By David Leask

PATRICK Harvie is talking about hope, about what a hard sell it can be.

He has just launched a Scottish Green New Deal, an upbeat and – he insists – practical platform for an environmentally cleaner and fairer economy. So the co-leader of the Scottish Greens should be pretty positive. And he is. But, as a populist hard-right Brexit looms, the Glasgow MSP also admits the right have been better than the left at turning despair into votes.

The Scottish Greens have chosen an old printworks, Civic House, just under the M8 flyover at Cowcaddens, to unveil their plan, the first working of what they aim will one day turn in to a programme of government.

This venue, home to a vegan canteen and work spaces, is now community owned. Its distressed brick walls smell of wet cement. “Hope is hard work these days,” Harvie says after stepping away from his podium. “Just look around the world at the climate emergency.

“Our generation is being given a stern lecture by young people who are rightly angry at the way their world is being trashed. And what are we doing? We are watching the Amazon burn. In fact, we are watching it being burned deliberately.”

It is not just the blazing rainforests which distress Harvie. The new UK Government – “the most far-right in modern history,” he says – is a major source of anger too.

READ MORE: Greens want to reforest Scotland's grouse moors

Before his speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had just announced that he intends to suspend the House of Commons. Gathered Greens believe the Prime Minister had done so to foil opposition plans to prevent no deal.

From the floor an activist refers to the move as a "coup".

Harvie responds: “I doubt there is anybody in the room who would disagree with the word you said.

“There is a huge job of work in articulating the anger we have to not let him get away with this project.

“For many of them in the Brexit camp it never was just about being in or out of the European Union. It is about wrenching us from an economic model – which we criticise and want to improve – towards something far worse, something closer to the US.”

How did it get to this? How did the UK come to be careering towards what Harvie calls “disaster capitalism”?

“I think the right are better at exploiting a crisis than the left are,” he says. “Ten-plus years ago, when you had a financial crisis, it was created by that centre-right, deregulated, free-market, neoliberal model which could never last, by debt-fuelled casino capitalism.

“I am afraid the right have been more effective at exploiting that crisis and the left have not.

“Not just the Greens but the left generally need to get better at connecting with people who feel failed, because they have been been failed.

“It’s not an original observation but populism is offering people false solutions to real problems.

“People have a right to be angry. But the privatisation of their assets is a far bigger cause of the left-behindness that a lot of people experience than membership of the European Union.”

READ MORE: Greens warn SNP to steer clear of Tory free ports in crime concerns

How did the EU end up being the focus of anger of those who suffered after the crash?

“People have been subjected to years of propaganda,” Harvie says. “Not from all of the media, but if you read a lot of the tabloid media, some of the biggest-selling papers in the UK, you would have a wildly distorted view of what the EU is and what it does.”

The Scottish Greens co-leader has had his disagreements with the EU.

“Europe has been bad at trying to connect with people about why membership of a greater union is a positive thing,” he says. “If the UK behaved in anything like as modern and democratic manner as the EU, I might not even want to leave it.

“The UK is riddled with anachronism and privilege and the embedded power of the City of London.”

After Johnson’s prorogation gambit First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said independence is now “completely inevitable”.

Harvie is not so sure. “Nothing is completely inevitable. Hope is hard work these days. I think it’s really encouraging that people are still willing to say Scotland does not need to be locked into a political landscape we don’t feel part of.”

And if independence fails to materialise? “If it does not happen, we will see another wave of disillusionment and disengagement, of more people being left behind,” Harvie reckons.

“Our job is to do our very best to make sure people’s anger is channelled into something constructive, into something positive. Not to deny people have been failed but to identify who has failed them – the right wing.”

And this, for Scottish Greens, is where the Green New Deal comes in. Inspired by the the New Deal of America’s 1930s – and a new green deal recentlly proposed by progressive Democrats  – this is an effort to show what can be done even without independence.

Its thrust: repurposing the public sector to make Scotland greener and fairer; redirecting agricultural subsidies to help green farming and forestry; using the embryonic Scottish National Investment Bank to support clean manufacturing.

“There are things we can do right now, even within the constraints of the UK, to reconnect people with the power that comes from community, from local creativity,” says Harvie.

“We are human beings. We are  not good at deferred gratification or long-term planning. We are good at being creative and finding solutions. If Scotland could do that, we will inspire people in what more we can do.”