IN the sporting world, we often ask who is the greatest of all time. Take boxing for instance. It is common to look straight to the blue riband heavyweight division for the answer. Rocky Marciano. Joe Louis. Muhammad Ali. Mike Tyson.

But to find the greatest of all time, in boxing, we need to look beyond the heavyweights. Who is the pound-for-pound greatest? Perhaps it is one of the Sugar Rays – Leonard or Robinson. Or Roberto Duran. Or Marvin Hagler. Or Floyd Mayweather.

In Scotland’s political ring, it is easy to instantly pick the SNP as the greatest of all time. They have been the dominant force for nearly 20 years, and there is no sign of that changing anytime soon.

But what about the pound-for-pound greatest? Which party has used its MSPs to the greatest effect, and with the greatest impact? Not the Tories – the only party never to have been in government. Not Labour – although there are signs of a comeback, there will be voters at the next Scottish election who weren’t born when the party was last in power. And not the Lib Dems, who are stubbornly stuck.


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No, there is only one entrant in the pound-for-pound category, and that is the Scottish Greens.

I would not expect the Greens to see me as an ideological bedfellow.

For starters, I am a capitalist. I think that capitalism is one of the world’s great inventions. It grows the size of the pie in order that everyone, rich and poor, can get a larger slice. It has been proven to be a very effective method of ensuring that those at the bottom are able to make their way nearer the top, and of protecting them if they are unable to do so. It has opened up the world, and the economic freedom it promotes goes hand in hand with political freedom.

We know what the alternative to capitalism looks like. We have seen poverty, persecution and death behind the Iron Curtain, and we see it still in Cuba and Venezuela. If they were allowed to access the internet, you could ask the people of communist North Korea, imprisoned and poor, isolated and persecuted, how they feel about their brethren in capitalist South Korea living a decade longer than them.

So system change, as campaigners call it, is not for me. I am a fully signed up member of the capitalist club.

HeraldScotland: 'I don’t believe the answer to the climate crisis is to stop the world and get off; I believe the answer is to change the world so we can stay on''I don’t believe the answer to the climate crisis is to stop the world and get off; I believe the answer is to change the world so we can stay on' (Image: Newsquest)

I am also part, professionally and personally, of an action-not-words environmentalist movement which is based on helping the public, private and voluntary sector achieve net zero quickly but sustainably, while still making the profits they need to make to keep their staff in jobs, reinvest, and keep contributing taxes to the country’s coffers. I don’t believe the answer to the climate crisis is to stop the world and get off; I believe the answer is to change the world so we can stay on.


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Scotland’s Greens would not invite someone with my beliefs to break bread with them. But I cannot possibly argue with their success. If we look at Scottish public policy over the last couple of years, the Greens convey the impression of having 28, or 38, or 58 MSPs, rather than the eight that they returned in 2021.

There are myriad reasons why the SNP decided to bring the Greens into government after Labour’s Jackie Baillie’s win in Dumbarton deprived the party of a majority; too complex to go into here. Whatever those reasons, though, it was difficult to imagine then the impact the decision would have, well beyond the boundaries of the Cooperation Agreement the parties signed.

The Greens, deftly and cleverly, have identified areas where the SNP was dipping its toe in the water, and shoved them head first into the deep end.

Take housing, for instance. The crackdown on the private rented sector had been toyed with by the SNP towards the end of the last Parliament, and has now been supercharged. A centuries-old shibboleth of the far left (as Marx said, the landlords love to reap what they never sowed), government policy is now having its desired effect, as flat owners envisage big losses ahead and sell up. The impact, which many fear will be a reduction in the already short supply of housing, is less important than the action.

Or take oil and gas. Practically everyone in Scotland is signed up to the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. The potential of offshore wind and tidal energy, in particular, is effectively limitless, and Scotland has an exciting future as a global hydrogen hub. The SNP flirted with a presumption against new oil and gas exploration, and the Greens turned up the volume.

Most in the industry acknowledge that they need time and investment to reach the renewable potential, and wish to retain both the income and the energy from domestic fossil fuels while they do, rather than having to import the black stuff from other, often less desirable, parts of the world. But the impact is less important than the action.

Scotland’s road infrastructure is dismal by international comparison. This is not the fault of the SNP; we have suffered from decades of underinvestment by all parties, with too much capital spend being sucked by the southeast of England.


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As well as being unsafe, our trunk roads are slow and congested, which creates frustrating and needless carbon emissions, but the previous SNP government's ambitious plans for upgrading the trunk road network have been, to put it mildly, watered down. Many fear higher emissions as well as a loss of investment and growth, and therefore a loss of tax income. But the impact is less important than the action.

A happy ending for the Greens is not assured. Many of their voters may have a degree of buyer’s remorse; they may feel they didn’t really know what they were voting for. Nonetheless, any of those voters who are lost may well be replaced, and then some, by SNP voters who look at the Greens and see in them what they want to see in the more centrist SNP.

The future is never certain. But the current is. And in the current, in terms of political impact, Greens means greatest.