Patrick Harvie says his party are the only ones “telling the truth” about the future of Scotland’s oil and gas industry and the threats to hundreds of thousands of jobs.
In an exclusive interview with The Courier’s editor, David Clegg, the Scottish Green co-convener said every other party running in this May’s election should be thinking “honestly” about the quickening pace of climate change and moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels.
Mr Harvie said his Greens were not responsible for the end of the “oil age” and that by questioning how and when changes were to work, they were being more responsible than any of the other parties.
When asked how concerned he was about Alex Salmond’s Alba Party stealing voters, Mr Harvie said the former first minister’s group were “yesterday’s men” and he was “unimpressed” with them as a political entity.
The party would not support the ongoing work to dual the A9 and A96 and would demand better public transport options.
Mr Harvie would not say if he had travelled on the Perthshire trunk road recently, only that adding capacity on roads was not an environmental interest.
The Scottish Greens also want education to focus on the “truth” of Britain’s colonial history, including its involvement in the slave trade.
Change in the oil and gas industry ‘coming’
The Scottish Greens want tax breaks and subsidies for the oil and gas industry removed, along with a cessation in new exploration licenses.
Mr Harvie said the economic end of the “age of oil” was coming and people are right to be concerned.
A huge number want to transition into sustainable industries, renewable or other.”
Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie
“The cause of concern is, the reality is economic change is coming. We are not the cause of that,” he said.
“We are the only political party being honest about it.
“If you ‘re concerned about the economic end of the age of oil, you are right – it is a huge challenge.
“What every other party should be doing is what we are doing, (asking) where is the opportunity going to come from, where is the investment going to come from.
“We are the party that is being honest.
When asked when workers in the industry should expect to transition, Mr Harvie added: “There are three steps which should be taken straight away.
“Some of these are with Westminster so we will want a Scottish Government to be pushing Westminster to do these things.
“No more exploration licenses. We have more stuff than we can afford to burn… probably about three times as much oil and gas in the North Sea than is compatible with even the Paris climate change commitments.
“Revoke undeveloped licenses and start withdrawing the tax breaks and subsidies the industry gets.
“If we start doing that then, over the next 10 years, you would see a substantial reduction in oil and gas production.
“A great many people already are (looking for new work).
“A huge number want to transition into sustainable industries, renewable or other.
“Every country in the world is looking for recovery from Covid as investment-led, even centre-right tepid politicians like Joe Biden.
“We need to make sure that involves generating the sustainable industries of the future.”
Mr Harvie said he did not believe there would be many who vote Green in Scotland’s elections who would be enticed over to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.
He added: “The general impression (of Alba Party) is: I am not impressed.
“I don’t see any overlap between the kind of people who have been voting Green, who want a progressive, modern vision for Scotland’s future and those who are tempted by Alex Salmond and yesterday’s men.
“I voted the same way as Alex Salmond in 2014 (on independence)… but I worked more closely with Nicola Sturgeon at the time.”
The weight of history
Mr Harvie said education in the UK does not reflect how life should be lived in the 21st Century.
He acknowledged greater voice needs to be given to those who had been on the receiving end of Britain and the West’s “colonial past”, who were more often than not developing countries.
When asked where there were gaps in how British pupils were taught, Mr Harvie said: “It is not being fully honest about the reality of colonialism, the reality of the brutal acts conducted under the British Empire.
“Very often we need to listen most to those affected by the legacy of slavery and voices from the global south.
“There is very good reason the voices of developing countries are predominantly black people and a great many of the injustices around the world owe their roots to colonialism, imperialism and slavery perpetrated by countries like the UK.”
He added the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol should not have been “dumped in the water”, but placed in context in a museum, so the country could talk about the “mass murder committed so people like him could make himself rich”.
Sex on birth certificates
When asked the Scottish Green stance on whether the party would remove the identification of sex on a birth certificate, Mr Harvie said that was not the group’s policy.
The Scottish Greens would not remove “sex from birth certificates” but would hope to introduce policy making it easier for trans people to register their new identity.
He said: “The way for trans people to correct their birth certificates should be through a process called statutory self-declaration, not through the medical gatekeeper model, which is stressful, humiliating, expensive, time consuming and unnecessary.”
He added: “”There is no reason a trans person should have to carry around a document which misgenders them, or dead names them – identifies them by the name given to them at birth which is no longer who they are.
“When was the last time you or I had to show our birth certificates to go to a bathroom?”
Coalition and independence
Mr Harvie said the Greens did support a second referendum on independence, having previously called for a vote only after a petition of one million signatures had been collected.
“Five years ago we didn’t know we were about to be taken out of the EU against our will,” Mr Harvie added.
“It is a little bit too soon to put a date (on a referendum)… but we would support a timescale (of having a vote in the next five years).
“Most people don’t vote on this issue on the basis of what flag they wave, but what is in Scotland’s best interest.”