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5 key moments from day one of Green conference

Scottish Greens co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater on stage at the Autumn conference in Dundee. Image: Supplied

Greens from all over Scotland and further afield descended on Dundee on Saturday for the party’s first autumn conference since entering government.

Scottish independence, support for striking workers and ending fossil fuel use were among some of the key talking points as things got underway.

But with members being given an opportunity to run the rule on their party’s record since brokering a power-sharing agreement with the SNP, there were also tough questions for leaders.

We take a look at some of the key announcements and moments from the first day.

1. Focus on Scottish independence

Following a week of further Tory turmoil at Westminster, the conference in Dundee opened with a renewed focus on Scottish independence.

Even the conference slogan, ‘Independence: For People, For Planet,’ put the constitutional debate front and centre.

Co-leader Lorna Slater used her opening remarks to call for Prime Minister Liz Truss to go, saying the Greens “must oppose the Tories every step of the way”.

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater speaks to party members in Dundee.

Ms Slater said the chance of a 2023 independence referendum would provide an “historic opportunity” to move on from Liz Truss and the “whole Westminster circus”.

Continuing that theme, MSP Ross Greer later said the Greens must offer an alternative for those who would consider voting for independence but would never back the SNP.

2. No vote on splitting leadership from ministerial roles

Green activists will need to wait even longer to debate the future roles of party leaders Patrick Harvie and Ms Slater.

A motion on whether to split the leadership from their roles in the Scottish Government was delayed on Thursday night by technical issues.

Scottish Green Party co-leaders Patrick Harvie (left) and Lorna Slater (right) arrive at the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

A party source confirmed on Saturday that members will not be given an opportunity to vote on the issue during the conference and will instead need to wait for an EGM.

The bid by party members was seen as evidence of tensions after a year in a loose coalition with Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

If agreed, the activists’ proposal would prohibit any active government minister from holding a “major officer position” within the Scottish Greens.

MSPs Gillian Mackay and Ross Greer also fielded a number of questions from members about the party’s ability to challenge the SNP during a question and answer session on the power sharing agreement.

3. ‘Coal era is over’

The Greens say ambitions to make Scotland fully fossil free have moved a step closer after the Scottish Government adopted their preferred position on offering no support for coal extraction.

Announcing the move to members, Ms Slater called on the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead and rule out any approval for coal operations in England.

A scene from bygone days-miners leaving work at Seafield Colliery, Kirkcaldy.

She said: “Right now, the UK Government is considering opening a major new coal mine in Cumbria.

“They have even issued a coal licence in South Scotland.

“Make no mistake, this is Westminster climate denial.

“It would be the final nail in the coffin for the UK’s international reputation. It must be stopped.

“That is why, today, I can announce that the Scottish Government is adopting our preferred position of no support for coal extraction in Scotland.

“Scotland – the country that helped bring the coal-fired industrial revolution to the world – has drawn a line. The coal era is over.”

Ms Slater insisted fossil fuels must be left “in the ground”, adding Scotland and the North Sea are “no exception”.

4. A message to Dundee University’s principal

Just a mile from the conference’s Waterfront location, workers at Dundee University are striking over pension changes while top earners see their salaries soar.

Opening the conference, North East MSP Maggie Chapman took direct aim at principal Iain Gillespie, and said she is working to introduce a 10:1 pay ratio in many workplaces.

It would mean the highest paid earner cannot earn more than 10 times than those earning the least.

Unite the Union strike over pensions at Dundee University.

Workers at the university are striking because the University of Dundee Superannuation Scheme, which is only available to the six lowest pay grades, is being replaced by a privately administered scheme.

Unite estimates some pensions will drop from £20,100 a year to £14,400 as a result.

Ms Chapman said: “Professor Iain Gillespie, I’m saying that if you want to keep your £250,000 a year salary, the lowest paid staff at Dundee University should be on at least £25,000 a year, with a pension scheme to match.”

She wished “victory to the striking workers” at the university.

5. Safe travel home for hospitality workers

Green members will vote on Sunday whether to back a motion in support of a campaign for hospitality workers to be provided with free transport when working in licensed venues past 11pm.

Unite Hospitality’s Get Home Safely campaign wants to introduce a legal requirement for employers to hold a duty of care for staff while travelling home late at night.

North East MSP Maggie Chapman.

Ms Chapman told delegates that if the motion is approved, she will introduce a members’ bill to the Scottish Parliament.

She said this would become a pre-requisite for any new licenses.