Scottish election 2021: Why are voters turning to the Greens?

Pro-independence parties appear set for another five years of majority rule with the Scottish Greens sitting high in the polls on 10 per cent, likely guaranteeing another five years of constitutional back-and-forth between the UK and Scottish Government.

Such a result for Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater’s party would see around 10 Green MSPs returned to Holyrood – a record result for the party – and boost the pro-independence majority from razor thin to clear.

However, following a poll earlier last week from Lord Ashcroft that indicated half of Green voters are against Scottish independence, the question of whether a vote for the Greens counts as a pro-independence vote when discussing mandates for indyref2 is far from clear.

The Scotsman spoke to several Green voters to understand why they vote for the party to try to understand more about the growth of Green politics in Scotland.

Scottish Green Party co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater on the local election campaign trail in Edinburgh.

Climate change, understandably, is a driving force for many voters who back the party.

Susan Hamilton lives in the SNP/Liberal Democrat marginal of Edinburgh Western and is considering “lending” her constituency vote to the SNP on Thursday.

The 43-year-old mother of two was unequivocal, however, that while she was pro-independence it was the climate emergency driving her to vote Green on the List.

She said: “It is climate over independence. Climate is the most important issue facing us today and they are the only party taking it seriously.

Will Barber, who is planning to vote Green on both the constituency and regional list ballot.

"I acknowledge that in voting for the Greens, indyref2 is something that might happen."

For Ms Hamilton, who is a Green party member, making progress of any sort on climate change is important and while she voted Yes in 2014, she says she is does not agree with “independence at all costs”.

She said: “I like the Green approach to independence. It is not independence at all costs.

"If you give most Greens the choice of doing good climate action or independence, I have confidence they would pick climate first.

Yasmin Luqman is a Green voter in Edinburgh Central

"I would put myself down on the quiet pro-independence side. I would campaign on climate issues, but I probably would not be a huge Yes campaigner.”

Joe Dick, another Green voter on the list, lives in the Labour/SNP marginal of Edinburgh Central.

His constituency vote will be going to Labour, he said, not because he wants to put Anas Sarwar in a position of power, but because he does not like the SNP and wants to see a more diverse Holyrood.

"It is a purely tactical decision to vote Labour,” he said.

"The importance for that is to encourage a bit of plurality and not just have a monolithic party which scoops up all the constituency seats. I think we can probably do better than that.”

Describing himself as a “reformed No voter”, Mr Dick says the Green approach to independence “tallies quite nicely” and the party’s approach to transphobia was key as it had been “one of the main reasons” stopping him from backing the SNP.

Environment, above everything else, was again the driver.

Mr Dick said: “I am not here for independence at all costs, so I am hedging my bets.

"The power for independence still rests with the people. There will be a pro-independence majority, so I don’t really feel like I am having much of a say in that. That feels like a foregone conclusion.

"That allows me to make a tactical decision on the constituency.”

Will Barber is another 2014 No voter who is now backing the Scottish Greens

Previously a Labour voter who also voted Remain in 2016, the 36-year-old from Inverkeithing said Brexit and its impact had made him re-evaluate things.

He said: “I agree with the Greens’ policies on virtually everything.

“The Greens are very clear on independence, but I think they focus on other things.

"It is definitely climate change and a commitment to renewables that drives me to the Greens, rather than independence.”

Mr Barber is set to vote both votes Green in one of the handful of constituencies which has a constituency candidate from the party, with Mags Hall attempting to challenge SNP incumbent Annabelle Ewing.

For Mr Barber, however, his former allegiance with Anas Sarwar’s party could be revived if Labour changed its possibility on the constitution.

He said: “Anas Sarwar is very fresh in the job, but the things I hear Labour talking about, it is a clearer offer than they have had for a while, but I like the fact the Greens are looking at what sort of country Scotland could become.

"In Scotland the Labour Party are just not a force and I don’t agree with their wishy-washy approach to the constitution. There is nothing from Labour as a party, there is no coherent message on it.

"If Scottish Labour came out tomorrow and said they were in favour of independence, I would consider voting for them.”

Yasmin Luqman lives in the tight Edinburgh Central constituency, won by the Conservatives in 2016 in a shock result for Ruth Davidson, where the Greens performed well and finished in third place with Alison Johnstone.

The 26-year-old NGO worker is a UK citizen, but spent her childhood in Seattle, has Yemeni heritage and is planning to vote on both ballots for the Greens.

For her, the Greens’ stance on the arms trade, its radical social policy and what she described as “hostility” from the UK Government towards immigrants is what drove her to the party.

On independence, Ms Luqman said she believes it is “integral” to tackling climate.

"There are certain things that we could do with more devolved powers [to tackle the climate crisis],” she said.

"I don’t know anyone who is a No voter in the Greens. I don’t know who maybe are a bit more ambivalent or who are even against Independence, but who would vote SNP or Green.”

Asked whether she was worried about the Greens’ policy around women’s rights, Ms Luqman was dismissive.

She said: “I cannot put into words how absurd it is and it is so hateful. I see people, my trans and non-binary friends, post stuff and people will criticise them or come out with the same rhetoric and the same rubbish over and over again.

"Cis-women are not under threat from trans people’s rights, for them striving to get further rights but not even that, just wanting acceptance.

"It is scary to see how badly they are treated.”

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