European Election: Young Green Candidate Hustings

The ballots to select the Scottish Green Party’s list of candidates for the 2014 European election have gone out. Given that there are four SYG members aiming to be on (or top!) of that list, we thought we’d give each of them an airing here. Each of our candidates has submitted a statement below – please put any questions you might have in the comments below, and the candidates will do their best to answer them (naturally any offensive nonsense will be ignored).  If your question accidentally falls foul of our spam blocker, please email  convenor@scottishyounggreens.org and I’ll put it to the candidates directly.

Thanks!

Johannes Butscher

Stirling

As my name suggests I am not Scottish. My passport states that I am a German citizen but I have a European heart and speak several languages. I am a student, reading Economics and Politics at Stirling University where I will graduate in 2014. In 2009 I took a gap year and worked in South America, where I joined the German Greens and the German Young Greens. In 2010 I started my studies in Scotland and became more involved with the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG).

In my first year at University I was chosen to represent the German Young Greens in Batumi, Georgia at the CDNEE’s AGM. In the following years I became an active member and attended seminars and conferences in Brussels and other European cities, and joined the FYEG ‘Green Economy’ working group.

Subsequently I founded the ‘Stirling University Greens’, a student society which in its first year had 22 members. Furthermore I am part of the wonderful Green Party branch in Stirling with our newly elected councillor Mark Ruskell. I stood as a candidate in the same election, involving myself with our great campaign team and participating in front line canvassing, street stalls and panel debates.

As an idealist I believe that local actions have global consequences and so I avoid flying, don’t buy meat and cycle everywhere. As an elected sustainability Officer for the University’s Students’ Union, I currently work with University officials to achieve greater sustainability on campus and beyond.

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, has created debate about the legitimacy of the prize and of the European Union. Europe, the EU and the €uro are essentially good ideas and institutions, but they need reform. Having tasted European issues, I can’t wait to get stuck into the debate.

Dominic Hinde, 25
Leith (Edinburgh Branch)

I believe that the European project is fundamentally a positive thing, and that as Greens our internationalism and commitment to an open and democratic society entails us embracing political cooperation with our European neighbours. Irrespective of what should happen in Scotland?s domestic politics in 2014, we need to ensure that the European Parliament benefits from stronger Green and Scottish voices.

We need a long term solution to Scottish problems such as overfishing, and renewable energy networks which benefit the communities in which they are located. Via the EU we can also help the world get its house in order in the on-going struggle against climate change, poverty and environmental degradation.

I am proud to be a European citizen, have lived and worked in a number of EU member states and speak fluent Swedish and German. I am currently writing a Phd at Edinburgh University on effective environmental rhetoric, and also work as a freelance translator and journalist. I have previously stood as a candidate in the local elections and am international coordinator for the Scottish Young Greens, having also sat as a Young Green on the Elections and Campaigns Committee.

The European Parliament and the EU has much to offer Scotland, and whilst remaining sceptical of the rush toward economic union, I feel that the opportunities offered in education, cultural exchange and mobility are massive and should be encouraged and improved. Europe’s young people are becoming increasingly alienated from the systems that govern them, yet we are also the first truly European generation, following the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. We should therefore be forging a Europe with a concrete future instead of cementing the failed economics of the past. A Green MEP is both achievable and necessary, and I hope to be in the candidate team to make it happen.

James MacKessack-Leitch, 26
Highlands and Islands (Convenor of Moray Greens Sub-branch)

I am seeking a position on the European list, as I believe I have a lot to offer in terms of aiding the election of our first, Green, MEP. I firmly believe that it is possible to win a seat at the 2014 elections, and I think the experience gained for participating in the campaign at this level would be invaluable.

I have a background in agriculture, energy and rural development, all of which are significantly influenced by EU policy. I would be able to bring this experience to bear during the campaign, and to support the lead candidate in these areas.

As a resident of the Highlands I would also be able to add a different dimension to the European list. More than anywhere else in Scotland the Highlands and Islands have been impacted by the EU, not just in terms of agriculture and fisheries, but European funding has been essential to the economic and social development of the region – something markedly different from the experience of the rest of the country.

I have previously stood as a candidate in the 2012 local elections, during which I hand delivered almost 3000 leaflets across a rural ward, and subsequently achieved over 6.5% of first preference votes in a ward with no previous history of SGP candidates.

On a personal level I am at a stage where I can commit full time to candidacy, should I be selected.

More generally it would be a clear benefit to SGP to have a candidate who is not based in the central belt, who can relate to rural life; for example where 4x4s are a necessary tool, not a status symbol; but who can also promote localism, true sustainability, and social and environmental justice, something which I feel able to do.

Name: Grace Murray
Age: 25
Branch: Edinburgh

In 2014 we can and we should elect our first Scottish Green MEP. I believe I am a strong candidate who will campaign with passion and dedication to see this achieved.

Young people are increasingly green-minded, and Green MEPs in their twenties have been elected from Germany, Denmark and Sweden. As a former Scottish Young Greens convenor I believe I can join them.

I first became involved with the Scottish Green Party through volunteering with the Green MSPs in Holyrood and was then employed as their campaigns officer, working on a number of local and national campaigns. My proudest moment was prompting the resignation of the Parliament’s Justice Convenor after he made some horrific comments about rape, by writing a motion signed by so many MSPs he stood down.

I also worked as the Party fundraiser and then as an election campaign support officer. This gave me a real understanding of what it is to be a candidate in terms of commitment, energy and personal skills.

I currently work in Brussels as a trainee energy policy advisor to the Greens in the European Parliament and care deeply about energy. It is such a positive area to campaign on – getting renewables and energy efficiency right for communities not companies. In my job I’m frequently disappointed that there is no Green champion for Scotland; instead we have pro-oil and anti-wind farm MEPs.

We will succeed in this election if we have a few very clear messages and organise a fantastic campaign on the ground to reach voters. I would visit every region in Scotland in the final campaign months.

In my spare time I enjoy art and yoga, and am currently involved with anti-street harassment movement HollabackBrussels. I speak French and Spanish.

Please give me your first preference.

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9 Responses to European Election: Young Green Candidate Hustings

  1. Stuart says:

    I guess this question is more aimed at Grace and Dominic. With the idea of having quite an early selection process being so that the campaign can get started earlier than normal for us Greens, how would both of you ensure that you were able to make such a commitment given both aren’t working in the country right now?

    • Grace says:

      Hi Stuart,

      Thank you for posting the first question and for raising this. It’s a very valid concern and one that I am sure has struck several others.

      I have currently been in Brussels for just over a year now, first working in the office of a Green MEP and now on a temporary contract researching energy for the Greens in the European Parliament. This ends in a few months. I can’t give a definite date yet of when I’d be moving back, but if I were selected as the party’s top candidate I see it as such a great responsibility that I would want to do so as soon as possible. I really don’t want people to see a vote for me as being any sort of gamble. I’m genuine and committed and I love campaigning – so the sooner I am back, the better!

      Thanks again for the question.
      Grace

  2. Dominic Hinde says:

    This is a valid question – I am currently on a six month research placement at my partner university in Sweden as part of my job, which will be over by the end of february. Knowing that there might be some conflict between my work commitments and the electoral cycle I arranged to go away at a time where it would least impact in my Green activism, ie between the local elections and the start of the European campaign.

    Furthermore, whilst in Sweden I have been working with the Swedish Green Party to gain ideas and understanding on common issues which I feel Scotland can help to make progress on – particularly things like parental leave, european environmental standards and welfare.

    I am still a full time Scottish resident and have no plans to be out of the country for any length of time after February. Unfortunately I am bound by what I do to be in Sweden for a few months, and now was simply the most appropriate time to do so.

    DH

  3. David says:

    We’ve had a question via Twitter:

    “Q to Euro candidates: How can we make the EU seem relevant to people, most of whom do not understand what it does and view it with suspicion.”

    • A good question… how to make an institution serving 500+ million people across the continent relevant to the individual in Scotland??

      For a start I think there is a clear lack of engagement from our current MEPs, even on issues which should be their domain – on agriculture or fishing for example we’re far more likely to hear from the MSP, or even MP, responsible nationally than the MEPs who should be representing us. My impression is that there is currently a very definite “Brussels Bubble”, and that living and working in another country perhaps numbs the first duty of any elected member – to represent and engage with the people they serve – something I know I wouldn’t forget.

      More importantly, I also think we need to promote the strengths of the EU, and the beneficial, if unnoticed, influence it has on our day to day lives. For example the environment doesn’t respect our borders, so it is entirely sensible to coordinate environmental policy across Europe. Or perhaps highlighting the role the EU plays at a basic level in our food, prohibiting the use of GM and trying to encourage sustainable food production at a reasonable cost.

      The EU is by no means perfect and there’s plenty of work to be done, but we’re still better for being part of it – and with strong and committed Scottish Green MEP(s) representing us we can go along way to making sure the huge benefits we gain by working closely with our nearest neighbours are made very clear.

    • Grace says:

      Apologies for my delay in responding – I was at the European Green Party Council in Athens this weekend and it was a pretty full schedule!

      I believe we address this problem by communicating directly with people and by having a clear Green vision for Europe, and for a green Scotland in Europe. With the European elections taking place a few months before the Independence referendum, the role of Scotland within the EU will be on the political agenda and just like in the Independence referendum we need to focus not on Europe on its own (just like independence on its own), but on what our Green vision of Europe is.

      The key to communicating this vision successfully is by listening to the people that we meet on the doorsteps and in the streets, as well as online, well in advance of the final campaign weeks (ie starting in 2013, building on the great work done in the 2012 local elections), and by understanding the issues that affect people. We then tailor our future communication on how these local issues relate to European legislation, and what the Greens at European level are already doing to improve such legislation.

      We must not present Europe as an abstract concept, or confuse people with jargon, and we shouldn’t attempt to cover every possible issue with each person that we speak to. We simply show how local issues are hugely affected by European legislation, and we explain (and enthuse!) about what Greens have already achieved in the European Parliament on such issues, adding how the first Scottish Green MEP would bring a unique perspective both for Scotland and Brussels.

      Being temporarily based in Brussels I am disgusted by the lack of transparency and the intense and secretive lobbying that happens all the time here, and just how far removed from citizens many of the European institutions want to keep themselves. However this does not make me want to walk away from Europe, and discard it as irrelevant, it makes me want to get elected, and to make it a better place!

      I have seen on a personal level the good that being part of Europe does for people in terms of connections, peace and solidarity. For example, I am currently working on the issue of shale gas, and am part of a network that links campaigners all over Europe. For people in Bulgaria to connect with people in France, via this network, as well as also coming to the petitions committee in the Parliament, is terribly positive for all those involved in terms of sharing experiences, information and resources.

      Grace

  4. Dominic Hinde says:

    Getting people to understand that they are European citizens, and that it is their parliament, is a huge challenge. Many European politicians do not fully understand the EU it sometimes seems, and there is a vicious cycle where parties do not take the EU seriously, leading to a lack of interest across the board.

    I believe in increasing engagement with democracy in all levels of government in Scotland, from councils to Holyrood and Brussels. We wonder why voter turnout is low and why people do not trust politicians, but time and time again politicians themselves fail to engage with their own voters.

    I’ve been particularly inspired by what the Swedish Green Party are doing to inform and attract young people by running club nights which discuss national and European issues. I also believe that the EU needs to decentralise hugely, in order to make itself more managable. Such a huge political entity cannot hope to have a direct line to every single citizen, so in countries like the Netherlands European politicians are allowed to speak in the national parliament on relevant issues as a way of making the EU relevant to domestic politics.

    There is also a more fundamental problem in that the EU has failed to police itself. It overspends on pointless and costly administration and does not do what it should do – reach out to its citizens and justify its existence. I would like to see savings in the EU budget diverted into democratic engagement, and MEPs should be required to make public statements to parliament and talk publicly about their work. They are paid handsomely to do a vital job, but that is hard to understand for somebody in Scotland working for less than the living wage or even struggling to find a job.

    Above all I believe that the EU should emphasise its social functions, because by monetarising everything we isolate the people we are supposed to serve.

    DH.

  5. Johannes Butscher says:

    – Capping the mobile phone roaming charges within all EU countries.
    – Erasmus – students going abroad to study
    – People can moved to another EU country to work or enjoy their retirement as social benefits are transferable.

    The EU has already provided us with many valuable policies. However, most of those are not very known to people. That is because member states are still sovereign counties and make domestic policy decisions which effect the people more directly (minimum wage, health care, energy policy) and because national policy is tied to national parties and is opposed by the opposition, both entities much more known to the people than the different political groups such as EFA (European Free Alliance – The Greens) of the European Parliament.

    Different societies at my University (including the Stirling University Greens) organised last week ‘a politics week’. A week full of political debates, a mock EU referendum and several QT style panel discussions. Participation and interest was overwhelming!
    We have to make politics a social event, starting at the grass roots, make it interesting and participatory as it is so important, it decides our values and how we life our lives. But this task should not be fulfil by others or tomorrow, now is the time.

    Britain is famous for its prestigious Universities, famous throughout the world. One factor which contributed towards the success is the multicultural, multilingual and culturally diverse environment. So, if this concepts works so brilliantly within an institution, why limit it towards to one? One reason why I am here, in Scotland, is the EU, this incredible valuable creation is more than a concept, it is belief in peaceful community of countries sharing values, beliefs and a vision.

    Johannes Butscher

  6. Hi all,it’s a great pleasure for me to share with other greens aroun the world specially youth!
    Please i invite young to create link and exchange about green issues.
    kind regards.
    Boukari Niger young greens leader

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