"With independence we can end the cycle of cruel and unaccountable Tory governments that we can do little to remove."
If not for a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, yesterday would have seen the first deportation flight to Rwanda. This aircraft may have been grounded, but the whole shameful saga has set an appalling new precedent and ensured yet another direct attack on the rights of refugees. And that it came on the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell fire shows how far we have travelled in the wrong direction.
Any government that has criminalised people who have fled persecution and would try to send them thousands of miles away to be “processed” without as much as a hearing is not one that I want to hold any power.
It doesn’t need to be this way. There is an alternative. And, for people in Scotland, a key part of building that alternative is for us to be run by governments that we vote for. With independence we can end the cycle of cruel and unaccountable Tory governments that we can do little to remove.
We could be on the verge of taking a big step in that direction. Yesterday also saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s plan for an independence referendum and the first of several reports that will lay out its vision for Scotland’s future.
The 2014 vote remains the biggest democratic exercise in our history. But a lot has changed since then, including the election of three more Tory governments that Scotland rejected, the Covid pandemic, a spiralling cost of living crisis and a disastrous Brexit that Scotland did not vote for.
Every day I am contacted by people who are being squeezed and are struggling to make ends meet. Their lives have been made far harder by the decisions of successive Tory governments that have been far more interested in the profits of their donors than the lives and wellbeing of the people they are supposed to represent.
Whether it is runaway inflation, skyrocketing energy costs, the regressive national insurance hike or the brutal cuts to universal credit, the Tories are doing real and lasting damage to people’s wellbeing. They are all too aware of the human cost of their economic vandalism and the damage they are doing, but they simply don’t care.
They are taking the same reckless approach when it comes to our climate. Even as the world burns, they are approving plans for new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. They are combining this with a so-called windfall tax on energy companies which is actually nothing more than a tax break for polluters.
The failures of the Conservatives are not accidental: they are deliberate choices. We need to make different political choices. And Scottish Greens are doing everything that we can to do exactly this, and mitigate the crisis the Tories are inflicting on the people of Scotland.
We have doubled the Scottish Child Payment, offset the cruel benefits cap, introduced free bus travel for everyone under 22 and secured record funding for wildlife, nature, recycling and green travel.
These are real changes that are making a real difference to people’s lives and the environment around us. They are big achievements, but they alone are not enough.
Using the limited powers that we have to mitigate the worst excesses of the Tories is vitally important. But, if we are to meaningfully tackle the crisis then we need the power to transform our economy, rebuild our communities and establish a new industrial strategy.
Scotland has 25% of Europe’s total offshore renewable energy potential. We need to realise that potential if we are to ensure a fair and just transition. But we cannot go the full way when we have one hand tied behind our back. Scotland will never be the priority for Westminster, and at this time maybe more than ever before Scotland needs to be a priority.
The appetite for change that was the spirit of 2014 has not gone away.
Last month I joined the Progress to Yes event that was hosted by the Aberdeen Independence Movement and Women for Independence. It was an excellent and inspiring day of discussion and debate that brought hundreds of activists and campaigners together to talk about the kind of country we want to be and the inclusive and democratic grassroots movement that we need to get there.
We know that Independence is not an end in itself. It would not solve all of Scotland’s problems. But it would be a crucial step on the journey towards a socially and environmentally just future.
It would be a clear rejection of Boris Johnson and the cruelty and racism of his government and would give us the platform to build a fairer, greener economy and play a positive and progressive role on the world stage.
Maggie Chapman is a Green MSP.
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