IT’S not just political parties that we are voting for on May 5. It is also the future of our communities. How will our services be run? How will we respond to the climate emergency, and what will be the direction of our recovery from the pandemic? These are just some of the questions that will be on the ballot next Thursday.

This month my Green colleagues and I were proud to publish Think Global, Act Local – a bold and ambitious vision for a fairer, greener Scotland. It is full of detailed policies and proposals that offer a combined response to the climate emergency, the cost-of-living crisis and the need for investment in our communities. Our plans will cut carbon emissions, boost public transport and build communities where everyone can afford to live, learn and work.

Ours is a vision with local democracy at its core. Councils shouldn’t be remote bodies that impose inflexible top-down solutions. They should be genuinely rooted in our communities, listening to people, and being truly responsive. With 239 Green candidates across Scotland, this is our biggest campaign to date. From Largs to Linlithgow and Dumfries to Dingwall, we are working to secure more Green councillors than ever.

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Every single Green councillor will work with residents to protect green spaces and services and will prioritise their needs over the interests of big developers. One way they will do this is by letting communities make their own decisions about local budgets, and involving people directly in setting priorities.

In the parts of the country where we already have Green councillors they are turning words into action and promises into reality.

In Glasgow, where I live, Green councillors have secured a £10 million climate fund and a commitment to make Glasgow a net-zero carbon city by 2030. They have also delivered millions of pounds worth of funding for new play parks, back lane improvements, tenement repairs, green spaces and food growing while making our streets safer, with extra funding for walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure and more 20mph zones.

These are important steps that will cut pollution and make a difference to people’s lives and neighbourhoods. They are the sort of positive changes that only happen when there are Greens around the table.

Over the past nine months we have had Greens in government in Holyrood for the first time. With Green voices at the centre of decision making, we have secured free bus travel for everyone aged 21 or under, record support for wildlife, nature and recycling.

We have trebled funding for walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure, and begun the biggest investment in teacher recruitment for a generation. In my role as Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights I am investing hundreds of millions of pounds in providing warmer, better and more efficient homes. I will be overseeing the introduction of new and better rights for renters, including protections from unfair evictions and the right to decorate and keep pets.

On top of this, we will be introducing a robust system of rent controls to make quality housing more affordable and improve the health, wellbeing, happiness and life chances of people across Scotland.

These are vital and long overdue changes, and they are only possible because we secured enough Green votes and Green MSPs to deliver them. Every first preference vote for a Green candidate will be a vote to bring this same fresh and constructive politics to the local level. It will be a vote for a community advocate and champion who will work constructively with others to build a fairer, greener and better future for all of us.

There is no time to waste. The Tories’ cost-of-living crisis has seen household bills soaring and left millions of people struggling to make ends meet. The UK Government’s solution is to impose even more cuts, while they scapegoat refugees and do ever more damage to our environment. It doesn’t need to be this way, and our councils can play a key role in reducing poverty, safeguarding services and providing the positive alternatives that our communities need.

The next five years will be crucial, not just for household budgets, but also for our planet.

The biggest challenge facing us all is the climate emergency. This isn’t just the biggest challenge for this generation, but for all future generations. It is the biggest priority for Green MSPs and will be for Green councillors.

By ensuring that the climate emergency is at the heart of every local action and decision they take, Green councillors will play their part in achieving a zero-carbon economy and a fair society.

We have shown the impact that Green representatives can have. We are showing it every day in the Scottish Parliament and in town halls and city chambers around the country. We are working for Scotland and delivering solutions to these big challenges.

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Last year’s COP climate conference focused the world’s attention on Scotland. The mass protests showed the immense desire for real and lasting climate action, but the outcomes of the conference itself were a huge missed opportunity.

Even now, when the science is beyond doubt, most governments are totally failing to grasp the scale and severity of the crisis we face. We cannot afford five more years of inaction. We cannot simply sit back and wait for solutions to fall into place.

If you want green change you have to vote for it. That is why we are asking you to think global and act local by giving your first preference vote to the Scottish Greens on May 5.

The election uses a preferential voting system, so every vote counts, but it is only first-place votes that can guarantee more Green councillors and the green change that is so badly needed.