In this series of guest blogs, we ask the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. First up is Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party.
This year’s St Andrews Day anti-racism rally comes at a time when the normalisation of far right views is a threat to us all.
We have just seen US midterm elections plumb new depths in overtly racist and homophobic campaigning. Far right parties have made unprecedented gains in elections across Europe. Closer to home, the BBC has defended giving a platform to Steve Bannon at its NewsXchange event in Edinburgh.
We should be in no doubt that providing an audience for extremist views enables their cause and emboldens to those seek to commit or justify horrific acts, such as the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
At our annual conference in Glasgow last month, Scottish Greens overwhelmingly backed a new policy motion on challenging the far right.
Developed by members, our policy seeks both to directly challenge the politics of hate and tackle the conditions that allow it to grow. That means reversing the economic and social inequalities that the far right manipulate to further their aims.
In this context, we must also recognise the starkest warnings yet of the risk of climate breakdown, which will have a huge impact as a multiplier of extremism unless we change course urgently and radically.
We call for action at every level, from better legal protections and more comprehensive policing of far right activity, to intervention in the education system, through local communities and online.
We must also call-out those who use a pretence of free speech while shutting down others’ freedoms and spreading hate. Freedom of speech and association are cornerstones of our democracy but they cannot be allowed to become the means by which the far right destroy that democracy.
We can be proud of Scotland’s story of resistance. We should applaud the First Minister for refusing to take part in the NewsXchange event. We should reflect on how we collectively rebuffed the advances of UKIP and how the articulation of a positive, inclusive vision for Scotland – which I believe the Greens have contributed to – followed through to a resounding Remain vote.
And we should celebrate that, this summer, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the visit of Donald Trump, while others mobilised to act as a human shield against asylum seeker evictions proposed by Serco as part of the UK Government’s Hostile Environment agenda.
But we cannot afford any complacency in the face of a resurgent far right and the continuation of austerity.
That is why as Greens we’ll be proud to join other progressive forces at this year’s St Andrews Day rally, sending a clear message to the far-right that we will not allow their hate to spread and showing solidarity with our fellow citizens at home and around the world.
Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here.