Chapping doors for the Green vote on the campaign trail

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Campaigners at Kelvin Meadow

Scottish Green activist Zara Kitson begins a regular campaign diary, as she prepares to battle for the list vote in her region. Newsnet.scot will be featuring Zara and many others in the build-up to the Scottish parliamentary elections in May.

Zara Kitson, Scottish Greens
Zara Kitson, Scottish Greens

Last week marked 12 weeks until May 5, when the people of Glasgow head to their polling stations with the opportunity to re-elect Patrick Harvie MSP, and for the first time in history elect a second Green MSP for the city – that’s where I come in!

I’m in the running to be Glasgow’s second Scottish Greens MSP, with Patrick topping the regional list. This is the first election in history that Scottish Greens have a realistic chance of electing two MSPs for Glasgow – doubling our representation, and doubling the progress we can make as part of a bolder Holyrood.

Scottish Greens currently have 2 MSPs – Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnson. In the days of the fondly remembered ‘rainbow parliament’ from 2003-2007, when Holyrood had a greater mix of representation of parties and independents, Scottish Greens had a slate of 7 MSPs representing regions across Scotland. That number dropped to two in 2007, when the SNP made a major break-through and formed a minority government. The independence referendum period that followed woke up the Scottish electorate and changed the course of political history.

At campaign hub in the STUC with Patrick Harvie, and our Glasgow Region Campaign Officer Gordon Dickson.
At campaign hub in the STUC with Patrick Harvie, and our Glasgow Region Campaign Officer Gordon Dickson.

This Holyrood election is the first since the independence referendum. The electorate are engaged, with membership of political parties remaining high after their post-referendum surges. With Scottish Labour steering a sinking ship, Scottish Greens are on the up, presenting as a credible opposition, ready to engage in constructive politics, a far cry from the mud-slinging we’re accustomed to between Labour and the SNP.

This election isn’t about deciding the party of Government – few pundits will dispute that the SNP are likely to take up that mantle again. And this election isn’t about another independence referendum – Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have made it clear that they are not going into this election with commitment to another referendum during this term of Government. This election is however about what kind of Scotland we want, and the best vehicle to create that. Scottish Greens want to see a better, fairer Scotland. To get there, we first need a bolder Holyrood.

That bolder parliament is possible with more Green voices, like mine. With a strong Green group of 10 or more MSPs, we can bring the ideas and track record necessary for a credible and constructive opposition that will help create the fairer, sustainable Scotland that so many pushed for during the referendum campaign. A Scotland that people want to see become a reality now, within the limits and opportunities that exist with the powers available to us.

This message that a ‘better Scotland needs a bolder Holyrood’ is one I’ll be getting out there in the coming weeks and months, as I hit the campaign trail and connect with Glasgow’s people and communities.

Gearing up to hit the ground running, the last few weeks and months have been brimming with activity, as our campaign teams in Glasgow and beyond get ready to deliver an MSP in every region of Scotland, and break new ground electing two in Lothian and Glasgow for the first time in history.

In Glasgow we’re already breaking the mould, with our new campaign hub in the STUC in Woodlands – in the heart of our target constituency – Glasgow Kelvin, and the heart of the workers’ rights movement in Scotland. A place we Greens feel right at home! The campaign hub has already taken delivery of over 250,000 newsletters that are swiftly making their way out the door to Glasgow voters, through hand delivery by Green activists across the city, doing their bit to get our message out to voters.

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Scottish Greens’ campaign launch
On Monday February 8 we launched our national campaign in Glasgow’s Oran Mor, underneath the Alasdair Gray motto on their wall, fit for the bolder Holyrood we seek – ‘Let us flourish by telling the truth’.

Friday I joined Patrick Harvie as we brought a bit of fun to the campaign with the launch of our own ale – ‘Harvie’s Hoptimistic’ – on sale in Good Spirits off licence, and bars across the city. Symbolic of the optimistic message we’re taking out to voters with the change we can help bring about. As a people powered party, which doesn’t have deep pockets lined by big business, every penny raised through ale sales goes towards our campaign chest.

On Sunday I delved in to more serious campaign activity – the stuff that really matters and makes an impact – chapping doors! Along with other key activists from across the city we headed out to Kelvin constituency, where voters have the option of voting for Scottish Greens on both constituency and regional ballot papers for the first time. With the chance of electing Harvie for Kelvin, and me as Glasgow’s regional MSP.

RESPONSE

The response round the doors was encouraging – when we caught people in! It was Valentine’s Day after all. My love for Glasgow and its people obviously kept me busy and away from the romantic notions of the day! All of the people I spoke to were voting Green on the list, with a couple of folks giving both votes to Greens, and one or two swithering.

North Kelvin Meadow came up as a hot topic, as did dis-satisfaction with the centralisation of colleges being driven by the SNP. Centralisation of services is a big issue for many, and something that people recognise as a key difference between the SNP and Green approach to policy. Greens believe Scotland can unlock the power in its communities, by giving power to them.

The Scottish Government has followed a different grain, centralising Police and College services, and limiting the tax raising powers of local government through the council tax freeze. A move that is proving more and more unpopular as people begin to  feel the impact of cuts to local services through austerity measures imposed at local level, whilst Scottish Government continues to hold local authorities in a noose.

CHAPPING

After a round of chapping doors, I headed to North Kelvin Meadow and their onsite Children’s Wood. The campaign to save the meadow and the children’s wood were hosting an action day, building 90 dens to represent the 90 ‘luxury’ apartments that have been given the go-ahead by the Labour administration at Glasgow City Council. The plans would destroy the community connectivity and benefits brought about through access to the land and space, and demolish a valuable city amenity and resource that is used by children, families and schools throughout the area.

Whilst getting photos taken to demonstrate my support to the campaign, the kids in the photo with me were singing ‘Oh ye canny build hooses on North Kelvin Childrens Wood…’ to the well-known tune of the Jeely Piece Song.

If this Holyrood campaign is about anything, it’s about the children across our city, who deserve a better future, in a fairer Scotland. I’m listening to their demands, and ready to bring my voice to a bolder Holyrood to make them a reality.

This week I embark on hustings, street stalls and gearing up for things behind the scenes – all whilst trying to balance work and life, with being a candidate. Not easy, but also an immense privilege that no politician should take for-granted. To have voice and give voice to people and communities often otherwise ignored, is an honour that should be respected as such.

You can sign the North Kelvin Meadows petition here.

Find out more about our campaign.

Get in touch on Twitter and Facebook.