The SNP do not “own” the idea of independence and competing visions for the future of Scotland are healthy, the new co-leader of the Scottish Green party has said.
Lorna Slater, who took up her new role alongside Patrick Harvie earlier this month, insists that a Section 30 order for a second referendum will eventually be granted and that pro-independence supporters should now be debating what kind of country they wanted to build once a Yes vote is secured.
In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, she claimed the Greens are on the up despite a disappointing European election in May that saw the party fail in its bid to return its first MEP.
Slater, an engineering project manager in the renewables sector, is bidding to become an MSP at the next Holyrood elections in 2021, but will also stand if a snap Westminster election is called.
The 43-year-old is stepping up her speaking engagements at pro-independence groups and is encouraging other women in the party to do the same.
“Too much of the debate around independence has focused on whether or not there should be a referendum,” she said. “We should be focusing on what we want an independent Scotland to look like.
“We will get our Section 30 order. But we need to know what we want from independence. That’s the conversation I want to be having.
“We can all see what went wrong with Brexit. No-one had any vision for what a post-Brexit UK would look like. What we don’t want to do is repeat that mistake. We should be working together to build something positive.”
Despite the SNP’s dominance at recent elections in Scotland, the new co-leader insisted there was room for more than one pro-independence party.
“The SNP and the Greens both want independence, but past that our politics are significantly different,” she continued.
“Our vision is much greener. We want to move away from oil and gas.
“It is important to have more than one vision of what an independent Scotland can look like.
“It’s unhealthy for the SNP to think they own independence. Many people cannot stand the SNP. It’s healthy for independence to be a cross-party cause.”
Slater grew up in Calgary and attended university in Vancouver. The daughter of an English father, she has held British citizenship from birth.
Upon graduation she bought “a one-way ticket” to Scotland after hearing the country had a shortage of qualified engineers.
“In my first two weeks I was offered jobs in Edinburgh and Liverpool – I ended up taking the one in Liverpool so I lived in England for a few years,” she added.
Slater describes herself as a “surger”, meaning she was one of thousands of new members who joined the Greens in the weeks after the 2014 independence referendum.
One immediate priority she has in her new role is to encourage more women to stand for the Greens at the 2021 Holyrood election.
“We’re identifying candidates to stand and supporting them through the whole process,” she said. “That’s where my heart is. If I happen to be one of those women, so much the better, but we have many talented women with many different experiences.”