Patrick Harvie slams Corbyn’s immigration stance at Green conference

Caitlin Logan

Green co-convener hits out at Labour for failing to offer alternative to Tory Brexit “path to destruction”

SCOTTISH GREENS national co-convener Patrick Harvie used his party conference speech on Saturday to offer harsh criticism of Labour, hitting out at leader Jeremy Corbyn for “blaming foreign workers for low wages”.

The Scottish Greens held their Spring conference in Greenock on 17 March, one week on from Scottish Labour’s conference in Dundee where Corbyn spoke of the need for Brexit to stop the importation of cheap labour being used to drive down wages.

Harvie suggested in his keynote speech on Saturday that many Labour supporters who were once excited by Corbyn’s rise to power will have been “dismayed to hear him in Dundee, defying the facts, blaming foreign workers for low wages”.

He continued: “Greens know that the exploitation of people’s labour is rife in today’s economy, and getting worse. But we know also that we have a responsibility not to pit one group of exploited workers against another, but to take that fight to the employers who’re taking advantage of them all.”

READ MORE: We will continue to lead the change’: Scottish Greens highlight their influence at Spring conference

Harvie made clear that the Scottish Green Party was vociferously opposed to leaving the EU, and criticised Labour for failing to offer a strong opposition. He said: “These are extraordinary times, with an emergency Continuity Bill, squabbles between governments, and a fundamental assault on devolution.

“The reasons to oppose Brexit are stronger now than in 2016, not least the consequences for our friends and colleagues on the island of Ireland, the evidence of the economic harm that will be caused, and the threat to our social, environmental and workplace standards from the Brexit Ultras who have campaigned for years for a bonfire of the regulations.

“The Brexit crisis is made worse by a main opposition party at UK level seemingly incapable of offering a real alternative to this path to destruction.”

Earlier this month, the Scottish Greens announced their intentions to work alongside their European Green counterparts to campaign for the UK to re-join the EU after Brexit.

Harvie also pointed to the progressive influence of the Greens on the Scottish Government, and said the party intended to block next year’s budget if the SNP will not reform the model of funding for local councils. “The outdated and unfair Council Tax must go, and we need to see genuine decentralisation within Scotland,” he said.

He went on: “In the Holyrood election we were the only party to propose real reform of income tax, with more rates and bands to increase revenue while protecting people on low incomes, and at the end of this month, that’s exactly what comes into force.

READ MORE: Recapturing energy of 2014 top of Green agenda, co-convener says

“The Green budget deal also means more low carbon investment, a community rail fund, no aviation tax cuts, funding for Orkney & Shetland ferries, a fairer pay rise for public sector staff and new marine protected areas.”

The Green co-convener and MSP also highlighted the party’s plans to push the Scottish Government further in other policy areas, including the forthcoming Climate Change Bill, in which the Greens hope to see a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Harvie added: “Our MSPs will continue to push new laws to give children equal protection from assault, create safer streets with lower speed limits and properly ban fox hunting as the SNP dither over fundamental animal welfare issues.

“And we will continue to lead the opposition to the SNP’s unwanted and unnecessary education governance reforms, instead pushing for investment in the staffing and resources our schools need.”

“With further attacks on Scotland’s budget expected to come from the UK Government in the years to come, we cannot simply keep pushing the pressure down the chain to our councils and our local communities. New, local fiscal freedoms are urgently needed and would stand us in better stead to face the future.”

READ MORE: ‘Council Tax has to go’: Patrick Harvie on tax reform and a new philosophy for local government

The conference also heard from the party’s other national co-convener, Maggie Chapman, Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer, MEP for the Green Party in England and Wales Jean Lambert, and Steven Agnew, leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland.

In a video message, leader of the Irish Green Party, Eamon Ryan TD, a member of the Irish parliament, expressed his solidarity with the Green movement in Scotland and across the UK, and argued for the need to work together to minimise the harm of Brexit. He said: “After twenty years of living without a border on the island of Ireland, we’re not going to return to the old ways.

“The people of Ireland don’t want Brexit – it’s the last thing our island needs and we will work with those in Britain who understand the gravity of the situation to avoid this potential catastrophe.

“We in the Green Parties of these islands have a real strength, being part of not just a British and Irish but a European and global movement, with a strong and growing presence in the European and national parliaments across our continent.

“We are ideally placed to work together in avoiding the harm Brexit will do to the peoples of the UK and Ireland if the current course is continued.”                                     

Picture courtesy of North East Greens

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