A Highlands and Islands MSP has warned that Scotland’s rural economy will be put at risk if the Scottish Greens are given the opportunity to influence the Scottish Government.
Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron issued his warning after a letter was sent last week by a dozen organisations including gamekeepers and moorland groups to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning a SNP-Green deal would ‘tear apart’ rural jobs.
Mr Cameron said: “Essentially the Scottish Greens are an urban-based party with little interest or understanding of what makes rural Scotland tick. It’s no wonder so many rural organisations have expressed their alarm at the talks between the Greens and SNP, leading to the very real possibility of the Greens exerting even more influence over government policy."
“We simply cannot afford to lose jobs and livelihoods in often fragile coastal and rural communities where there are few, if any, alternative sources of year-round employment. Rural Scotland must not be sacrificed to the political interests of the SNP, who failed to win a majority in May, and are now left scrabbling around for the support of a fringe party like the Greens.”
Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater said on Good Morning Scotland today that businesses need to be realistic and cannot continue to run businesses that damage the planet. She also admitted she didn’t know where Scotland’s fish farms were, despite wanting to end open cage fish farming.
A transcript of the GMS segment is below:
Gary Robertson: It's 8 weeks since the Holyrood election and discussions are still ongoing between the SNP and the Greens over how they can cooperate in government. It comes as salmon farmers are warning Green party involvement could have a catastrophic effect on their industry. The Greens want to phase out open cage fish farms, but it is not clear if their aquaculture plans will be included in cooperation talks with the SNP. Well, our political editor Glenn Campbell has been looking at where the talks are. Morning to you, Glenn.
GR: So, what are some of those in the rural economies worried about?
Glenn Campbell: Yeah, it is not just salmon farmers, fishing, farming, game management interests wrote to the First Minister last week, warning that Green influence in government could have a devastating impact on the rural economy. In the case of the salmon industry, I've been hearing their concerns directly from Anne Anderson of Scottish Sea Farms on a visit to their sixteen-cage site at Scallastle on the south of Mull.
Anne Anderson: This is an open pen farm; they wish to shut open pen farms. This will have a catastrophic effect on the Scottish salmon farming and really worryingly the basis for making such devastating conclusion and impact on people.
GC: So, the question is, are they right to be worried? That is one I put to Lorna Slater, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens.
Lorna Slater: I don't want workers to worry. We want to put in place jobs guarantees, just transition plans, build up sustainable environmentally friendly industries, so that we know that people will not lose their livelihoods and their incomes. Business owners need to be realistic; they cannot continue to run businesses that damage the planet, that put in danger wildlife and habitats. We have to have a sustainable system.
GC: Now the salmon farming industry say they are already at low carbon, relatively low carbon form of protein production and that they are working hard to reduce their environmental impact and they challenged the Greens to come and see the improvements they are making. It seems the Scottish Greens have been reluctant to engage previously, so I asked Lorna Slater if she would accept the invitation to see for herself.
LS: I don't actually know where the fish farms are, they are up in Shetland and Orkney perhaps or maybe on the coast?
GC: All the West Coast.
LS: Well, yeah I think that would probably be a good trip for me to do, to go and see a fish farm, I'd enjoy that.
GC: But you remain committed to phasing out open cage fish farming?
LS: Well, we are coming into this with what's in our Manifesto. So, at the moment we are absolutely supporting what's in our Manifesto and we are not committing to any particular policy area, what we are going to do or not do. We want to get as much of our Manifesto implemented as we possibly can.
GC: It is not clear from talking to the Greens or to the Scottish Government whether or not aquaculture will be specifically featured in any agreement they might reach. I think it is fair to say that the SNP is unlikely to swallow whole the Green's policy in this area, because they are quite keen on salmon farming. Although, they have talked about reforming the regulation of the sector.
GR: So, where are these talks between the Greens and the SNP going?
GC: Well, they are not going anywhere in a hurry. It has taken some weeks for the two sides to identify the six key areas that they are going to focus on. These are Covid recovery, climate change, the constitution, public services, infrastructure, and equalities. And the talks continue and enter a new phase today where for the first time individual SNP Ministers will sit down with the Greens to have more detailed conversation about the policy areas for which they are responsible. The Greens are taking advice from their sister party in New Zealand who share power with Jacinda Ardern's Labour administration and the co-leader of the New Zealand Greens is James Shaw.
JS: We have now demonstrated pretty forcefully that despite its frustrations and constraints in the compromises that you have to make and sometimes the dead rat that you have to swallow in government, that actually we were able to make advances on climate change, on housing, on oceans, on supporting those that are kind of locked out of the economy, significantly more in the three and a half years that we have been in government than we were able to do in the twenty years that we were in opposition.
GC: So, that is what might be in it for the Greens, but it is clear they may have to live with some aspects of SNP policy they don't like. The dead rat, what are they, I asked Lorna Slater.
LS: Personally, the maximum extraction of oil and gas. That is absolutely a problem.
GC: Could you have a cooperation agreement with a party that didn't budge on that?
LS: It is as they said, we would, if any areas where we cannot find an agreement, where we cannot find a good cooperation, we would just leave those out of the cooperation agreement and we would continue to be opposition, a vocal and constructive opposition in those areas.
The letter from gamekeeper organisations last week is here: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/politics/scottish-politics/3258256/nicola-sturgeon-told-green-snp-deal-could-tear-apart-rural-jobs/