It is with mixed emotions that the Young Greens look back on the 2011 Scottish elections. Newspaper polls which put the Scottish Greens on up to eight MSPs failed to turn themselves into electoral success as the Scottish National Party capitalised on Alex Salmond’s charisma and a general dissatisfaction with the London based parties to romp home in style.
The Scottish Greens were however the only opposition party to see their share of the vote hold up. The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all saw significant drops in their representation in the Holyrood Parliament. The Lib Dems are now only three seats ahead of the Greens and that due only to the strong level of support they enjoy in the Far North, Shetland and Orkney.
The question then is where we go from here. Both Green MSPs, Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone, were ready to listen to young people during their campaigns and this remains so. Alison was extremely grateful for the aid given to her by Young Green activists during an extremely competitive campaign and Patrick remains the youngest party leader at Holyrood by quite some distance. The next five years will most likely see the issues at the heart of Green politics, namely equality, democracy and environment, take an even more central role as they become all the more pressing. Continued budget cuts, a light touch policy on the environment and the continuation of ineffective and outdated methods of tackling gender and economic inequality will leave their mark on our society. It is up to the Greens, and particularly the Young Greens, to make sure that the message of a fairer and moreover forward thinking politics is communicated to the general public.
There is a tendency for young people to be marginalised within the political system, whilst many young people engaged in mainstream politics are sucked into a careerist system of patronage and climbing through age-old party structures. We can take inspiration from Sweden, where the new male co-convenor of the Green Party is 28-year old Gustav Fridolin. Gustav became a member of the Swedish parliament at the age of 19 and has put the cause of young people at the heart of the Green programme, winning support along the way for his progressive and non-partisan stance. As Scotland’s youngest political party in terms of the age of our members, the Greens provide a platform for the voice of young people in tackling the pressing issues of our time, and we can do the same here. If we do one thing in the next four years, it should be to remind the political establishment that we will not stand for the political short termism which is robbing our generation and our children’s generation of many of the opportunities the current crop of politicians enjoyed. That means making young people components instead of accessories within politics and reminding the political grandees of the older parties that their ways of working are on the way out.
Convenor – Edinburgh Young Greens