No Country for Green Men - Spectator Blogs

16 January 2013

This week’s Think Scotland column takes a gander, just for once, at the Scottish Green party. Patrick Harvie’s party is in favour of Scottish independence for reasons that, frankly, seem pretty damn unconvincing. I suspect that the Greens, like those parts of the far-left that also favour independence, are liable to be desperately disappointed by life in an independent Scotland and that they will come to realise that it is not much better than their present miserable existence within the United Kingdom.

Harvie, of course, rejects the label “nationalist”. He is, he insists, no such thing and you don’t need to be a nationalist to favour independence. Well, maybe not. But you’re still, quite evidently, aiding a nationalist project.

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Anyway, here’s the piece.

Now the Greens can believe what they want to believe and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, however well-intentioned, Patrick Harvie’s article, posted on the Yes Scotland website, reveals a case for independence predicated upon a quantity of wishful thinking that’s remarkable even by the debased standards of Holyrood parliamentarians. I do not doubt his good intentions but I fear his vision for an independent Scotland is a triumph of optimism over experience. Disappointment lurks around the corner, armed with the lead piping.

[…] What about energy? Mr Harvie asks: “So would independence change anything? Would an independent Scotland, so dependent on the oil industry, be capable of a truly Green approach to these resources?” I think we know the answer to this. (It is “No”.) Even the Green leader admits that “winning the argument for a different approach” will not be “easy”. He sees, however, “no prospect that the UK will be persuaded to do what needs to be done”. So the argument is this: ‘we’re losing at the UK level but we might have a better chance of winning in a smaller country even though that country is, relatively speaking, more dependent upon fossil fuel reserves than the larger country in which we are presently losing the argument’. OK!

Give the Greens some credit. Their policy preferences really are quite radical. They are hostile to where you want to shop (Tesco, Amazon etc) and they want an independent Scotland to leave North Sea oil unexploited. We should cease drilling in the north sea. Nor, obviously, should we explore, far less exploit, Scotland’s shale gas resources. This would, Mr Harvie says, allow Scotland to be “one of those countries showing the leadership that’s needed at this point in human history”.

The good news is that we won’t know how poor we’ve become because “As well as leaving fossil fuels unburned, we could be pioneering new approaches to economics, replacing the outdated and misleading GDP statistics with indicators showing the health and wellbeing of our population, the strength of our communities, the sharing of our wealth and the ecological limits we live within.” So that’s fine then.

How will this Green nirvana be paid for? Well, “We could challenge the free market extremism of the last few decades and find ways to ensure that the whole economy, including the wealthiest people and companies, are accountable and must contribute to the common good.” Soaking the rich is a perfectly respectable, time-honoured position. But what if the rich leave and there are no more wealthy people (or companies) to tax?

I’m not sure it can be said too often that the risks of capital and human flight from an independent Scotland are so high – not least because such flight would be so easy – that anyone who thinks taxation could be very much higher in Scotland than in the remainder of the United Kingdom is deluding themselves. A large part of the economic weather will still be made in London. We may not like this or think it helpful but we should at least have the courage to admit some reality into our debate.

Patrick Harvie can support independence for whatever reasons he likes. That’s his right and I certainly cast no aspersion on his good intentions. But I see no great reason to conclude that his hopes for an independent Scotland – and for the “transformation required if human beings are to live sustainably” (whatever that means) – are likely to actually happen.

Whole thing here.

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  • J. R. Tomlin

    Considering that you oppose Scottish independence for any and all reasons including the right of Scots to run their own affairs, why should anyone be surprised? Or take your opinion seriously?

    • Wessex Man


      Who are you addressing Alex Massie or Eddy?

  • Eddie

    He sounds just like one of those millionaires who’d give half their fortunes to see Scotland independent – and who would then take the other half with them out of the country if Scotland ever did become a separate country!
    It seems every pipe dreamer going is hitching a ride on the back of the great snail of Scottish independence – not caring much that it’d be crushed under the invisible foot of capitalism and globalisation very soon after it reached its destination.
    In this, Scottish nationalists share the absurdity of Islamists who argue that the world would be so much better if it were run as a caliphate on Islamic lines. No matter how one argues that it would be far worse, they insist it would be utopia – and because they are imagining a state of being that has never existed, can more or less create whatever predicted fiction of a future they want.

    • MichtyMe

      I think we will have all noted Eddie your abundant comments at this place, wherein you finely articulate the dysfunctional, utterly failing, going to the dogs state of the UK/England. I think I shall vote Yes to avoid that alarming and uncertain future and anticipate if not utopia, something less bad.

      • Eddie

        And the point of your post is?
        By the way, you have posted 487 times, laddie – so it seems your opinions have the same Salmondy tang of hypocrisy shared by so many leftie fans of racist bigoted English-nating Scottish nationalism who crave independence for its own sake (and their vainglorious arrogance) – and not the benefit of any people north or south of the border.
        Perhaps you should move to Cuba or Venezuela? Or perhaps Albania – that’d get you used to the way an independent Scotland would look after 20 years of faffing up its own affairs (the examples of Norway and Sweden is often cited – but really, does anyone imagine Scotland would look like that when its people’s psyche is so utterly different?)

        • MichtyMe

          Whether I agree or not with Salmond I feel I should defend him of a accusation of “bigoted English- hatred”

          Salmond is a Nationalist, a Scots nationalist in particular, but as a nationalist he is of course an enthusiast for English independence, sovereignty, culture and identity, just as he is for all nations.

          The enemies of England and englishnes lie not to your north but rather with the metropolitan political and governing elites.

          • Eddie

            Oh aye laddy – Salmond is a great lover of the English and wants to liberate them, just like Hitler wanted to liberate the jews and give them lovely new living space… Such compassion and warmth shown…
            Get real, son. Salmond is agood ole fashioned bigot and racist who hates the English – and who has been doing so for decades despite the English subsiding Scotland massively, giving the scottish 10% more public spending per head than the English, and even bailing out the Bank of Scotland too.
            Scotland a nation? Well really it is a collection of different tribes: the Scots (ie Irish), the Picts, the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, and perhaps Celts (though their existence is moot). The lowlands of Scotland have nothing in common with the cities, and the highlands too are a different nation really, with the western Isles another. Scotland is a nation cobbled together and given a fake fabricated history and culture by English Victorians mostly.
            Moreover – and this is the killer blow for Scots nationalists – the DNA tests on Scots and English whites however show no massive difference. The land now called Scotland is a nation of immigrants anyway, so most nationalist rantings of the tartan ticklers makes any sense at all.

            • MichtyMe

              I see, Eddie the British multiculturalist for whom nationhood does not exist.

            • North_Sea_tiger


              I’m feeling the love.

              I presume you are one of these people that would like us to say No to Independence and to stay with the Union.

              is this your best effort or do you have more fine words in the locker?

            • undergroundman14

              “the DNA tests on Scots and English whites however show no massive difference.”
              What do you mean Scots and Englsh “whites”? Being Scottish or English MEANS being white! You don’t need to say it twice. It’s like says black Zulus and Bantus.

            • Gayle Miller

              Are you secretly working for the YES campaign? Such ignorance and blatant lies, one has to wonder.

        • North_Sea_tiger

          Cuba, eh?

          It doesn’t seem to be doing Brian Wilson any harm…

          “Havana Energy’s partnership with Cuba aims to develop the country’s renewable energy resources and contribute to its economic well-being, energy self-sufficiency and environmental objectives. I look forward to a long and successful relationship.”

          Rt Hon. Brian Wilson
          Chairman, Havana Energy

    • North_Sea_tiger

      He sounds just like one of those millionaires who’d give half their fortunes to see Scotland independent – and who would then take the other half with them out of the country if Scotland ever did become a separate country!

      Anyone in particular in mind, Eddie?

      It seems that we in Scotland are not allowed to dream of better things without being disparaged by the likes of yourself.

      Six months ago I was a don’t know, now, thanks to a tsunami of negativity and bile from naysayers, I am firmly in the YES camp and only yesterday made two new converts, one of whom was previously a definite NO.

      Vote YES in 2014.

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