General election 2024: Former Lothian Green MSP Robin Harper joins Labour and criticises his old party

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Former Lothian Green MSP Robin Harper has joined the Labour Party and is urging voters to back Labour’s Ian Murray in Edinburgh South.

The 83-year-old veteran environmentalist said Labour was the only party with a plan to combat climate change and harness the potential of the “green industrial revolution”.

Robin Harper has written a letter to voters in Edinburgh South, urging support for Labour’s Ian MurrayRobin Harper has written a letter to voters in Edinburgh South, urging support for Labour’s Ian Murray
Robin Harper has written a letter to voters in Edinburgh South, urging support for Labour’s Ian Murray | x

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Mr Harper became the first Green parliamentarian to be elected anywhere in the UK when he won a Lothian regional list seat in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999. He went on to serve three full terms before standing down in 2011.

But he resigned his life membership of the Scottish Greens in 2023, claiming the party had moved too far to the left and voicing concerns about its stance on transgender issues.

In his letter to voters in Edinburgh South - which will be delivered to thousands of homes in the constituency - he praises Labour’s proposal to create a publicly-owned energy company GB Energy, and its Warm Homes Plan to insulate thousands of homes..

In it, he says: “I’m Robin and I was previously the leader of the Scottish Green Party and the party’s first ever MSP in the Scottish Parliament. I want to tell you why I’ve joined the Scottish Labour Party and why I’m supporting Ian Murray at the general election.

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“I have dedicated my life to the environment and to halting climate change. In 1985, I held the first Green Party AGM in my flat, when we only had 35 members. 

“We are projected to go well beyond the Paris targets of 1.5°C and climate scientists have  warned that face a ‘semi-dystopian’ future. You can see the damage already being done in Edinburgh, with massive flooding disruption and record temperatures being broken. 

“I desperately want to see the back of this Conservative government, who have crashed our economy, degraded our political life and failed to tackle climate change.

“The SNP, and until recently their Green coalition partners, have also failed to take action on the environment. John Swinney has failed to rule out supporting new oil and gas licences and the SNP have rejected Labour’s calls for a windfall tax on record oil and gas profits. 

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“Tory and SNP inaction on a just transition to renewable energy not only fails to tackle climate  change, it fails to take advantage of the economic opportunities and fails to bring down bills amidst a cost of living crisis that has hit thousands of constituents in Edinburgh South.  Labour is the only party with a plan for combatting climate change and harnessing the potential of the green industrial revolution.

“Our plans for GB Energy, a publicly-owned energy company, will deliver clean energy by 2030 and, with our Warm Homes Plan to insulate thousands of homes, will create 69,000 jobs in Scotland alone. Investment in renewable energy would be paid for by a windfall tax on the oil and gas giants making record profits during a cost-of-living crisis, something that the SNP oppose.”

He says the last Labour government exceeded its emissions reduction targets set at the Kyoto Protocol, ensured that 98 per cent of beaches met cleanliness standards and took measures to protect the natural world, like banning fox hunting and fur farming. 

He praises Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South since 2010, for “working tirelessly in the environmental interests of constituents”.

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And he concludes: “This election provides us with a now-or-never opportunity to remove the Tories from power and end the chaos, failure and inaction that has marked their fourteen years in government. Only Labour is able to do this across the UK and only Labour has a plan to halt environmental destruction.”

Mr Murray said: “Robin is one of the most respected parliamentarians of the devolution era. His decision to join the Scottish Labour Party demonstrates that we are the only party with a clear plan to deliver on Scotland’s green potential.

“At this election, only a vote for Scottish Labour is a vote to remove the Tories from power, and I’m delighted that Robin is helping our campaign to make sure we get the Tories out and deliver the change Scotland needs.”

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