Alison Johnstone: Empower the people to create a brighter future

GREEN Party tax plans would raise hundreds of millions to invest in services and build communities, says Alison Johnstone

Friday, 15th April 2016, 10:48 am
Updated Friday, 15th April 2016, 10:49 am
The Green Party manifesto was launched earlier this week. Picture: Colin Hattersley

THE big talking point in Edinburgh this week is the schools fiasco. It’s been a nightmare for parents trying to organise childcare but it also highlights a wider issue about public services and the choices made by those who control budgets.

Labour and the Lib Dems in government signed up to private finance schemes, first introduced by the Tories, in which cost was always going to trump other qualities. It was and still is a very short-sighted approach, especially when dealing with something as important as schools and hospitals – buildings in which our young are educated and in which our unwell and vulnerable are cared for. With ongoing austerity, it can be tempting to cut corners but that is a false economy. On the campaign trail across Lothian I’ve had plenty of conversations with folk who are concerned at the cuts to local services, and see the need for investment to protect their community from further damage.

I helped launch my party’s plans for Fair Funding for Public Services at the North Merchiston Community Club, a fantastic community resource which is suffering from funding cuts. It’s the place where, as a child, I learned judo, and on the day of the Green policy launch we joined dozens of youngsters having a whale of a time at an Enjoy A Ball session.

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The Green plan on income tax would ensure those earning less than £26,500 get to keep more of what they earn, while asking those on high salaries to pay a fairer share. We’d replace the outdated and unfair council tax with a property tax under which most households would pay less. Together these policies would raise additional hundreds of millions which could be invested in education, health and community facilities.

If we want to unlock the power in our communities we need to preserve and improve such facilities. We need greater local involvement in planning, health and other vital infrastructure decisions, such as those affecting green space and local sporting institutions.

I support equal rights of appeal in planning – where community groups get the same rights as developers. The current community campaign to transform a soon-to-be abandoned car park into a playing field, on the site of former Scottish Cup Winners St Bernard’s FC’s home ground in central Edinburgh is a great example of why power should rest with communities.

Last year, MSPs backed my amendments to the Community Empowerment Bill, giving the Scottish Government new powers to establish a fans’ legal right to buy their football clubs. I intend to keep up the pressure to ensure the government follows through.

By devolving power to community level we can give the next generation a bright future. With strong community facilities, green space for healthy living and investment in teaching staff and funding for college places, Scotland can ensure a better quality of life for our young people.

I’m looking forward to many more conversations on the campaign trail. I want to continue standing up for the communities of Edinburgh and Lothian region.

• Alison Johnstone is the Scottish Green Party candidate for Edinburgh Central and Lothian region