In the last of our five-part series interviewing the leaders of the five main political parties seeking to return to the Scottish Parliament, we speak to Scottish Greens' co-leader Lorna Slater.


If there was one constant in the Scottish Parliament for the last five years, it was SNP budgets with insufficient cash for local government - then the Scottish Greens would vote for them when more money was on offer.

But the Scottish Greens’ co-leader, Lorna Slater, says that they were definitely not in any relationship with the SNP.

“If we push them too hard, they’ll just go and fall into the Tories’ arms,” she says. “They worked with the Tories on planning, which we considered a massive stitch-up with developers against communities.

“We consider ourselves a constructive opposition. When they have worked with us, we have been able to push them into fairer and greener positions.”

Where the parties agree most is on independence. But Ms Slater says the climate emergency is most pressing, with just nine years left to turn the tide before change becomes unstoppable.

She says: “Fortunately the policies that will allow us to prevent the climate emergency are exactly the policies we need to recover from Covid: rapid transition to renewable energy, creating new industry and thousands of jobs, zero carbon transportation, and nation-wide upgrading of our homes. 

“These things all go together. Our best techniques for tackling the climate crisis are also those that will bring us the fairest and greenest recovery.

“And most of them don’t need to wait. Nearly everything in our manifesto can be enacted under the current constitutional arrangement.

“It just happens that we also think that an independent Scotland has a better chance of a fair and green recovery than a Scotland that is tied to a UK quite frankly that is headed in a direction of travel that is causing concern for a lot of people.”

The Scottish Greens want £22billion invested over 20 years for affordable and reliable rail travel. Many of their policies are, as Ms Slater calls them, “no-brainers” and using existing technologies.

Her own work in tidal energy is an example she sees where Scotland can excel in a new green industrial revolution. The Greens would not repeat the mistakes of the first wave of wind energy, where much of the work went overseas.

“We’re really excited about our manifesto,” she adds. “It should be transformational - that’s what we’re looking for.

“I think the future of Scotland’s industry is gong to be brilliant. We have so much potential, we just have to seize it.”

Election 2021: Profile of Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

Election 2021: Profile of Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie

Election 2021: Profile of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

Election 2021: Profile of Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

At the start of the pandemic, there was much talk of changing the way society works, what should individuals and governments prioritise, and what kind of world should emerge from Covid-19.

We asked each of five national leaders what big structural change to society or Scotland would they make with the constitutional powers we have now.

Only the Scottish Greens offered a single answer: universal basic income (UBI).

Ms Slater admits UBI would be “tricky” to fully implement currently, but Scotland could start working towards it.

“It would be absolutely transformational and it’s something that I think we definitely saw was a problem during the pandemic,” she says.

“We saw during the pandemic what a disaster it was for people who could not isolate. People were afraid to get tested because if the test came up positive, they couldn’t go to work, which meant they wouldn’t be able to pay their bills, wouldn’t be able to feed their kids.

“We have people living precariously on the edge of destitution.

“And we shouldn’t be treating humans this way. Workers should have a reliable income. Everyone should know that they’re going to be able to pay their bills at the end of the month.

“The knock-on effects would start to shift our conversations in society around what work is for, who benefits from work, where power is held and I think it would unquestionably boost our economy.

“We’ve committed to doing a pilot of the UBI in Scotland to understand better how that works because there’s a lot of questions around what is an appropriate level to set it at, how to measure universality. A pilot is a way to get some data on that.”

If individual policies are not the most important factor for voters, but instead independence, why should they pick Green over other pro-indy voices?

Ms Slater repeats the party message that Scots must vote “like their future depends on it”.

She says the Greens have helped deliver important concessions from government, such as free school meals for all primary pupils, free bus travel for those aged 21 and under, stopping Covid evictions and stopping fracking.

“We have had a pro-Scottish independence majority in the Scottish Parliament this entire last term thanks to the Scottish Greens,” she says, “and I fully expect that thanks to the Scottish Greens we will have a pro-independence majority in the next parliamentary term.

“We are a pro-independence party who have a long track record of achievement.”

Ms Slater says despite the divisions on independence and other policies, she was heartened that Labour, Greens and the SNP are committed to creating a national care service. And four of five parties are committed to supporting trans rights and Gender Recognition Act reform.

And all parties agree something needs to be done about climate change - they just differ on how to do it.

In a minority government, the Greens can hold the balance of power. But what if they won all the power? How would Ms Slater and co-convener Patrick Harvie be joint first ministers for all voters, not just Green ones? They’d give away power.

“Decisions should be made as close to and ideally by those who are affected by them,” says Ms Slater. “That’s radical local democracy, making sure that local councils and even community councils are properly empowered to make decisions so people really have a say in what happens to them.

“Government from a distance is barely government by consent.

“The best way I could be hypothetical first minister or politician for everyone is I will give you the powers.

“I will do everything I can to stop centralisation and devolve those powers out closer to you.”

On May 6, and in postal votes now, the power rests with voters.