Election 2019

General election 2019: 'This has to be a climate election' - Harvie

Patrick Harvie
Image caption Patrick Harvie said money was the "principal barrier" to the Scottish Greens standing more candidates

Climate change "has to be" a central issue in December's general election, Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie has said.

The Scottish Greens have candidates standing in 22 of Scotland's 59 seats, up from three in 2017.

Mr Harvie accepted Brexit, independence and who becomes prime minister were all key topics in the race, but said it "has to be a climate election too".

And he said the Greens were the only ones "joining the dots" on the issue.

Mr Harvie was the latest party leader to take part in an interview and phone-in session on BBC Radio Scotland as part of the build-up to the election on 12 December.

The Greens only won one Westminster seat in 2017 - in Brighton, and the Scottish party only stood three candidates at that poll.

Mr Harvie said the first-past-the-post electoral system used in Westminster polls was a "tough gig for the Greens", adding that the "principal barrier" to the party standing more candidates was money.

However, he told the Good Morning Scotland programme that the party had "put pressure" on its rivals.

The Glasgow MSP said: "Every time we have a Westminster election, first-past-the-post almost bullies people into thinking it's a choice between two things, that it's a binary decision, and forces people to think about voting tactically. I understand why people do.

"The idea of a Boris Johnson majority is a deeply chilling threat and I hope people are thinking about how to prevent that threat."

Image caption Mr Harvie was the latest Scottish Party leader to take part in a radio interview and phone-in

He continued: "People also in Scotland are strongly motivated by the independence question.

"Some people want to stop a pro-independence majority, we'd like to see a pro-independence majority, and many people of course are also profoundly motivated by Brexit and how to stop that.

"The difficulty for everybody is that there's no single tactical voting strategy that achieves all three of those objectives everywhere across Scotland.

"What we have to do as the Scottish Green Party is say that these three things matter, but this has to be a climate election too."

'Demand climate action'

Mr Harvie said voters in seats where the Greens are not standing should push local candidates on environmental topics.

He said: "I think we've been successful so far in putting climate onto the agenda, forcing the others to respond to that critical emergency situation we're facing, and nobody else is yet joining the dots on that policy issue.

"We will continue that debate. Whatever the result of the UK election, our central slogan is to demand climate action.

"The best way to demand climate action is to vote for us in the 22 seats where we're standing, and the best way to demand climate action in the other seats, if you don't have a Green candidate, is to put pressure individually on whichever of the other candidates you're looking to vote for.

"Ask them if they're going to push their own parties beyond their comfort zone, because all those other parties are backing continual fossil fuel subsidies, and maximum oil and gas extraction is just not compatible with the climate emergency."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Climate issues have been at the forefront of public debate in recent months

The SNP's manifesto, launched on Wednesday, calls on the UK government to match the Scottish government's climate targets - including a net-zero emissions goal of 2045 - and to ring-fence oil and gas revenues to invest in a "new green energy deal".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: Scotland has the world's most ambitious emissions reductions targets, already enshrined in law. We are already generating in Scotland three quarters of our electricity from renewables.

"Using our influence, SNP MPs will demand the UK matches Scotland's ambition, meets its Paris Climate Agreement responsibilities and sticks to future EU emissions standards."

The Conservatives meanwhile have pledged to deliver on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, set up a £500m "blue planet fund" and invest in carbon capture storage and new nuclear technology.

At the party's Scottish manifesto launch on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would "set the pace in cutting CO2 and tackling climate change".

'Ambitious action'

Labour meanwhile has promised a "green industrial revolution" should the party win office, paving the way to a carbon-neutral economy by 2030.

Scottish leader Richard Leonard said: "At a time when our planet is on the very brink of climate catastrophe, bold and ambitious action is required. A vote for Labour is a vote for a rebalanced and sustainable economy with a plan, and a vote for Labour is a vote for the future of our planet."

The Scottish Lib Dems have said issues such as the environment can come to the fore once the big constitutional issues are settled.

Leader Willie Rennie said: "We can only build a brighter future for Scotland by stopping Brexit and stopping independence so that we can tackle the climate emergency, improve mental health services and expand childcare."

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