Having previously attended a talk at Dundee Uni organised by 5 Million Questions with Nicola Sturgeon I had a look to see if any more were coming up.
There was a Patrick Harvie one coming up, although I was dissapointed that I had missed out on more that hadn’t been advertised widely.
His Twitter Bio describes himself as:
Green MSP for Glasgow. Called in the Daily Mail ‘voice of the irresponsible left-led anti-family anti-christian gay whales against the bomb coalition’
Which explains why he’s always been my favourite public figure of the Greens.
So, similarly to the post about Sturgeon, I made notes but as it was quite conversational I may be paraphrasing or mixing up a question, supplementary etc. All errors my own, and all that but I should have captured the general points anyway. Also it was over a week ago.
The room was full to a similar capacity with a good spread of people of all ages and genders. I noticed a few local Greens including my former MSP Shiona Baird
They started off with a discussion of the polls, with Yes in the lead and then the next one showing a 6 point lead for no. Patrick, in typical fashion, said the important thing about the result was for there to be no triumphalism by the winning side.
As a slight aside, annoyingly David Torrance didn’t seem to realise the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Green Party are two different parties, in the way that the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour pretend they actually are to the electorate.
A probing question was whether this was a great opportunity for the Greens. Of course it is but that’s not the motivation to take part in the Yes campaign. If politics just had two voices it would be boring. Harvie captured the mood of the audience by saying that if it was just Darling vs Salmond he would spoil his ballot to the first applause of the night. The Yes campaign is way beyond being just about Salmond, the SNP and
The first audience questions were about Green policy –
How does a new state help reduce CO2 emissions? and
How can you support independence if it requires maximising oil extraction?.
The answer was quite detailed and I think it’s probably a question he’s had before – in favour of maximising in the short term for the energy and money to invest in clean energy production to massively reduce in future. A number of points throughout the night he pointed out how our fossil fuel use is unsustainable etc and kept returning, convincingly to the case for phasing out their use for non-essential fuel use. I interpreted this to be, don’t burn for electricity for homes or waste on polythene bags and plastic bottles for water etc. In other words where oil, coal and gas usage can be replaced it should be replaced. Later he referred to this as maximising usage over 10-15 years instead of 30-40.
This veered into points about the economy and he said
Lamont stole my usage of ‘Scandinavian public services, American Taxes’. Lamont stole it? queried Torrance?
Great minds think alike, beat, maybe not to chuckles from the crowd.
His entire tone during the talk was even more informal than Nicola Sturgeon. A great contrast with the media set pieces from the Westminster party leaders who have taken a jaunt up here and seem afraid to actually engage with the general public.
Neo-liberalism is already crumbling, and it could be that privileged power becomes entrenched or is challenged and overturned.
There was a question about how LGBTI people are spread between No and Yes voters. Patrick pointed out it would be more bizarre if all LGBTI people had a more consistent position on any political policy than a party like the Greens. He said that this community has nothing to fear from Human Rights legislation being passed to Holyrood – a body which has
never once legislated against us. A point more valid with right wing forces in Westminster wanting to abolish the Human Rights Act.
This led to a query about a different political character in Scotland. He tried better than most to describe this – it does have a distinctive one but if you tried to nail it to the door it will wriggle away so becomes hard to define in concrete terms.
He made a point I hadn’t grasped before, Scotland has constantly been voting for change since the mid-90s. The vote to set up parliament, the minority of rainbow groups, Labour being seen as bad but not terrible, then SNP minority, majority and then referendum. Seems a good contrast to the conservatism of Westminster where parties stay in power for multiple terms.
Post-Yes there is then a decision to make about a second chamber or a way to share power with the people. Some second chamber which does share power with the people seems reasonable to me. He noted the bizarre situation where the Queen will be head of state but not eligible to be a citizen. The discussion lead to her role as initial head of state. The difference between a ceremonial or a legislative/executive role and the different levels of accountability required for the two differing roles.
I can’t read my scribbled notes as to what he said about the Crown Estate but he does make the point, stressed again later a number of times, for more community and publically owned energy companies and land. This was in relation to landowners getting subsidies for wind farms etc. He put forward the idea that a better use of these subsidies would be for each local authority using local land to erect turbines and have local energy companies in each council area.
One phrase which he said, was one I am used to hearing from SSP and other progressives in Parliament
People like me should pay more tax.
If only others involved in the Referendum campaign would. I’m looking at you Vodafone who support the existing UK and oppose change by not paying any tax.
He discussed the Green policy of replacing Council Tax and Business Rates with a Land Value Tax. Something I’ve not been convinced by. I don’t think it addresses those land owners who register their estates in the British supported tax havens to avoid existing tax and the land which should be used in a way which is socially beneficial. He did mention that he would love to see a
socialist utopia though during this section though so ho hum.
There was a question about the Greens internal discussion on being Yes or No and Robin Harper being in favour of No. This led to detail of the Greens internal democracy which sounds quite healthy and how their no-whip system worked at Holyrood.
This diverted into a discussion of his political history. He was a Green as a kid, helping his mum with community recycling projects. How strange it is for me to remember these campaigns which were small and grew to be more recognised now be seen as normal. He dropped out, got active during the campaign against Section 28/2A, a disgusting piece of legislation supported by the Tories and the SNPs bigoted funder Brian Souter.
After this he joined the now Scottish Green Party and was surprised how much in favour of Yes they were. The general consensus was that there was more opportunity than risk and they were 4/1 in favour of Yes. the important thing is post-Yes to work on interdependence and internationalism.
There was a question about fracking and he said it was very concering as it requires a massive amount of water and energy and then releases even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The current set up is complex as Westminster issues licences and Holyrood deals with planning.
An interesting question was why he was in favour of the EU but not the UK when the UK is more local and democratic.
There were three aspects to his answer and he went into some detail. The first was about democracy. The UK structures have long been captured by corporate interests. The EU is not very good on this either but the UK institutions are inherently conservative and opposed to radical change. The second was about decentralisation. Apart from devolution, Westminster tries to centralise everything. The third was the character of the Green Parties in Europe. They were born in the era of European Integration.
David Torrance then said he had the final and most important question. As a fellow Whovian, what did he think of Peter Capaldi? Cue laughter and claps from the audience. He’s what they need, an older doctor, too many 2000 year old Doctors look like teenagers. There was then a couple of points about the Scottish Doctors voting intentions and the note that an episode quoted Scotland as having went their own way years ago.
It was a really interesting talk, I just wish there were more undecided at talks like this. As I’m sure his open manner and eloquent reasoning would have helped win them over to the coalition of progressives.