Comment & Opinion by Tom Scott, Cornwall Greens
“Let’s make Cornwall a truly Green peninsula”
You often hear people saying about political parties: “They’re all the same, really.”
It’s a perception that’s put a lot people off politics altogether – and there’s an element of truth in it, at least when it comes to the parties that have been governing (or misgoverning) our country in recent years.
But the Green Party really is different, not just because it offers fresh thinking on a whole range of issues, but also because of the way Greens do politics and make policies.
At the heart of all Green policies is the idea of social and environmental justice. For Greens, economic, social and environmental wellbeing are inextricably linked. When people and the natural world are treated merely as resources to be exploited for profit, this leads to environmental destruction, gross inequality and human misery.
And when political parties see voters and even their own members merely as resources to be exploited in order to gain power, this leads to cynicism and disengagement with the political process.
For the Green Party – nationally and locally – meaningful politics can’t be a top-down process, with policies made by an elite of professional politicians and then imposed on other people, whether they like them or not.
At national level, all our policies are decided on by our full membership, who are invited to take part in our Spring and Autumn conferences each year, where our policies are made.
At local level, Cornwall Greens decide how best to translate our national policies into a platform that focuses on the issues most relevant to the people of Cornwall. And here too, all local members are invited to get involved by having their say at regular meetings and at events like the Cornwall Greens Conference held in Truro in January.
So if you voted Green in the Cornwall Council elections in May, what would you be voting for? Well, here’s what we see as most important priorities:
- Building stronger, fairer and more sustainable communities. This means, for example, encouraging co-operatives, community-owned companies and local credit unions, helping to keep the benefits of investment in Cornwall. It means supporting local businesses rather than outsourcing Council contracts to big corporations that siphon money out of our communities. It means fighting to protect essential public services and vulnerable people against destructive budget cuts to care services, community facilities and leisure spaces, and coming up with creative solutions that preserve and build on such facilities for the future – something that Greens have been doing across Cornwall, from finding ways to involve the community in keeping libraries open to creating a skate park for young people in Wadebridge.
- Reaping the benefits of renewable energy. Cornwall has a fantastic opportunity to be at the forefront of the shift to a low-carbon economy. As our excellent Green MEP Molly Scott Cato showed in a recent report, renewables have the potential to generate 160% of Cornwall’s energy needs, become a major export for the region and create thousands of jobs locally. We’d do everything we can to promote renewable energy projects that generate electricity for on-site use and sale via the national grid, with the money generated flowing back into local communities. A great example is Wadebridge Community Energy Network, which Green Councillor Amanda Pennington helped to set up.
- Providing affordable housing while protecting the natural environment. We believe there’s much more that can and should be done to help local people find housing that they can afford and close the ever-widening divide between the property haves and have-nots. Cornwall Greens support restrictions on the proliferation of second-home ownership, like the one recently introduced in St Ives. We’d aim to break the stranglehold of the big developers by helping smaller builders, community groups and individuals build genuinely affordable homes and renovate more empty homes – and make sure that such homes are built to high standards of energy efficiency. We’re also strongly in favour of measures to tackle the exploitative landlords who have taken over so much of the housing stock in towns such as Falmouth and Penryn, and to ensure that there are stronger protections in place for renters.
- Reliable, affordable public transport is an essential part of tackling the social and economic challenges that face so many communities in Cornwall. Green Cornwall Councillor Tim Andrewes is vice-chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Transport Board and also chairs the Cornwall Bus Network Steering Group. In these roles, he’s been working hard on a joined-up transport policy for Cornwall that will help tackle the dearth of local transport that affects so many people. We’re also determined to encourage low-carbon transport – by introducing more cycle lanes and making them safer, and by increasing the number of charging points for electric cars, for instance.
- Genuinely local decision-making. In principle, Greens believe that local people know what’s best for their areas – which is one reason we support the idea of a Cornish Assembly. But we’re highly sceptical of the so-called ‘devolution’ of powers that has been offered to Cornwall by the Tory government, which looks much more like a cynical exercise in cost-cutting by central government. Meaningful devolution shouldn’t just mean more control over budgets, but also being able to say no to destruction of Cornwall’s natural environment and to unaffordable housing built by exploitative developers, for instance.
Cornwall Greens are already very much involved in fighting for a fairer, more sustainable Cornwall. Our many town and parish councillors are doing a great job, and in May we’ll be putting forward candidates in wards all across Cornwall. They’ll be standing on a platform that offers voters a distinctive and positive vision for Cornwall’s future.
Cornwall is sometimes called ‘the Green Peninsula’. We want to turn that into more than just an empty phrase.