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Scottish Parliament Elections: SNP or Scottish Greens

Let me start by saying I’m no expert in politics. I am interested, and I want to make a good decision on the 6th of May. In order to do so I had to do a fair amount of research on the parties I was interested in and I decided to share what I’ve learned whilst researching.

As the title suggests, my vote came down to the SNP and Scottish Greens. Both parties agree on a lot of issues which are important to me, such as Scottish independence, a proportional voting system and social democratic policies.

I would be happy if either party gained seats, but wanted to decide for myself which of the two I prefer.

In order to make the decision, I looked at a few issues which I believe set them apart and tried to work out which party comes out on top in each of these positions.

Education

The first impression I had of the SNP was when I was applying to universities in the UK and was shocked I was going to have to pay £9k per year for my tuition. I later heard, that in Scotland, thanks to the SNP there are no tuition fees for students from Scotland or Europe. This alone put the SNP above the other parties in power across the UK. So its fitting that the first thing I compare is how the SNP and Greens stack up on education.

Scottish Greens

The Scandinavian countries undoubtedly have some of the best education systems in the world. I believe any party trying to emulate what they have there is setting good policies. The Greens are doing just that; From ending the routine use of homework, to relying less on exams and more on continues assessment.

Just like the SNP, the Greens believe that higher education should be free and accessible to everyone. As I mentioned, this was an important issue for me and the main reason I ended up in Scotland in the first place. Not having a commitment to tuition free higher education, would have been a deal breaker to me, so I’m glad they share SNP’s views on this one.

SNP

The SNP’s focus is less on reforming how the school systems work, but instead on taking down barriers to education. For example by providing laptops and internet access to all students, free meals all year round and recruiting more teachers. They also want to ensure that all pupils get to go on school trips and not be held back due to financial reasons.

This isn’t to say that the SNP doesn’t have any plans for improving the existing systems. In 2016 the SNP launched a review of the care system, and plan to implement the recommended changes in the next parliament to further improve the quality of education. Similarly, they are taking forward the OECD recommendations for changes to the education system.

Verdict

Both parties are looking to improve the education system and are making changing which will help students learn better. The Greens are focusing on improving the system by taking lessons from countries like Finland which have a great reputation for excellent education systems. On the other hand, ensuring all students have access to quality education without poverty or anything else getting in the way is at the core of the SNP’s strategy. It’s very hard to determine which party has the best policies here, since whilst they are both tackling the issues in different ways, they are both committed to improving the quality of education. Education doesn’t appear to be an area which I can say either party wins hands down.

Environment

One of the reasons Scotland is so amazing is because it’s a beautiful country with endless opportunities for hikes and exploration. It’s important to preserve our national parks and not destroy them for extra farm land or housing. Looking more globally, every nation has to cut down on their emissions and protect the environment. This year, more than in any other election cycle, our impact on the environment and what we can do about climate change seems to be in the spotlight.

Scottish Greens

A big part of the Greens plan is to restore lots of habitats around Scotland creating many jobs in the process. The Greens plan to invest a total of £895m and create 6000 jobs in different areas of restoration.

Next they are working towards a “Circular Economy”, which would lead to reducing consumption of raw materials, increase the duration of warranties, improve recycling and phasing out single use plastics. This is part of an EU wide plan which of course the Scottish Greens want to be a part of.

The Greens, also have a lot of other environmental protection plans, each tackling different issues and helping keep Scotland green and clean. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into each one of them, but it’s safe to say that the Greens have a lot of policies in mind to protect the environment.

SNP

The SNP has been setting many policies to fight climate change throughout the last parliament and they intend to introduce more plans in the next parliament to reach their goal of net-zero by 2045.

An important aspect of the SNP plan is the “Just Transition” which aims to make sure there are no job losses during the transition away from fossil fuels. This of course means slower progress towards the goal of net-zero emissions, however it helps secure more jobs and prevent unemployment. For example, unlike the Greens who want to stop issuing any new contracts for oil drilling in the North Sea, the SNP do not plan on stopping these contracts because it would lead to job losses.

Just like the Greens, the SNP are looking towards a “Circular Economy Bill”, this will include banning many single use plastics and end manufacturing them in Scotland.

Both as an economic plan and environmental plan, the SNP are hiking up work to introduce and export hydrogen power. Whilst not without issues, hydrogen has the potential to be a clean source of energy and bring many jobs and a lot of money to Scotland. It seems for now, the plans are more in the exploratory phase, since the SNP will be funding trial runs and research, however this could expand to cover much more.

Verdict

The Greens appear to have more ambitious goals and are willing to make more sacrifices towards fighting the climate crisis. However, the SNP is already doing a lot to fight climate change and is willing to invest a lot into decarbonisation.

Whilst, it’s important to decrease emissions soon, a plan which could lead to job losses could backfire, causing more people to turn against climate action and other countries to take smaller steps if they see it’s not working for Scotland. That said, I believe both parties have strong policies and they are aligned on a lot of them.

Animal industry

Following on from the environment, and closely related, is the animal industry, which is one of the largest contributors to climate change. In order to meet the Paris Agreement, there must be a shift to a more plant-based diet and away from eating animal products. Not to mention what the fishing industry is doing to the oceans, causing mass extinction and destroying ecosystems.

On top of this many studies have shown that plant-based diets can be much healthier. In a country with an obesity crisis and a struggling NHS, this is just one more reason that the government should be promoting a plant-based diet. Or at the very least stop subsidising the animal industry.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the conditions in which animals are kept in factory farming are horrible, leading to terrible living conditions for the animals, painful lives and gruesome deaths. These concerns make moving away from an animal focused diet and towards a more plant-based diet a very important issue for me.

Scottish Greens

Unfortunately, for a party which cares so much about the environment and the animals, there is nothing in their manifesto about moving more towards a plant based diet. The Greens admit in their manifesto that agriculture is the third highest source of climate emissions, yet they do not mention that this is caused primarily from eating animals. It’s clearly not that the Greens don’t know this, since Patrick Harvie discussed the topic a few years ago when he tried the Plate up for the planet challenge (https://greens.scot/blog/plate-up-for-the-planet). In it he said “Just in climate terms alone, going vegan can cut the impact of producing your food by as much as 50%”. Yet, even with this being true, there is no mention of promoting a shift to a more ecologically friendly diet.

In terms of protecting animals, there is still not much. Of the hundreds of issues affecting farm animals in Scotland, the Green party only focuses on 3 in their manifesto. An end of farrowing crates, a ban in live animal exports and a ban the killing of male chicks after hatching. Since they are not economical to the farmers, male chicks get macerated or gassed to death a few hours after hatching, which thankfully the Greens want to stop.

Still, these changes are akin to putting a bandaid on a broken leg, they may be well intentioned but they do little in the grand scheme of things. In order for real change to happen, there need to be more laws reducing the amount of fish which can be taken from the oceans, an end to all subsidies for animal agriculture, instead shifted to crops and a push to plant-based diets.

SNP

The SNP is doing no better on this front. There is even less in their manifesto than in the Greens. The main point they briefly discuss is a shift to entirely free range egg production. This rarely means much for the chickens. Even free range chickens live in cramped conditions and are sent to slaughter once they are “spent”, meaning they are no longer producing enough eggs to justify keeping them alive. They have said they will ban live exports, but still allow live transport to and from islands and the mainland.

The SNP not only doesn’t seem interested in putting limits on fishing, but instead wants to increase the amount carried out in Scotland. This will of course cause more harm to the oceans and lead to even more plastic pollution on our seas.

Verdict

Out of all the issues discussed here, the SNP and Greens are making great commitments to improving Scotland. Unfortunately, the one area where they both fall short, is the animal industry. Because of this, neither party will be gaining any points in this category. Hopefully, as the issues discussed here become more important to voters, over the next few years, they realise how important it is and perhaps add some more policies in the next elections. However, so far there is not much being promised.

Credibility and history

My main concern with the Greens, is that the SNP has a much longer and more successful history of being in government and making good change for Scotland. As with a job interview, you don’t hire the person who promises the most, but instead the person who has a record of achievement. That said, if everyone used that mentality, the SNP would never have gained any power and we’d still be deciding between the Conservatives and Labour.

Scottish Greens

It’s hard to find a long list of what the Greens have achieved in the past Perhaps because I’m just not good at finding these things, or it’s just not covered much in the news. So I looked at their manifesto again to see what they say for themselves.

They list these 3 achievements, in big bold letters at the top of their manifesto:

  • Fairer income taxes so most pay less while those who can pay more
  • Passed laws to prevent tax dodgers from being given public support during the pandemic
  • Protected public sector jobs by securing over £500m for local services

Unfortunately, there are no further explanations or citations to these claims so I had to look them all up to work out what exactly they meant.

For the first point, of “fairer income taxes”, the closest match I could find was this article from The Guardian in 2017 Thanks to the Greens, the SNP had to abandon their plans to increase the higher tax rate from £43000 to £43387. Whilst this of course brings more money to the government for spending, it just means an extra 20% tax on £387 on those earning over £43k It’s not a massive change to the tax system or anything like their promise of a 60% rate in their last manifesto.

The second claim of preventing tax dodgers from being given aid during the pandemic can be found in this Guardian post titled Scotland bans Covid-19 support to firms based in tax havens It basically confirms what the Greens manifesto says. The Greens pushed for amendments to the second emergency Covid-19 Bill, which would prevent tax dodging companies from accessing Covid funding. It’s worth noting that similar things have been done around Europe, and the amendments had support from many parties including the SNP and Conservatives. That said, it was the Greens who brought it to the table and they deserve credit for the changes.

Thankfully, the Greens posted on their blog about the last point of protecting public sector jobs. Unfortunately though, even reading through this and other sources it’s difficult to tell where that extra funding came from. Of course £500m didn’t just come out of thin air, so where there cuts in other places? Did those other places need the money more? Are we borrowing in order to afford this? Finally, I confess, I don’t know enough about how short councils were on funding over the last few years so I don’t know if this extra budget was necessary or not.

The Greens have played a part in pushing for changes in the Scottish Government and they have done some good, however, it doesn’t seem to be a lot. Given that the 6 Green MSPs were needed for the SNP to have a majority, it’s surprising that they didn’t push further to make implement even more changes from their last manifesto.

SNP

Unsurprisingly, the SNP has a much longer list of achievements, since they have been in power for years. They have a video of 50 achievements on their website. It’s of course too many to go through, but it’s a long list of impressive achievements. To name a few, the SNP has brought a lot of extra money to the NHS, improved education systems and childcare, built 30k homes, introduced free university tuition, decreased crime rates and a lot more.

You can’t claim that the SNP is 100% responsible for all of these, perhaps crime rates were on their way down either way, or those homes would have been built under another government as well. However, for all the changes and improvements that have been happening in Scotland over the past years, the SNP definitely deserves a lot of credit for it.

I see little point in saying much more here since there is an endless list of articles discussing the achievements, and with more knowledge than I have on the topic.

It’s clear that if you are looking for a party with a credible history in government, the SNP is a safe choice.

Verdict

In the end, the SNP wins hands down on past achievements and has a much larger list than the Greens do. Which party you vote for comes down to whether you are willing to trust a party which has less history in office but could be promising more changes, or if you would rather vote for the safe option which has been steadily improving the country for years. For me, this section has given a clear advantage to the SNP.

So who will I vote for?

After reading through both manifestos, listening to the debate, researching the parties and learning as much as I could, I have to say I like both parties a lot. When it comes to education, the SNP has improved the schools over the past few years and have plans on ensuring more students get access. The Greens are looking to make big changes which could do a lot of good as well. As for the environment, the Greens have a few better policies, which you’d expect from the party, but the SNP is doing a lot of good as well, and perhaps in a more economically sustainable way. The Greens win again when it comes to improving conditions for animals in the animal industry, but they really don’t go far enough. Still, it’s better than the SNP who don’t seem all that concerned about the issue. Finally when it comes to their credibility and history, the SNP wins by a landslide. They have a much longer list of achievements and are always making progress towards improving the country.

In the end, I’m leaning towards giving both votes to the SNP. I would rather have a government in charge that is doing 90% of what I would like, but I’m confident they will work towards those goals and achieve a lot, than a government that does 95% of what I want but I’m less confident in.

That said, that’s just my vote and my opinion on the subject after spending a couple weekends researching the parties. You may have different opinions or think I’ve oversimplified or omitted things in my article. If that’s the case please comment about them and let me know. I want to make a good choice come May 6th and the more information I have, the more likely I am to do so.

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