Credit: @glasgowgreens via X

Meet the UofG student running for Parliament: In Conversation with Iris Duane  

By Katie McKay

University of Glasgow student Iris Duane talks environmental plans for Glasgow North, anti-austerity policies, and the mixed reaction to her candidacy. 

At just twenty-one years old, Politics student Iris Duane is running as the candidate for the Scottish Green Party in Glasgow North; she hopes to become the first transgender woman of colour in Parliament. Originally from West Yorkshire, Duane already has an impressive résumé. She is the incoming Vice Student Support officer at the Student Representative Council, has been involved in both the University Politics Society and the Queen Margaret Union, and featured on Young Women Scotland’s ‘30 Under 30’ list last year. 

As a Green candidate, a large part of Duane’s campaign focuses on the environment. Resisting austerity and implementing a tax on the top 1% to generate revenue to fund public services is key to the plan. This would also allow for a transition away from fossil fuels. But for Duane, the heart of this transition is the workers. “We need to be looking at as soon as we can, transitioning away from oil and gas and ensuring that the workers in those sectors are well protected, and not cut off in the same way that Thatcher did with the miners, which was absolutely abhorrent, but also that we’re protecting the environment and local economies at the same time.”

Duane admitted to being “incredibly disappointed” with the environmental policies of the two main political parties in the UK. “With the Tories they don’t even try. But with Labour, there was [some] scope that they potentially were developing some positive environmental policies. And then over time, they’ve chipped and chipped away to have essentially nothing left. I believe it will see us going through another decade of environmental stagnation, and eventually it’s going to be us that is picking that up in future generations, and then the people after us. And that’s just not good enough.”

Despite the bleak outlook of today’s political climate, Duane believes “there is always hope” for the environment. “I think it’s important that we do not give up. And if we do lose hope, then we’ll lose the entire environment. What I will say is it’s becoming more and more alarming as time goes on. And it often feels that whilst the political class are noticing this, they have the same numbers that we do, they know what’s happening. [The political class] are often not embodying this in their policies. I think a lot of them don’t believe they have enough political capital. 

“The environment has become somewhat associated with the younger generations, which are now being characterised as ‘the loony left.’ So I still have hope. But this hope needs to be followed through by any new government that forms in Westminster. I think that even if not elected, it’s our place is as a movement – not even as a political party, just as a cross-party movement – to continue to fight for these environmental policies, to ensure that it is going forward and our environment is safe, because unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel like they’re prioritising that at all.”

For Duane, working towards solving the climate crisis starts in Glasgow North, and her five years in office would focus on active travel and clean air solutions. “I would love to see an expansion of the subway, investments in our green spaces and active travel infrastructure, not just bike lanes, but actual public transport. I’d love to look at all opportunities, how we can best invest to ensure that everyone is cared for. Because unfortunately, we’ve all seen what budget cuts are doing.” 

But Duane’s campaign encompasses far more than the environmental policies closely associated with her chosen party. The Green candidate shares her personal experience growing up in a single-parent household during the austerity years, and how this has inspired her socialist politics. “When I grew up, the times were incredibly tough in my household, single parent household, lower working class. [Now] we’re just not having anything offered. I often feel that I am lucky to make it as far as I have, especially coming to such a prestigious university and the opportunities I’ve been offered and the positions that I’ve undertaken.” 

Anti-austerity measures, reducing NHS waiting times, and ending child poverty are all important aspects of Duane’s plan. The Conservatives, Labour, and the SNP are allowing a “slate of spending cuts and no way of raising more funds for the state.” She worries that whoever forms the next government will not “create those same opportunities” that she was allowed. “We’ll just have another five years of austerity. And I just don’t think it’s sustainable. We’ve just had 14 years of austerity. We’ve got NHS waiting times at an all-time high. We’ve got a housing crisis that shows no signs of getting better. We’ve got an environment that’s crumbling. Food inflation is at 16%. Trickle-down economics does not work. And spending cuts is not going to fix anything.”

Despite her age, this is not Duane’s first election campaign. Earlier this year, Duane was elected for the sabbatical position of Vice President of Student Support with the Student Representative Council (SRC). Though she says her on-campus experiences were not pivotal in choosing to pursue a political career, she she stood on “very similar policies for the SRC as what I am standing now for Westminster.” 

The task of holding office simultaneously as one of the SRC’s most important positions would daunt many; but not Iris Duane. The SRC has been “completely friendly”, and a plan will be constructed on 5 July should Duane win Glasgow North. Her position with the SRC does not directly involve the environment, but this hasn’t stopped her from forming big plans to improve the University’s carbon footprint. She hopes to sit on environmental committees, and help “empower students to make carbon positive choices.” Active travel solutions such as free bikes need to be signposted for effectively, and most importantly, Duane would like to oversee the University divest from arms. “If not in my role in the SRC, I hope to improve [their investments and] hold the University to account on using students’ tuition to work in an environment that we will be in.”

What, then, led Duane to the Green Party? She tells me that representation in Parliament is crucial to her, and is one of the primary drivers of her candidacy. “I think it’s important for us to recognise that this Parliament that we have is our representative governing body, it’s our legislator, and that it shouldn’t just be exclusive to one kind of person, or specifically one class of person. I would say working class [identity] definitely comes first for me, and most of Parliament at the moment is made up of upper class individuals, or at least it seems so. So I think it’s incredibly important that people can look and think, ‘well, I can achieve anything, right?’” Her campaign has promoted hundreds of supportive messages. “I get messages on various platforms telling me I’ve inspired them to do this, or, ‘I’m trans [and] I’ve never had the courage to come out’, but you go out there and you say as you are, and that’s what it is.”

But unfortunately, not everyone has something positive to say. “I made a very big point when I was announced as a candidate. I’m more than happy with people to disagree with me on policy, that’s exactly what politics is for, that’s why we’re here at the end of the day, so come and disagree with me on policy. But I will not tolerate any abuse for anything that I was born as, that’s just inappropriate. Obviously some people haven’t got that memo, but even with the amount of abuse I’m facing, I do find that it’s important that people understand that at the end of the day, people like me are just human. Especially from students at Glasgow, [the reaction has been] incredibly positive. I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me personally [and say] ‘I didn’t know who to vote for, or I wasn’t going to vote, but you’ve got my vote.’

“What I will say is, I am aware that there is a significant amount of abuse being put towards me online. But fortunately, I tend to not see it. I am, at the moment, practising mindfulness and trying to allow myself to not internalise a lot of this abuse that’s been thrown towards me. The people that are attempting to abuse me are a very, very small minority. And I would say [the reaction] has been mainly positive.”

The hate will not stop Duane on her mission to improve the environment, and represent the people of Glasgow North. “I’m not this massive caricature that maybe some people have made me out to be, I’m not dangerous or anything, I’m 21 years of age, I’m putting forward what my beliefs are. If I’m elected, that’s fantastic, and I’ll get to espouse these beliefs down in Parliament and represent my constituency, and if I’m not elected, then I will still put forward my beliefs and I at least show that people that look like me, or people that maybe don’t look like me, that anyone can get involved. This is a political process for everyone and everyone should feel they have equal access to it.”


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