ONE of the challenges of being a Scottish Greens voter is that we don’t always have the opportunity to vote for our preferred party.

Unlike other parties, the Greens don’t take huge donations from wealthy millionaires and there’s a simple reality that under the deposit system even just having the party on the ballot paper can cost a lot of money.

As a result, whether it’s in Westminster elections or Holyrood constituencies, often Greens like myself have to lend our vote to our second choice – and that can often be a tough decision.

It means that when I’m looking at what the SNP and Labour are doing, I’m doing so in the context of someone who is looking to be convinced by them that they are where my vote should go.

Data from last year’s local elections tells us that the majority of Green voters will lend their second preference to the SNP, with Labour then taking about 20% of Green second preferences.

I actually wish the Labour figure was higher – the challenge is, I’m just finding it so hard to be convinced by them that they offer a progressive vision for a better Scotland.

Labour should be my obvious second choice. My politics is driven by socialism and trade unionism – precisely the ideologies the Labour Party was founded to espouse. In fact, I was a card-carrying (albeit never active) member of the Labour Party as a teenager growing up in Gloucestershire during the Corbyn years.

I left shortly after moving to Scotland as I felt the Scottish Greens more accurately represented my views but even as a Green, the inspiration I felt from Labour’s 2019 Westminster election campaign genuinely filled me with hope for a better future. I was gutted by the result.

I feel no hope from the Labour Party today. I feel no inspiration. In fact, all too often, I feel betrayed. I felt betrayed when the party that’s supposed to stand up for working people U-turned on its position on tuition fees. I feel betrayed every time they try to outflank the Tories to the right on immigration.

I feel betrayed by their obsession with opposing independence, to the point that they would rather work with the Tories in local authorities across Scotland than the SNP and Greens that they clearly should have more in common with.

And I feel betrayed that the supposed “party of devolution” would rather sit on the fence than outright condemn the Tories’ recent attacks on Scottish democracy.

It’s perfectly clear that the UK Labour Party’s strategy is to make themselves as palatable as possible to current Tory voters while taking left-wing and progressive voters for granted.

They’re perfectly happy to abandon any principles or morals they once had if they think it’s going to attract racist conservatives in Middle England. A key example from just last week is the deplorable Home Office policy to ban most international postgraduate students from being able to bring their families with them while they study.

It’s a horrendous policy which is not only incredibly cruel but phenomenally self-destructive. It’s a policy which has been condemned by almost everyone in the education sector, including universities and students alike.

It’s a policy which will discourage huge numbers of international students – disproportionately women – from coming to the UK (including Scotland) to study.

Beyond just the cruel impact on the students themselves, the reality of the higher education funding model means it will have a huge financial impact on universities and a knock-on effect on the economy.

It's a classic example of a “culture-war” policy – one which all the evidence shows will make everything worse for pretty much everyone affected, but which makes a great headline to rile up the Tories’ racist voter base.

Despite the policy being objectively awful in almost every way, Labour shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock was eager to not only make clear Labour’s support for the policy but to criticise the Tories for not going far enough!

It’s utterly repulsive – a huge middle finger to students, to migrants, and frankly to anyone with an ounce of compassion or common sense.

Of course, Labour are doing fairly well in the polls right now, but it’s hard to give them the credit when their two key opponents – the Tories and the SNP – are mired in crises.

Their current levels of support might just be enough to get Starmer into Downing Street, but for support to actually be sustainable you can’t just rely on your opponents being in crisis. You have to offer a genuine alternative vision for the country, and I really struggle to see that from Labour just now.

I think Humza Yousaf has taken a very sensible approach in his leadership of the SNP by attempting to clearly outflank Labour to the left, and I hope that Scottish Labour will respond to that by taking on the challenge.

Labour could provide really strong, constructive, left-wing opposition to the SNP/Green government while offering a credible vision for an even more progressive Scotland that could inspire voters to vote for them.

The challenge for Scottish Labour, of course, is how they would tally up offering a progressive, left-wing party in Scotland, while their colleagues in Westminster offer up an agenda which is so right-wing it’s in many ways indistinguishable from that of the Conservatives.

And of course, Scottish Labour’s hard-line position on independence is a deal-breaker for so many voters. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who is opposed to independence, which I believe to be a perfectly legitimate position to take, even if it’s one I disagree with.

But I really struggle to respect any party or politician opposing the right of the Scottish people to have our say on the matter in a referendum. That’s not opposing independence – that’s opposing democracy.

Scottish Labour have huge potential as a party, but they can’t keep relying on their opponents tripping up – they need to offer a genuine, progressive vision for the country that left-wing voters can get behind and feel inspired by.

But for that to happen, they’re going to have to shake things up quite significantly internally – and sadly I’m just not sure there’s the appetite for anything more than the status quo.