Scottish Greens' year in government: Here's what we've achieved and how we could do so much more – Patrick Harvie MSP

When people are choosing between starving and freezing, or being forced onto buses to keep warm, it's clear that the system is broken.

Nicola Sturgeon, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater arrive at a press briefing to discuss a new power-sharing partnership between SNP and Scottish Greens last year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater arrive at a press briefing to discuss a new power-sharing partnership between SNP and Scottish Greens last year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/Getty Images)

We live in one of the world's wealthiest societies but, without serious change, the months ahead will quite literally be a matter of life and death for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The combination of runaway inflation, rising costs and stagnating wages is a punishing one, made many times worse by skyrocketing bills and the relentless greed of companies raking in record profits.

Without major intervention from Downing Street, millions of families will be looking at a long hard winter. It doesn't matter who wins the Tory leadership contest as they are both offering the same diet of cuts, austerity and pain.

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And people will die as a consequence.

Their disregard for the well-being of those they are meant to represent is matched only by their total ignorance of the climate emergency we are living through and their fixation on ever-greater oil and gas drilling.

All this is underpinned by a reckless and disastrous Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for. It has taken a wrecking ball to our trade while hammering household budgets and making European workers feel unwelcome.

The chaos, incompetence and lack of leadership from Downing Street threatens to turn an already a difficult situation into a generation-defining humanitarian emergency.

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It is against this brutal backdrop and big UK Government-imposed cuts to the Scottish Parliament’s budget, that me and my Green colleagues are doing everything we can to mitigate the terrible damage that’s being done.

It has been 12 months since my colleague and co-leader Lorna Slater and I joined the First Minister at Bute House to launch the policy programme we had negotiated with the Scottish Government.

That agreement, overwhelmingly supported by both parties’ memberships, put Greens in government for the first time anywhere in the UK, allowing us to plan for longer-term structural changes rather than negotiating individual budgets year-on-year.

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In our first year, we have doubled the Scottish Child Payment at a time when Westminster is decimating welfare services, introduced free bus travel for under-22s, opening up the country for young people and their families, and are ensuring all government contracts pay the living wage.

In my role as a minister, I launched a consultation on a new deal for tenants, with new rights and protections, including rent controls. This is something I called for many times in opposition. Now we’re finally able to deliver it.

These changes are hugely important, particularly in this crisis. But I also know we are delivering them with one hand tied behind our back.

Most of the big economic levers we need are not in Holyrood, but Westminster. We are already spending hundreds of millions of pounds on mitigating the cruelty of Tory policies. Wouldn’t it be much better if we didn’t have to do that?

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Next year’s independence referendum will be our chance to ensure we have no more unaccountable Tory governments. With independence, we will be much better placed to tackle these challenges head-on and develop our own solutions.

Over the last year, we have shown the impact that Green voices are having, and we’re just getting started.

Patrick Harvie is a Green MSP for Glasgow and Scottish Government minister

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