Sarah Beattie-Smith: '˜The Greens are a radical alternative'

Sarah Beattie-Smith. Picture: Steven Scott TaylorSarah Beattie-Smith. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Sarah Beattie-Smith. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
More people than ever before voted for the Scottish Green Party on Thursday. Attracted to our call for Holyrood to be bolder in taking on the challenges Scotland faces, voters trebled our number of MSPs.

Joining Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnson will be John Finnie, who served in the last parliament as first an SNP and then an independent MSP, famous for his principled stand when the SNP swithered on NATO; Mark Ruskell, who was an MSP in the 2003-7 parliament, and gained respect as vice-convener of the environment committee; Ross Greer, the youngest ever MSP; and land reform campaigner Andy Wightman.

To understand Thursday night’s result, we need to look back to 2014 and the independence referendum. Our party of around 1000 members campaigned for a Yes vote, with some nervousness that our traditional voters may be split. But our distinctive Green voice in the referendum - one that called for a more equal, more sustainable, more socially just Scotland - was a siren call to thousands who flocked to our party, taking membership beyond 9000.

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Similarly, in this election, Greens managed more than ever before to keep our focus on our most popular policies: fairer taxes, affordable housing; an economic system for the many and not the few. Whilst we are and always will be proud to champion the environment upon which we all depend, we were sometimes presented as sitting in an eco-box, separate from the rest of politics.

In this election, voters saw us, in many cases for the first time, as what we really are and always have been: a radical alternative to the status quo, a force through which we the people can reclaim our future from the money-men and their corporate greed. It was that image of the party which attracted people to us in record numbers.

In some regions, of course, we missed out narrowly. I’m personally gutted that seats in the North East, Central and South slipped through our fingers, meaning that Maggie Chapman, Kirsten Robb and I all missed out. The result is that, despite carefully gender balancing our candidates, our MSP team is decidedly male; and in Maggie and Kirsten, Holyrood has missed out on two of the country’s finest politicians.

In an election where the outcome seemed tediously predictable to many, we stuck by our view that a better Scotland needs a bolder Holyrood.

Speaking at our Spring conference, Maggie Chapman paraphrased the great Welsh socialist Raymond Williams: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.” And that is what our six MSPs will do. With the SNP just short of a majority, they will work constructively to push for a fairer economy and progressive taxation, good homes that are affordable for all and a ban on fracking. And they will do everything they can to represent the 150,426 who gave us their precious vote, and whose trust in us we will never take for granted.

Sarah Beattie-Smith stood for the Scottish Green Party in the South Scotland region