“We will not pursue growth for growth’s sake” – John’s speech in the debate on Scotland’s Economy

John spoke in today’s debate on Scotland’s economy on behalf of the Scottish Greens. The debate discussed this motion by the new Cabinet Secretary for the Economy:

Motion S5M-00212: Keith Brown, Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/05/2016
Taking Scotland Forward – Scotland’s Economy, Short Term Resilience and Long Term Opportunities

That the Parliament recognises the importance of a strong economy to underpin strong public services; recognises recent successes, such as Scotland securing more foreign development investment projects in 2015 than any other part of the UK outside London, but also acknowledges key challenges, including those facing the oil and gas industry and the renewables sector; supports a focus on improving productivity through innovation, investment, internationalisation and tackling inequality, and commits to take action in support of Scotland’s economy, including extending broadband, investing in infrastructure and building the skills and talents of Scotland’s people.

John’s speech is below. You can see it in the full debate transcript here, or watch it on YouTube here.

John Finnie:

The Scottish Government motion talks about “key challenges … facing the oil and gas industry,” and the Labour amendment alludes to the issue, as did the cabinet secretary in his opening speech. The Scottish Green Party sees the situation as a great opportunity. We believe that we must secure a strong and diverse economy for the future, and that the economy should offer security, jobs and decent livelihoods.

The oil and gas sector does not represent long-term security. Indeed, that is confirmed by the comments about fossil fuel investment that were made by Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England. It is certainly a fact that using a finite resource — which we cannot burn anyway — is not a route to a sustainable future. Therefore, we need a managed transition. The Scottish Government can play a pivotal role in that or we can let neoliberal forces shape the future for us — I think members know which option we in the Green Party would prefer.

The First Minister talked about legislating to establish a new and more testing target for 2020. We know that setting targets is not a problem for us; achieving them is, and we all share responsibility in that regard. Indeed, the First Minister talked about looking for support from across the Parliament for “the bold and sometimes controversial actions that we will need to take to meet that target.”

That is very exciting, and I look forward to that. We want boldness, and the Government will have support from the Scottish Green Party if its proposals are truly bold

The First Minister went on to talk about living “up to our moral obligations”.

As we know, those moral obligations are not just for Scotland or the rest of these islands. They are not even just for the continent. They are for the planet. It is important that we recognise that.

What there will not be support for from the Scottish Green Party is extolling a UK chancellor who has visited austerity, and all the grief that comes with it, on us in order to give bigger and bigger tax breaks to obscenely wealthy multinational corporations who go further and deeper for resources — resources that we cannot use anyway if we are genuinely concerned about those moral obligations.

As the First Minister said, there is “a massive economic opportunity”. We hope that the rationale for that comment was that the First Minister and her officials had digested the wonderful report commissioned by Green MSPs, “Jobs in Scotland’s New Economy”. She may not yet be using the language of the report, which talked about our opportunity to move “from energy colonialism to energy democracy”.

However, we all recognise that a transformation to a just, low-carbon economy is about reducing dependency on distant multinational corporations.

Frustrated as I am by the reduced time that I have been given for my speech, I will say that it is quite apparent that the Scottish Green Party uses different language. We will not pursue growth for growth’s sake. We recognise that, to enjoy a prosperous future, we must begin the transition to a sustainable green economy. We support Scotland’s diverse economy, with investment in sustainable industries and those that improve quality of life and reduce carbon emissions. We want an economy that prioritises fair pay and breaks the economics of austerity. We want the more equal society that — as a number of members have alluded to — the vast majority of us in here want.

We will support the Scottish Government motion at decision time. The motion talks about “strong public services” — there is a serious debate to be had about how those are to be funded—and “key challenges”. Most important, it talks about “tackling inequality”. If we go about the governorship of our economy in an appropriate way, we can have a more just and sustainable future.