Hopes and fears

•16. May 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well, it has been an interesting couple of weeks.

The general election changed practically nothing in terms of Scottish seats won or lost, but the UK is now in the grip of a Lib Dem – Con coalition. “Cleggmania” may have bitten the dust, but Nick has seemingly gone from being David Cameron’s favourite joke to his best mate. Mr Cameron is now Prime Minister, while Gordon Brown has retired to the backbenches, triggering a Labour leadership contest, which – at time of writing – features candidates from across the length and breadth of the Miliband family. Strange days, indeed.

Despite a lot of hard work and determined effort by our local candidates and branch members, the Scottish Greens didn’t quite make the breakthrough to Westminster. We contested the Stirling and Ochil & South Perthshire constituencies, both of which were held by Labour, or the People’s Party, as the late Alan Watkins would nostalgically describe them. Our congratulations must therefore go to Anne McGuire and Gordon Banks for retaining their seats in spite of intensive and well-funded Tory campaigning. No doubt the warning sent out just before polling day, stirring up fears of a Conservative government, helped Labour win comfortably.

The obvious highlight of election night – or election morning, as it turned out – was the historic result in Brighton Pavilion, with Caroline Lucas becoming the UK’s first Green MP. It was a victory for hope over fear: a positive choice, rather than yet another party drone elected through negative campaigning or by virtue of being the least-worst alternative. 

For the first time, Green voters across the country now have a voice in Parliament, putting forward genuinely progressive views on issues such as the economy, health and the environment.

As we build towards next year’s Scottish Parliament elections (and look forward to an election under a more representative voting system), this is the ideal time to join the Scottish Green Party. Serious questions remain about the new coalition’s environmental ambitions – deep splits are already evident: blue and yellow may not necessarily make green. Disillusioned Lib Dems and Labour supporters who feel betrayed and want to belong to a party whose values represent fairness, social justice and environmental well-being might want to take advantage of the Greens’ generous offer of a year’s free membership. This is available until midnight on Wednesday 26. May to anyone leaving the Liberal Democrats – now a subsidiary of the Tories – or Labour, the party which tore itself apart at the last moment and failed to block the right-wing coalition.

As Patrick Harvie MSP noted, “With the election of Caroline Lucas as the UK’s first Green MP, we’ve shown that radical Green politics can also win popular support at all levels. We are also a truly democratic party, our members set policy in public at conference, and we can be relied on not to sell out. Above all we would never deliver power to the Tories, a party still alien and unacceptable to most Scots.”

Join us and campaign for real democratic change, real action to tackle poverty and real action on climate change!

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Tomorrow, all I ask of you…

•5. May 2010 • Leave a Comment

And suddenly, we’re in the last few hours of the general election campaign. Hope you’ve enjoyed it.

If you haven’t already seen it, the Scottish Greens’ party election broadcast is available online. It’s a great little piece of animation: please take a look and whatever else you do tomorrow, make sure you vote for the party that is already making Scotland a better place.

My name is…

•25. April 2010 • Leave a Comment

Mike Ruskell? This week’s election coverage in the Allanwater News includes the following piece by our candidate for the Stirling constituency, Mark Ruskell.

What does this election mean to you? As the father of two young sons, I believe it is an opportunity to enhance quality of life. Not just for us, but for future generations too.

Faced with unprecedented challenges such as the credit crunch and climate change, we need new ideas and bold policies that recognise how individuals, society and the environment depend on each other.

The Greens offer a positive choice. We will…

defend the public services that support our communities;

build a stable and sustainable economy, providing a minimum wage of £7 an hour and a weekly pension of £170;

reduce poverty and inequality with a fairer tax system;

create new “green jobs”, enabling Scotland to lead the world in clean, renewable energy;

protect our environment, tackle climate change and manage our natural resources responsibly;

invest in our local schools, hospitals and public transport rather than squander billions on weapons of mass destruction.

The Scottish Greens will replace tired, bland politics with practical action. We are active in the Allanwater area, listening to local concerns and campaigning on issues such as the Kildean link road and the Park of Keir. Among other successes, Green MSPs established the Climate Challenge Fund which has supported community projects across Stirlingshire. It is now time for Greens in Westminster.

Every Green vote counts. Every Green vote pushes environmental issues and the fight against poverty further up the political agenda. With recent talk of electoral reform, every Green vote strengthens the case for a fairer, proportional voting system for Westminster elections.

As a former MSP I have parliamentary experience and a proven record of responding to the needs of local communities. Whatever this election means to you, I believe the Greens have practical policies to safeguard the long-term wellbeing of individuals, society and our environment.

The Scottish Greens’ general election manifesto can be downloaded from the party’s shiny new website (go on, have a look). Mark was also interviewed about his love of cycling in the Caledonian Mercury, so read on for his thoughts on bikes, Kraftwerk and the government’s transport budget…

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race

•21. April 2010 • Leave a Comment

Along with world boxing champion Amir Khan, we made it into the letters page of today’s Stirling Observer. In response to a recent letter in the paper asking what, if anything, the political parties are going to do about the future of our planet, we penned (emailed) the following reply.

(Amir Khan’s letter was on a completely different subject in case you’re wondering.)

Dear Editor,

B Clark (letters, 7. April) voices a number of valid concerns regarding the attitude of political parties towards the environmental challenges that threaten the wellbeing and security of future generations.

The Scottish Green Party stands alone in recognising the need for a sustainable society that doesn’t live beyond the means of our planet’s finite resources. The success of Green initiatives such as the Climate Challenge Fund shows that far from being a “wasted vote”, a vote for the Greens is a positive choice in support of responsible and sustainable policies that will benefit our communities, tackle poverty and safeguard our environment. Also, with electoral reform back on the political agenda, every Green vote across the UK strengthens the case for a fairer and more proportional voting system for Westminster elections.

Your correspondent longs for politicians to “get on their bikes”. Not only do the Scottish Greens offer distinct, practical policies to take action on climate change, the recession and inequality, but our local candidate in Stirling, Mark Ruskell, has already proved his commitment to pedal power by completing last year’s gruelling Etape Caledonia cycle challenge.

Yours Sincerely,

Kevin Curtin
Convenor, Stirling and Clackmannanshire Green Party

The new power generation

•20. April 2010 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday our general election candidate for Stirling, Mark Ruskell, was joined by Scottish Green Party co-convenor Patrick Harvie MSP on a tour of local renewable energy businesses and a community energy project. Highlighting the need to create local jobs, lower energy bills and tackle climate change, Mark emphasised that instead of coal and nuclear power, renewables must form the basis of government energy policy.

Mark Ruskell, Jim Mattson and Patrick Harvie“There’s a huge energy challenge facing Scotland and the UK over coming years”, said Patrick Harvie MSP. “We need to slash our carbon emissions, boost renewables and keep people’s bills down too. But that challenge is also an opportunity. Small scale renewables, including community-owned schemes, will generate clean energy and income too. We need to end the days when it was seen as normal to be completely dependent on the big energy companies for all our power – that’s a huge change, but people and businesses right here in Stirling are showing the way.”

Mark and Patrick began the day at Rensus, a Stirling-based solar panel supply and installation company. During the visit they discussed Green policies to support energy generation in the home, and the challenges faced by the small scale renewables sector. Mark said, “I’m really excited by the jobs potential of solar energy, we want to see a target of one million solar roofs set by Westminster, with £2bn of investment going into the industry each year. Companies like Rensus could benefit from around 40,000 jobs being created in the years ahead if we are prepared to step up to the twin challenge of tackling fuel poverty and climate change. While in government, Greens in Germany created tens of thousands of solar jobs – we need to see that kind of success right here in Stirling.”

This was followed by a visit to Sustainable Dunblane, a community-led “Transition Town” project established a couple of years ago in response to an article on peak oil in our local newsletter. Thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of some dedicated volunteers, the group has been successful in obtaining Climate Challenge Fund money for energy efficiency work in the cathedral city. Mark noted that communities can be the real innovators for action on climate change, and as Patrick pointed out, “it’s one thing to try and get Government policy right, but if we don’t empower communities to put their own ideas into practice then we’re missing a trick.”

(Did we mention that the Climate Challenge Fund was a Scottish Green Party initiative? And that community projects across the Stirling area have received over £2m in funding? Just checking…)

In the afternoon, Mark and Patrick met Lochearnhead businessman Jim Mattsson whose company GETT (Green Energy for Today and Tomorrow) has installed an advanced wood fuel heating system at the Monachyle Mhor hotel near Balquhidder, slashing energy costs in a remote rural location far from the mains gas supply.

Mark Ruskell said, “Much of rural Stirling is off the mains gas supply and faces huge oil, electric heating and coal bills to keep warm, but there is a big opportunity to use the forestry resource to heat many of our community buildings, businesses and households. The switch over to wood pellet heating at the Monachyle Mhor Hotel shows just what can be done to cut costs, but we missed a huge opportunity when developing new schools in Stirling a few years ago to put in place these types of energy systems that can also support local jobs. I want to see rural businesses like GETT experience real commercial growth as a result of government leadership – buildings standards need dramatically increased to support renewable energy and realistic financial incentives for green heating need to be put in place.”

While other parties continue to pin their hopes on large and unlikely discoveries of new oil and gas reserves, unproven and incomplete solutions such as “clean coal”, or even nuclear power, we believe Scotland can lead the world in renewable energy technology. Our energy policy is based on the new 3 R’s: remove, reduce and replace. Remove the need for carbon-intensive energy use, reduce Scotland’s overall energy demands to a sustainable level and replace our dependence on fossil fuels with renewables. With proper government support for local renewables, we can eliminate fuel poverty.

Scotland has the greatest renewable energy resources in Europe, but progress in fulfilling this potential has been slow and frustrating. Energy is still the responsibility of Westminster rather than Holyrood, and so it’s essential we elect Scottish Green MPs who will demand that our country’s energy policies fully consider the long-term environmental, social and economic factors. Not only is it essential for us, but for future generations.

Mercy mercy me (the economy)

•14. April 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last weekend our local Westminster candidate Mark Ruskell highlighted the role of local credit unions (not-for-profit community banks) in rebuilding the banking sector.

The Greens’ programme for economic recovery is based on a sustainable financial system, with greater focus on mutually owned banks and credit unions. We are campaigning for reform of legislation governing credit unions in order to allow greater access and flexibility for those currently excluded from conventional credit markets.

By way of a quick explanation, credit unions are financial co-operatives owned and controlled by their members. Local, ethical and more responsive to the needs of members, credit unions offer savings and low interest loans. Many credit unions now provide additional services such as current accounts, ISAs and Child Trust Funds.

Mark Ruskell said, “We need to see a banking sector rebuilt on values of security and trust rather than risk taking and the obscene bonus culture. Credit unions are part of a bright new future for banks that are owned by their customers and Stirling has seen its own local credit unions keeping families out of poverty year after year. Westminster must boost credit unions, allowing them to grow to the huge strength and size of the networks seen in the Republic of Ireland where the Green Party is in coalition government.”

Green MSP and former party co-convenor Robin Harper joined Mark on the streets of Stirling, meeting voters at the busy Farmers’ Market and learning more about local concerns.

Mark added, “It was a great boost to have Robin out on the streets of Stirling once again – the gains Scotland’s two Green MSPs have made in recent years shows what can be done in a hung parliament. It bodes well for a new Westminster parliament with Green MPs bringing a fresh style of politics while fighting for a fair and just society.”

The beginning stages of…

•7. April 2010 • 1 Comment

Told you it would be 6. May.

Yesterday Gordon Brown went for tea with the Queen (hopefully there was no confusion about what sort of biscuits he likes), she agreed to “dissolve” Parliament and so the general election campaign has officially started.

The Scottish Greens are campaigning to protect public services, ensure a living wage for all and create green jobs that will boost our economy and tackle climate change. Our local candidates are Mark Ruskell, standing in the Stirling constituency, and Hilary Charles, who will contest the Ochil & South Perthshire seat.

As a member of the Perth Green Party, Hilary has long campaigned on green issues. She previously stood in the local council election in 2007 in the Strathallan ward, and was recently appointed to the committee of COBRA, the campaign group for a railway station in Blackford.

Speaking ahead of the election campaign, Hilary said:

“The communities of Ochil and South Perthshire deserve better, more affordable public transport. Not only will the Scottish Greens work to improve services, but we are the only party with responsible and sustainable policies to rebuild our economy, strengthen our communities and protect our environment.”

Hilary lives in Auchterarder and currently works for Perth & Kinross Council as a Tenant Liaison Officer. Through her career in the renewables industry and participation in SPREG (the Scottish Parliament Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Group), she recognises the importance of green energy and green jobs to Scotland’s future prosperity.

Meanwhile, Mark Ruskell has welcomed the news that St. Ninians Old Parish Church, the Sustainable Dunblane Transport Group and the Fintry Development Trust will receive over £200k from the Climate Challenge Fund for community energy and transport projects. The award is part of an overall £5.5m announced last week for projects all over Scotland and brings the total spend on Stirling community projects to well over £2m.

The Scottish Green Party candidate for Stirling said:

“The Stirling area has become the power house for community action on climate change in Scotland and this further wave of project funding will result in some groundbreaking initiatives. The Fintry community has gone into really exciting territory by taking control of its own energy supplies and services, while action in Dunblane to promote green transport and the imaginative upgrade of St. Ninians Old Parish Church will also inspire other communities to copy them.

“The Climate Challenge Fund has been one of the great successes of Greens in the Scottish Parliament, and I am delighted the Green MSPs were able to persuade Scottish Ministers to support the programme. The map of Scotland is covered with 232 extraordinary and diverse projects it has funded, including projects in the Stirling area from Fintry to Fallin and from Strathblane to Dunblane worth over £2m. This money has laid the groundwork for sustainable jobs across the country, for greener and more fulfilling ways of living, and for the low carbon communities of the future. Greens at Holyrood are making a difference already, and Westminster desperately needs Green voices arguing for sustainable jobs and stronger communities.”

More information on our Westminster candidates can be found on our branch website. We’ve given the site a bit of a makeover, and as well as the latest news from the Stirling and Clackmannanshire branch, you can also download our election leaflets. Please take a look, and if you’d be so kind as to tell family, friends and colleagues, we’d be terribly grateful…

Hope you enjoy the campaign. We have a lot to do over the next month, but we know the Greens can make real progress in this election. If you are able to help out in any way, please get in touch!