AS the planet burns, extreme weather increases, and the Hawaiian death toll mounts, mainstream politics across the developed world is framing green ideas and politics as dangerous and fanatical, with hard-pressed voters being caught in the crossfire.

This is true in an extreme form in the US Republican Party – beholden not just to Trumpianism but also to the fossil fuel industry. In the UK the desperate Tory Party under Rishi Sunak is prepared to attack “extremist” green politics, while Keir Starmer guts his commitment to Labour’s New Green Deal.

Things are not that different in Scotland. Little unites the Scottish political mainstream apart from detestation of all things Scottish Green – and, by association, any serious championing of green ideas.

This can be seen in the jockeying and positioning in the SNP post-Sturgeon. Fergus Ewing may be an outlier, but he is just saying more outlandish versions of what others such as Kate Forbes and Joanna Cherry are stating: that the Scottish Greens are somehow dangerous, other worldly and dragging the SNP down (which conveniently ignores the fact that the SNP have brought many of their problems on themselves).

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The Ewing et al rationale appears to be that they are breaking with conventional wisdom to challenge “woke groupthink” which has gained traction by stealth. But in reality the opposite is true: they are reinforcing the lazy assumptions which have defined the global economic and social order and its most powerful vested interests, and fed the ongoing crisis of the planet and its ecosystem.

All of which is validated by prominent voices in the Scottish political commentariat such as Alex Massie, Euan McColm and Iain Macwhirter.

Ewing says the Scottish Greens are “wine bar revolutionaries”, a phrase he has used repeatedly. More telling, he has dismissed the Greens as “hard left extremists”, a Trumpian distortion of the English language – regularly used by parts of the right-wing Scottish press and commentariat. At the weekend, Ewing claimed the Greens are taking the SNP away from their traditional moorings and aiding its leadership to betray the party’s values.

Underlying these comments is a mistaken assumption that somehow the Greens are illegitimate in having MSPs, influence and any say in government. In 2021, the Greens won 220,324 votes (8.1%) on the regional list and eight MSPs; the SNP failed by one seat to win a majority and hence entered into an agreement with the Greens for a secure parliamentary majority, backed by 95% of SNP members.

The National: Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna SlaterScottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater

The likes of Ewing, Kate Forbes and Joanna Cherry want to deny all of the above and to revisit or rip up the agreement between the SNP and Greens, going against the express wishes of the membership of both parties. Cherry calls the Greens “totalitarian” – a Orwellian misuse of language and description of a party which is much more democratic in its internal processes than the SNP have been over the past decade.

There is a difference between Green politics and green ideas, and it is possible to question the former while championing the latter. Too much of the above commentariat conflates the two and wants touse attacking the former to jettison the latter.

Take the recent Edinburgh International Book Festival controversy over Greta Thunberg and Baillie Gifford, one of the sponsors of the festival, which caused Thunberg to pull out.

This brought forth a host of comments defending Baillie Gifford, including from the thoughtful playwright and Lyceum director David Greig who defended Baillie Gifford as “an object lesson in positive philanthropy” of the arts – a position surely influenced by their sponsorship of the Book Festival.

Underneath these controversies a number of factors are at play. First, there is the wider context of the backlash against green ideas and politics by a bankrupt politics and economics.

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The next UK General Election will see the Tories go hard against Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion as “unaccountable extremists” trying to hold voters to ransom with Labour in hock to them. One Tory insider said at the weekend that the scale of Tory mud and smear will be astronomic as they try to cling to office, predicting: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Second, in Scotland the consistent attacks on the Scottish Greens are used by some in the SNP, and outside it, to attack the direction of the nationalists. In this the Greens are a foil and catalyst for the current problems – drift and obvious lack of direction of the SNP which has become more apparent post-Sturgeon. And some in the SNP leadership are obviously comfortable with this state of affairs, using the Greens as a human shield to deflect criticism from themselves.

This is the immediate political environment, but something deeper is at work: a general lack of original thinking, insight and championing of new economic thinking across the Scottish political spectrum.

Labour in Scotland gave up on political economy decades ago; the SNP have never embraced a coherent economic case for independence beyond the Salmondite populism which informed the SNP case in 2014 – one case in point is the now abandoned SNP Growth Commission whose formal title was a Sustainable Development Commission and which contained a mere five lines on sustainability.

The existence of the Scottish Greens and their relative electoral success in Parliament and government reveals the inadequacies of other mainstream Scottish parties. It also underlines their lack of anything of substance on some of the biggest issues which define politics.

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This includes the nature of a capitalist economy failing millions of people across Scotland and the wider UK; the problematic nature of economic growth in a world of finite resources where trickle-down economics have been proven not to work, and where there are no politics or debate about redistribution and sustainability, net zero and the idea of a just transition.

All this links into a global debate about the limits of globalisation and its false promise of “linear optimism”, with its pretence that the world of tomorrow can always be a bigger version of today and that there can be no alternative future.

Underpinning the disparagement of the Scottish Greens and green ideas is the strength of conservative politics across the mainstream in Scotland, and the rhetorical pretence that this is not the case invoking a faux radicalism and anti-Toryism. This is particularly acute in the Labour Party and SNP, and in the mutual antagonism and hatred between the two.

Scotland’s conservative politics – in party politics and in policies and ideas – is the root problem, not the Greens.

A near-quarter century of the Scottish Parliament has revealed what should have been apparent pre-1999: the thin nature of our policy community; the retreat of civil society – much of it hollowed out by long-term trends such as the decline of trade unions and churches, or with NGOs and the voluntary sector an increasing dependence on government funding – and a lack of diverse voices challenging the ingrained Scottish consensus on economic and social issues.

The Scottish Greens are not perfect. They get things wrong and have made mistakes in government over issues including the Deposit Return Scheme and Highly Protected Marine Areas. Green ministers new to office have stumbled and Lorna Slater has had some awkward moments, but compared to the likes of Suella Braverman and many others she is trying to do the right thing and address big issues.

Thank goodness for the Scottish Greens for daring to be different, for asking questions others shy away from and posing an alternative to the narrow, fussy, conventional mainstream – which, when independence is taken out, is not that dynamic, radical or original. Ewing, Forbes and Cherry are part of the problem, not the solution.

The future, if we want to sustain humanity and the planet’s flora and fauna, has to be green.