Talking Point: The Others
Smaller parties, it has to be said, have it tough.
They have to scrap for every piece of media attention they can get but then look on as every spit and cough from the conferences of the ‘big beasts’ gets air time.
When election time comes around and they stretch their meagre budgets to cover the costs of a run of leaflets, they then tear their hair out in despair as the better established parties are followed by a hungry press pack and their own political manifestos are reduced to just a few lines.
Don’t let’s even get on to televised debates – they certainly won’t.
I have worked in newsrooms when election coverage is discussed and there has been much shifting of feet and looking at the floor when the subject of the smaller candidates comes up, those who represent a minority interest or are campaigning on a single issue…basically, the ones we don’t think will win.
Even their supporters get a tough time, with their electoral choice met with a dismissive “why waste your vote?”
And when the fun is all over, the performance is summed up by a grey block at the end of the results, filed under Others.
Party conference season is already well under way with the UK Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative shindigs already over and the SNP’s in Perth still to come.
But in this the latest issue of Holyrood we have given over all the environment pages to one of those ‘others’, who have been part of the mix in the Scottish Parliament since its very start in 1999 and have weathered the storm when other smaller parties fell in the 2007 and 2011 elections, the Scottish Greens.
While the SNP’s rise to prominence in the last two parliamentary elections was an incredibly significant moment in the short history of Holyrood, it killed off the alternative style of parliament that the Scottish Socialists, Greens, Senior Citizens and Margo MacDonald could have offered.
This year the Greens’ conference is held in Inverness, at Eden Court. The venue has been the choice of many a party gathering in recent years and at previous SNP conferences, overspill rooms have been set up because the auditorium was full.
While the Green membership won’t quite stretch to that, whether by quirk of fate or design, it seems to be sending a message that they at least see themselves on an even footing.