for Scotland is a belief that the Scottish government can and must take a direct role, working in partnership with citizens, communities, and companies to deliver the change Scotland and the planet so urgently needs.

That’s why a recent poll found Scottish Green voters were among the most optimistic about the country’s future, despite the gloomy data when it comes to the climate emergency. The fact is we can take action and secure a future for our children’s generation, but only if we vote like our future depends on it.

Lorna Slater is co-leader of the Scottish Greens and a candidate in Edinburgh Northern and Leith, and Lothian

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