The rise of Nigel Farage and his Brexit party is “deeply concerning for our democratic process” the Scottish Greens’ lead candidate has said ahead of this week’s European Parliament elections.
Maggie Chapman hit out at the former Ukip party leader and his new breakaway movement for failing to publish a manifesto or set out its wider policies other than ensuring the UK leaves the EU.
In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, the Greens’ candidate said she hoped that Brexit could still be stopped and that she could serve a full five-year term if elected.
Chapman pledged to work with other Green parties from across Europe in tackling climate change and promoting a more positive and inclusive approach to politics.
But she reserved criticism for Farage and his pro-Brexit movement, which is predicted to return as many as 30 MEPs across the UK following Thursday’s election – largely at the expense of the Conservatives and Labour.
“We know people voted Leave for a whole range of different reasons from across the political spectrum,” she said.
“But very few of those voters will be represented by the ideas that Nigel Farage puts forward.
“It is deeply concerning for our democratic process. The Brexit Party is a company, it has not been established like other parties, it’s standing without any sense of internal party democracy or by publishing a manifesto. Where are its policies? Where is its message for Scotland? They don’t have one.”
She continued: “We can talk about the failings of Farage and his party, but I want to talk about how the Greens can offer people in Scotland something positive.
“We know our approach – our commitment to participation, to community empowerment – runs contrary to what many other parties are doing, but especially the pro-Brexit parties.
“I think the majority of Scots value that and will welcome the opportunity to create something different and for their country.”
Chapman, a former Edinburgh councillor, would become the first Green MEP to be returned from Scotland if successful at Thursday’s ballot.
She hopes to emulate the example of Caroline Lucas, who in 2010 became the first Green to win a Westminster seat.
The party received a boost last weekend when it won the backing of an established newspaper for the first time, as well as receiving a message of support from Outlander star Sam Heughan.
“The endorsements were very positive,” Chapman added. “It was the first time we’ve had a newspaper support us like that. And celebrity endorsements allow us to reach more people with our message.
“We believe more people are coming round to our ideas and our way of doing politics.”
Yet celebrity endorsements can lead to raised expectations. The Scottish Greens, who cannot rely on the support of wealthy donors like other parties, have in the past been accused of a lack of ambition. At the 2017 snap general election the party was criticised for putting forward only three candidates in Scotland – something it subsequently blamed on a lack of resources.
But Chapman says there is a renewed confidence among party members and a belief they can make the European breakthrough they crave.
“As a party we are relentlessly positive in our outlook,” she added. “Not only in elections but in terms of how we can tackle economic and climate challenges.
“Losing elections is never fun. It’s tough. But we are determined to get our message across. We know people respond to our policies, so it’s up to us to ensure they hear us.”
With the SNP expected to gain at least one additional MEP on the two it returned in 2014, the Greens face stiff competition in attracting pro-independence supporters.
But Chapman believes the desire to tackle the big environmental issues of the day will motivate more voters to make a switch.
“Getting one Green MEP elected will transform our politics in a way that getting a third or a fourth SNP MEP probably won’t,” she said. “It would be a statement of intent that Scotland is serious about being a world leader in tackling the climate crisis, and creating a different kind of country, a different kind of way about thinking about the future.”