The Glasgow Guardian speaks to UofG Greens Secretary Blair Anderson about his involvement in the negotiations
Glasgow University law student Blair Anderson was involved in negotiating the deal that was presented to the Scottish Greens’ party members that will see the party form a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament. Being a member of the Young Greens who stood to be a member of the Scottish Parliament in 2021 and co-convenor of Rainbow Greens, a group representing LGBT+ members of the Scottish Greens, The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Blair about the negotiations.
The co-leaders of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie MSP and Lorna Slater MSP, are to be the first Green party politicians to take up ministerial office anywhere in the UK. Harvie is Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, while Slater’s title is Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity. Before it became official, the agreement had to be approved by the Scottish Greens’ membership, who voted overwhelmingly in favour at a party meeting on 28 August.
The Greens are required to back the SNP on confidence votes and annual budgets, and work together on agreed areas of common ground such as Scottish independence, tackling the climate emergency, and implementing rent controls. There also exists a list of areas on which public disagreement is permitted, including defence and security, the economics of sustainable growth and private schools. Green MSP Ross Greer is on the record as saying that the list is not fixed, and could be expanded where disagreements arise.
“Representatives from groups within the party were part of the working group, including LGBTQ+ Greens, women, people of colour, as well as the Young Greens.”
Anderson was involved in the party’s working group which was set up for the negotiations, called the Political Cooperation Working Group (PCWG), as a representative for the Young Greens over the last three months. The PCWG negotiated the agreement on behalf of the Green party, with the cabinet and the civil servants who negotiated on behalf of the Scottish Government. Representatives from groups within the party were part of the working group, including LGBTQ+ Greens, women, people of colour, as well as the Young Greens bringing issues of concern to the negotiating table. “Scottish Young Greens have been the ones pushing some of the more radical policies, such as free bus travel for under 21s,” said Blair.
Given negative outcomes of coalitions or other forms of deal with governing parties for smaller parties in other parts of the UK, such as the Liberal Democrats’ poor election results in the aftermath of its coalition with the Conservatives, or the Democratic Unionist Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives, The Glasgow Guardian asked Blair about his thoughts on the agreement.
“I’d much rather be in government rather than be in the opposition without the power to do anything.”
“I think it’s the best deal we could get from the government, and I think it really pushes the government in a positive direction, and not just on the environment, as we care about a lot of stuff beyond the environment,” Blair commented. “There are risks going into government for the first time, but I’d much rather be in government rather than be in the opposition without the power to do anything”.
Students should be interested in the deal, says Blair, particularly regarding tenants’ rights and workers rights, as the Scottish Greens have recently negotiated a commitment to rent controls, which “students will hopefully see the benefit of, in a few years time”. Fairer work has also been agreed upon, meaning that although the Scottish government does not control employment law, anything it gives public money to must first meet fair working criteria. This includes paying the living wage and collective bargaining, which is especially important to students with part-time jobs. Following the alleged “fire and rehire” practices that The Glasgow Guardian has previously reported on, following the Unite the Union protests outside the James McCune Smith Learning Hub in July, new changes may be particularly relevant to the staff reshuffle happening at the University.
In a statement given by Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens said: “I am delighted that our party members have given their support to this historic cooperation agreement that will see Greens enter government for the first time in Scotland, or indeed anywhere in the UK. With Greens in government, we will be able to deliver positive change for the people of Scotland.”