THIS weekend the Scottish Greens will gather in Perth for our annual conference, feeling a combination of the enthusiasm from our Holyrood election result, the anticipation of record results in the local elections next May, and of course the determination to ensure that if Scotland gets the chance to vote again on independence, we get the result we need this time.

Recent Holyrood elections had been challenging for us, but thanks to the energy and creativity our huge influx of new members has brought we trebled our parliamentary group this year and only missed out by a whisker on our goal of winning seats in every region. Our new group of MSPs also has more influence in the new parliament – partly through better representation on the committees which do the bulk of Holyrood’s work, and partly because the SNP are once again a minority government and can’t simply expect everything to go their own way. The Scottish Parliament was supposed to be a place where political parties seek out their common ground and find ways to work together, instead of playing a “winner takes all” game.

That’s the way we’ve always tried to work, whether the government was a coalition, a minority or a majority. That combination of being constructive and challenging has got results, and in the new session I think we can do better than ever before.

We’ve certainly wasted no time in getting started.

So looking at the employment schemes which are about to be devolved, we developed proposals to ensure that Scottish agencies don’t pass information to the DWP which could facilitate the cruel and pointless sanctions regime. It took sustained campaigning on the issue, but eventually the SNP accepted our ideas, and many thousands of people will now be protected from the additional poverty, stress and ill health that sanctions cause.

On fracking, the vocal Tory support for this reckless industry might itself help to ensure the SNP dig their heels in and finally ban fracking, but it was a Green motion in Parliament which got Parliament to agree that fracking was “incompatible with Scotland’s low-carbon ambitions”. We’ll keep up the pressure to make sure that Ministers do the right thing, but we’ll also have the consistency to apply the same logic to shale gas imports, and other forms of fossil-fuel extraction. Scotland desperately needs to build a new economic future, and it must happen before the end of the fossil fuel age if we’re to avoid abandoning people who are reliant on this ill-fated industry.

Independence ‘most realistic’ way to remain in EU say Greens

There will be more issues in the coming months where we can work together with the minority government, but others where we’ll need to put them under pressure. For example there’s no support from the opposition for the SNP’s environmentally destructive and economically unjust plan to cut air passenger duty, and the fixation with ever-increasing aviation levels even at the expense of a new runway at Heathrow is utterly at odds with Scotland’s climate change targets. It would be so much better to invest in high-quality, affordable public transport that people need every day of their lives, and we’ll push for that priority.

The council elections which are just seven months away offer the best opportunity to see more Green politicians elected than ever before, and to put the ideas of our movement into practice at a local level. It will also be a chance to set out a Green vision of the kind of local government Scotland could have – truly local, and able to truly govern, instead of big regional bodies which have their hands tied by national government. A modern system of local taxation, based on up-to-date valuations and without rate-capping, must be a priority if we care about investing in local services and in our communities.

Of course, our members will also be debating the consequences of Brexit this weekend, and the utter lack of respect being shown by the Westminster government for the way Scotland voted. The decision to consult on a bill for another independence referendum is absolutely to be welcomed, and it’s vital that this opportunity remains open before the end of the two-year negotiation period with Europe.

People in Scotland didn’t vote to surrender their rights to move freely in Europe, their rights in the workplace, or their protection from economic and environmental exploitation. Greens are committed to defending those rights, and our place in Europe. We simply cannot leave our future at the mercy of the reckless and clueless Brexiteers.

Above all, our conference will recommit the Greens to working creatively on all these issues, and living up to our manifesto theme – that a better Scotland needs a bolder Holyrood.