Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Shahrar Ali
08 August 2023
The Greens are doing politics differently,  but not in a good way

Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie | Picture: Alamy

The Greens are doing politics differently, but not in a good way

I had the pleasure of meeting Robin Harper in my early years of Green Party activism. He comes over just as his portrait smiles would suggest, a kind-hearted soul who is in politics for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones.

We’ve both seen the culture of the Green Party change in recent years, either side of the border. The boast of our respective media departments that “Greens do politics differently” rings hollow to me. We may well do, but by God, not in a good way.

Last October 2022, the Scottish Greens suspended formal ties with the Green Party of England and Wales, citing “transphobic rhetoric and conduct” among office-holders of GPEW.

But allegations of transphobia have been falsified and increasingly weaponised in an attempt to silence people wanting to have rational discussion about policy or legislation where the rights of women or safeguarding of children, especially, are at stake. Nor do trans people benefit from the toxic cocktail of innuendo, hyperbole and misrepresentation created by their self-professed allies.

On the day of Harper’s resignation, I ran a Twitter poll to test his contention that the Scottish Greens had “lost the plot”: 97 per cent agreed. He has since shared greater insight into one of his core grievances, the refusal of his party to entertain mature debate on gender identity legislative reform.

Harper recounts an episode after he shared doubts with a party colleague, informally, about the Scottish Greens’ trajectory: “The next thing I knew was that he had reported the conversation to the party’s standards committee, who issued an admonitory letter and commanded my attendance at a meeting to talk things through.”

This is the Kafkaesque world into which Green politics has descended. The Greens are at the extreme end of this authoritarian subversion and they do so with a moral sanctimony that the Left does so well. I and many of my colleagues in the Green Party have had to face down vexatious complaints alleging “transphobia”.

It is not transphobia that is the problem in our party but transphobia smear campaigns and their going unchecked. If my record in an institutionally biased system is anything to go by, the fact that I am still a member of good standing is testament to just how confected the weaponised complaints against me have been – that they would crumble under the sheer weight of cross-examination.

By contrast, I have had complaints upheld with consequence: three members suspended as a result of their transphobia smear campaigns, including an obsessive from the Scottish Green Party who used their rights as a joint member in an attempt to subdue me. Very senior Scottish Green politicians have also made representations about me to my own party.

I have looked on with dismay at the refusal of Green politicians either side of the border to call out or condemn clear violations of the civil rights of women self-organising to voice their political concerns.

Take the deafening silence, in March this year, when pictures went viral of a 70-year old woman brutally punched in the face by a protester in Auckland. Deafening silence again, last month, when Sarah Jane Baker is alleged to have incited hatred and violence towards women from the stage of a trans rights rally in London.  

I will not be silenced or refuse to speak out on behalf of other brave souls or children. I have continued to suffer unrelenting abuse and discrimination, too.

An organised campaign against me, facilitated or perpetrated by members, officers and Green Party elected representatives at the highest level, led to the removal of my national spokesperson role last year. This is now the subject of litigation: all will be revealed, when my gender critical discrimination case comes to trial in a few weeks. Greens Emma Bateman and Dawn Furness are also bringing cases to follow mine.

While the planet is burning, the Green Party is in no fit state to meet this challenge politically. Our parties, either side of the border, have become grotesque, unsafe spaces internally. Members have been suspended and expelled out of proportion to their alleged crimes, even when their behaviour may have been found wanting. The more determined ones are turning to the courts, at great personal cost to themselves and their family lives.

Last week saw the launch of a new campaign Green Declaration for Women’s Sex-Based Rights, initiated by members and supporters of the Green Party. People need a political space to be able to voice their concerns rationally, to be able to mobilise and construct good legislative proposals.

The Green Party used to be that space and can become so once more, but only once the current state of oppression which Harper, others and I have identified is overcome.

Shahrar Ali is a former deputy leader of the Green Party

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top