THE SCOTTISH Greens have conceded that they will not win the Shetland by-election – but they are keen to use the campaign as a platform to raise their profile in preparation for the 2021 Holyrood election.
The party’s newly elected co-leader Lorna Slater was in Shetland at the weekend to support local candidate Debra Nicolson, who is the first person to stand for the Scottish Greens in a constituency in the Highlands and Islands.
Slater, who is a marine renewables engineer, said the Greens had a strong environmental and social justice message that was distinct from the SNP and the other parties.
She said the party would not be stepping aside to potentially increase the chances of a SNP win in Shetland.
“We are a major political party in our own right, all the talk of standing aside is never for our benefit,” she said.
“We are not SNP lapdogs; the differences are very significant. The Tories are voting more often with the SNP than the Greens – the best example is the new planning law that gives aggrieved parties no right of appeal.
“We did support the budget, yes, and in exchange for that we got millions of pounds for councils in Scotland.”
Slater said the party is still processing the huge influx of new members following the independence referendum of 2014 and has since managed to build a more robust party structure including many new local branches, such as the one in Shetland.
During the European Parliament election earlier this year the Scottish Greens came forth in the Shetland count with 11.2 per cent of the vote, well ahead of Labour and the Tories.
“A by-election is always an unusual situation,” she said, “and this is an interesting one because all eyes are on it because it is the first time that the Shetland seat might change hands.
“It is a good chance for us to get our message out, because there is more press and more interest – it’s an excellent opportunity for the Greens to get more visibility and make some connections.
“We are playing the long game, our focus right now is on Holyrood 2021. We will not be winning this by-election, but Debra [Nicolson] is now a known candidate, we have a campaign manager in place, so we building capacity all over the country towards 2021.”
With climate change now one of the main topics discussed when knocking on doors, Nicolson said the “energy feels different” as more people appear to be open to green issues.
Promoting a Green New Deal, inspired by president Roosevelt’s New Deal following the great depression on 1933, Scottish Greens want to see a transition away from the oil and gas dependency to renewable energy coupled energy saving measures, better housing social justice and radical local democracy.
With this in mind Nicolson was critical of the Viking Energy wind farm development, as earlier promises and commitment towards community benefit appear to have been broken.
She added: “I believe it [Viking Energy] is far too big. I believe there will be significant disturbances to peat and I am not convinced that they will be able to restore that.
“Local communities shall benefit from renewable developments. They are, but not to the same extent as they thought they were.
“I do sympathise with the people living in the Aith area who are going to have 60 turbines being built in the vicinity, and knowing many of them personally I know they are really worried – and you can’t dismiss people’s fear.”
Slater added that not every renewables project was necessarily green if her party’s social justice and radical local democracy principals are not met.
She described the new planning bill, relevant to any future developments, as “hugely frustrating” in that respect.
“The SNP talks big about community engagement and community consultation, but the new bill doesn’t require it and doesn’t allow an equal right of appeal,” she said.
“The developer can appeal a planning decision but the community can’t.
“I feel the SNP has communities let down on this. There will be more Viking type wind farms and communities have no right to appeal.
‘It’s a Tory/SNP stitch up, they are letting the big developers doing whatever they want without proper consultation.”
There are ten candidates contesting the Shetland by-election on 29 August.
They are in alphabetical order: Johan Adamson (Scottish Labour), Brydon Goodlad (Scottish Conservatives), Stuart Martin (UKIP), Debra Nicolson (Scottish Greens), Ian Scott (independent), Michael Stout (independent), Peter Tait (independent), Ryan Thomson (independent), Tom Wills (SNP) and Beatrice Wishart (Scottish Liberal Democrats).
Read more about all ten candidates at our special Shetland by-election page at: https://www.shetnews.co.uk/category/features/election-2019/