While we won’t be standing a candidate in the 2015 General Election, we are currently working hard to make sure that people in East Ren will have the option of voting Green from 2016’s Holyrood elections onward.
We also all of that work will be for nothing if we can’t tell you why you should vote for us.
Thinking about the democratic deficit in our local council – a deficit so severe that even some of our councillors struggle to make a decision – I was struck by the contrast between this situation and the participative approach Scottish Green co-convener Maggie Chapman has championed in Leith.
Here’s Maggie, reflecting on her time as a woman in politics:
Since 2007, one of my key priorities has been to work hard to make politics more participatory; participation in politics is the lifeblood of a socially just society. We see around us, on a daily basis, the alienating effects of neoliberalism: it works to undermine people’s democracy and replace it with market democracy, moving us from one person one vote to one pound (or perhaps more accurately, one million pounds) one vote. This is not democracy.
Five years ago, with the support and tireless energy of a female council officer, I managed to pilot a participatory budgeting process, £eith Decides, in Leith. This gave local people the power to decide what community projects got council funding. I faced opposition to this from various people, including fellow councillors, as they thought that local people would make the wrong decisions, and it would obviously result in the usual loud mouths taking all the resources for themselves. But this is clearly not what happened. Leithers of all ages take part, engaging with each other in quite incredible ways. We’ve had over 1000 people at the last three events, and it is now a permanent fixture in our annual programme of community events.
Now like everything else the Scottish Greens support, participatory budgeting isn’t a cure-all, but wouldn’t you prefer to live in an area where your opinion and expertise was sought, rather than actively avoided?
If so, you might be Greener than you think!
Moving back to planning, the following, very Green paragraph jumped out at me from a recent post by the Planning Democracy campaign:
…in today’s Herald some of Scotland’s largest environmental bodies call for an overhaul of the planning system, stating that confidence in the system is at an all time low. They complain that bodies set up to protect Scotland’s environment and natural heritage are routinely ignored in the face of powerful commercial interests. They invite the Scottish Government to discuss how best to create a level playing field in the planning system where “the needs of nature and communities can be weighed alongside other priorities”.
If you’d like to know what sort of changes Planning Democracy are proposing, their manifesto is as good a place to start as any!