WHAT makes someone an extremist?

If you listen to the “mainstream” voices in this country’s media and politics, you’d certainly get the impression that my party, the Scottish Greens, are the very definition of extremists.

In the words of The Spectator’s Andrew Neil, we’re a bunch of “anti-monarchy, anti-Britain, anti-wealth … eco-Marxist zealots”.

Blistering rhetoric aside, what is he actually on about?

It’s absolutely true to say that Greens want to see fundamental transformation in our economy and society. The current capitalist model puts the needs of “the economy” first and those of people and planet second.

We want to flip that on its head.

The purpose of our lives isn’t to help grow GDP that bit more. It’s to be happy, healthy and fulfilled – and to help those around us be the same.

The real extremists are those who insist on continuing with a capitalist economy which sees vast numbers of people locked into entirely avoidable poverty just so that a tiny number of super-rich individuals can reap the rewards of everyone else’s hard work.

It’s definitely extreme to look at a world in the grips of a near-irreversible climate breakdown and insist that we stick with the economic model causing it. There can be no infinite economic growth on a planet where we’re burning through its finite resources at twice the rate it can cope with.

The extremists aren’t those trying to overthrow the madness of neoliberal capitalism, they’re the ones trying to save it despite the huge harm it’s doing to people and planet every single day.

Much as it pains a committed eco-socialist like me to say though, a devolved Scottish Government with extremely limited financial and economic powers won’t be overthrowing global capitalism any time soon.

So, what do we do with the economy and the devolved powers we currently have?

The Scottish Greens were the first party in Parliament to promote the radical notion that our economy should serve people and planet rather than the other way around.

And in recent years, that concept has moved from the fringes to centre stage. Nicola Sturgeon signed the Scottish Government up to wellbeing economics – Humza Yousaf has now even appointed a Cabinet Secretary for it – and of course, the Scottish Greens are in government.

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There are two ways in which the Scottish Government can use economic policy to reach its objectives of ending child poverty and tackling the climate emergency.

The first is to shape an economy which doesn’t create these crises in the first place through poverty pay and exploitation, rampant abuse of natural resources, the relentless burning of fossil fuels etc.

Even within the limited powers of devolution, there is much more we can do there.

And the second is to maximise tax revenues to deliver the public services and initiatives needed to give people and our planet the support they need.

However, the most powerful tool for ending poverty pay – raising the minimum wage – is reserved to Westminster. But all is not lost. The Scottish Greens are using every other tool at our disposal to raise wages, including new requirements for any company bidding for a public sector contract or receiving government grants.

Under this scheme, if a business receives support of any kind from the public sector, it should first prove that it is treating its staff with respect, acting in an environmentally sustainable way and paying at least the real living wage.

Paying people decent wages not only ensures that their families can have a decent quality of life, it also benefits the wider economy. If you have disposable income to spend, that’s obviously good news for the shops, cafes, attractions etc., that you’re spending it in.

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Right-wingers may claim that our social and environmental justice aims get in the way of a thriving economy, but the UK’s low-wage economy is hardly thriving, especially compared to many of our European neighbours who do prioritise growing wages and reducing poverty.

Those attacking the Scottish Greens and wellbeing economics are usually too cowardly to say what they actually mean – our policies might be good for the vast majority of the population but they’re not good for the small number of vested interests who do very well out of the current system.

So the next time you see a howl of outrage about those “Eco-Marxist zealots” with too much say over the Scottish Government, have a think about what our opponents and those they represent stand to lose from a society and an economy which is fairer and greener.

Putting people and planet first won’t happen without overcoming the resistance of the rich and powerful. That’s why we need your help. If you share our vision, now is the time to fight for it.