Early in 2020 the South Derbyshire branch of Derbyshire Green Party entered into a partnership with the Canal and Rivers Trust – helping to look after the stretch of Canal between Swarkestone and Weston Locks.
Local Greens have been out litter-picking on many occasions in 2020, most recently on 6th December.
You can see what South Derbyshire Greens have been up to and follow them on Facebook –
The High Peak Local Plan, adopted in April this year, commits the borough council to pursue sustainable housing policies that provide for new building of affordable housing, while respecting the landscape and the natural habitats of this beautiful region. But, faced with a shrinking budgets and weak planning legislation, does our borough council have the means to stop unsustainable plans from going forward?
There`s really no argument against the perception that more housing is required within the UK, but there are plenty of arguments against the method of planning that the current government has imposed on councils and the people they should represent. The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) is not overtly a bad process. It allows for adoption of a local plan and for people to organise to submit neighbourhood plans. But despite the fact that plans have been approved and accepted by government inspectors, the council are often left without any real power to uphold the plans when planning applications that have been refused go to appeal.
Large building and speculative interests have fortunes at their disposal and so can wreck the democratic process by employing expensive legal representatives against which most councils cannot respond. Why? Because the current Tory government has more or less bankrupt most authorities and how can you justify expensive legal costs when you have schools and adult care to consider? No contest really and so our sympathy must be with councils who do try to protect their environment against unsustainable and inappropriate developments.
Aside from the appeals issue, the NPPF, just doesn’t work very well to deliver the housing we do need. The problem is, there’s no obligation on developers to actually build the houses once the permission is obtained. Foot-dragging keeps the supply of houses well below demand, raising the price developers can obtain per unit built.
It’s a recognised problem that delivery of built houses is well short of what is planned for and we can now look forward to the latest government response to this – the Housing Delivery Test – yet another example of attempting to solve the wrong problem. The Housing Delivery Test will force councils who do not meet house building targets to release more land for development – which of course is more likely to be on greenfield sites than the original land allocated for building. So, instead of being penalised, foot-dragging developers are rewarded by being given access to land not previously available for building! Does anyone really believe that this is not deliberate?
Take a look at this blog post on the issue by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Get the facts about so-called sustainable development
Start writing to your MP and the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark. Write in your own words and spread the word – it is the only weapon we have against what is essentially the destruction of the democratic process.
Currently in my part of the world, Burbage, Buxton there are two contentious planning applications (HPK/2015/0573 & HPK/2016/0234) and another in the pipeline. None of these fit the criteria for ‘sustainable development’ and all three are on greenfield sites which in all cases form part of the boundary that should exist between development and the National Park.
Meanwhile large areas at Harpur Hill and opposite Staden Lane plus ‘brownfield’ sites in Buxton remain empty and up for sale despite planning permission having been granted. It is not too late to let the ‘powers that be’ know what you feel about this situation and if you would like to object to applications as noted above the application references are as above. You can submit comments and objects to planning applications on the High Peak Borough Council website.
On Saturday 28th May I travelled down to London to attend Another Europe is Possible’. I only knew about the event as I had begun to follow Owen Jones on Twitter. Recently, I had been reading quite a few of his articles in the Guardian and liked his politics. I have always supported Britain being in Europe long before a referendum was announced. This maybe has something to do with being a History teacher, teaching Citizenship and an interest in politics from an early age. Like many others over the years I had become very disenchanted with politics and apathetic towards MPs, but the EU debate is an area I have always had strong views about, and because of this I decided to make the long trip to London for the day. It was worth it.
Recently, I attended a debate on the EU at the Devonshire Dome. The view I expressed at the Devonshire is just one of many views I have been sharing with friends for some time now, which is we need to remain in the EU because of the peace and security that Europe has now enjoyed for over seventy years. This a belief that the movement Another Europe is Possible promotes.
Indeed many of the positions of Another Europe is Possible are shared by the Green Party which is why Caroline Lucas was the first speaker on the platform to advocate this movement. My impression of her was someone who has a resolute determination to speak on behalf of the Green Party, but an openness to working with others on the progressive left to make change happen. Caroline’s speech was impressive and made an immediate impact with the audience. Caroline posed the pertinent question of ‘What kind of country do we want?’ This is of course at the very heart of this referendum for the British public to decide. She acknowledged that the EU has plenty of faults, as do I, but she questions how challenges will be solved by a Brexit, especially those issues which are transnational like climate change. I agree.
Caroline acknowledged as so did many others during the day that the EU does need to be more democratic and transparent, but so does Westminster. She believes, there will be similar trade deals to TTIP even if we do leave. The best way to defeat TTIP is to fight it from within the EU. Again, views broadly shared by all the speakers. Her opinions also resonated with my own when she spoke about the ‘toxic rhetoric’ of the Leave campaign in which there is a ‘harking back to an imaginary golden age’. I personally do not know when this golden age existed, nostalgia does play its part in history, but this is the small minded view that Another Europe is possible is fighting against.
Another Europe is Possible is currently touring the country with a wide variety of speakers from different political parties and organisations to get the message across that it is best to reform the EU within. It is good to see that these events are well attended and it demonstrates that people do actually care about the future direction of Britain. It advances the viewpoint that not all of the British public are as apathetic about British politics as we might think. The idea of working together for change is the primary purpose of this movement which began last September with a handful of people, which within a short space of time has been galvanised into a broader based action group. This lobby group is very much in its infancy and does need support to make the changes possible that I am sure the British public want if we are to remain in the EU.
For the 2016 Derby City Council election, The Green Party will have a record number of candidates. There will be 8 candidates across the city, a big improvement from the 3 in 2015 when we stood in Darley, Mackworth and Boulton. We will again stand in these wards, but we will now also stand in Arboretum, Derwent, Abbey, Sinfin and Normanton. Campaigning has already started in Darley in January and we have good hopes to get our first Councillor elected to Derby City Council!
One Green Councillor can make a big difference in Derby. We can scrutinise the actions of the Council and ask critical questions. We do realise that Derby City Council is in a difficult position with the government cuts being unfairly harsh on Derby. However, we do believe that the current Labour administration is not getting their priorities right. They have refused to look into alternative ways to keep Moorways swimming pool and the Citizens Advice Bureau open. Both will now close, even though there are other ways to save money. Derby can cut the number of Councillors and their allowances, work with outside partners to finance them or look into other ways to raise funds, many councils in the Midlands have raised funds in inventive ways. Nottingham has for example set up their own energy company which raises important funds for the city. In Stoke-on-Trent council buildings have been sold for £ 1 under the condition that the new owner would turn them into housing (with loans available if needed) and not sell them on within 10 years. This has revitalised the city centre there. The Green Party in Derby has previously advocated looking into the possibility of apply this policy to Derby.
In Derby City Council, both Labour and the Conservatives play a lot of party politics, targeting each other. We would not play party politics. We would support the current administration where we agree with them, we would support the cross-party “fair deal for Derby” campaign, which is also supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. We would work with any party when there are issues that we agree on, but we will keep our own profile and challenge the council when needed.
We believe we can get our first Councillor, however we can’t do it without help. If you are able to, please donate to our campaign via http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/electing-a-green-councilor-for-derby. If you are able to help with delivering leaflets or canvassing, please contact Marten Kats, candidate for Darley ward and chair of the Derbyshire Green Party on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in any of the wards where we will have a candidate, please consider putting up a “Vote Green Party” poster or sign. To get these (for free), please send an email to Marten.
Natalie Bennett has been in Derby to speak on our future in Europe. The event took place on Thursday, 11th February 2016, from 7pm at the University of Derby. Before this meeting started, she has taken part in various activities. This included an interview with BBC Radio Derby, an interview with student radio and canvassing in Darley ward for the 2016 Derby City Council election. The main event started with a talk of approximately 30 minutes from Natalie Bennett, followed by a short speech from Marten Kats and then a question & answer session.
Natalie Bennett talked about the position of The Green Party on the European Union. The Green Party recognises there is a lot wrong with the European Union. The democracy of the European Union will need to be improved. The non-elected European Commission has too much power and the elected MEPs don’t have enough power. The European Union is too focussed on big businesses and not on small/medium businesses, local communities and ordinary people. TTIP is a danger to our democracy as it could open up the possibility of companies suing governments for loss of profit.
So why does The Green Party advocate a vote to remain in the EU? Even though we do recognise there is a lot wrong with the European Union, it also brings many advantages. Many problems can only be tackled by cross-border co-operation. Examples are climate change, water and air pollution. Also workers’ rights need to be controlled at a European level as otherwise various countries can undercut others over the backs of workers. Harmonisation of various regulations makes it easier for small and medium businesses to sell their products in other parts of the European Union and European Economic Area. At least 3 million jobs in the UK depend on Britain’s membership of the EU. Finally, The Green Party celebrates the free movement of people. There has been a lot of negative publicity about the free movement, mainly by our right wing media. However, free movement has enriched our culture. There are roughly as many UK citizens in other EU countries as there are EU nationals in the UK. EU nationals don’t come here to claim benefits, instead they contribute greatly to our economy. It is important to make this clear in our EU referendum campaign.
We need to address the faults of the EU, but we don’t do that by walking away. Just like there is a lot wrong with Westminster, with the undemocratic voting system being the worst. That doesn’t mean that we have to give up on democracy, we need to fight to change it. It works the same in the European Union. We need to stay in it and fight for a different Europe from the inside. Europe is changing, politics is changing, a different Europe is possible as long as we don’t give up on it.
Wednesday 27th January 2016
7:30pm Royal Hotel, Market Street, Hayfield
Robert O’Connor, a local Green Party member and ecologist/conservationist, will lead a discussion on the subject of moorland management in the UK.
The blanket bogs and upland heaths of the UK account for something like 1.35 million hectares (lowland peat covered about 65,000 hectares in mainland Britain in 1990, now likely to be much less due to commercial extraction). Changes in land use over human history include; strategic use of uplands for defence and transportation, animal stock grazing and low level agriculture, industrial use including quarrying, hunting and other forms of recreation, and more recently the use of uplands as freshwater catchment areas.
Other issues under consideration for discussion include:
Who owns what?
Killing of ‘non-preferred’ species on estates managed for game hunting, and how much money is involved in game hunting.
Effects on biodiversity
Estates managed for hunting tend to have low species diversity – for example moorlands managed for red grouse are mostly dominated by heather, which is the preferred food plant of red grouse.
Effects on CO² storage
Blanket bogs store significant amounts of CO² in the peat layer, accumulated over thousands of years.
Effects on flood attenuation
Requires a holistic and landscape approach in implementation of ‘future-proofed’ flood alleviation schemes.
What is being done now to address habitat degradation?
A quick look at some exemplar conservation projects undertaken by various NGOs, such as the RSPB.
Appropriate use of public funds in subsidies Looking at various payment schemes to landowners past and present.
This weekend has seen people throughout the world take to the street to demand
effective action on climate change.
Even in Paris, where demonstrations have been cancelled because of the state of emergency, thousands of pairs of shoes were arranged to represent those demanding action
Together, we are demanding that governments finally acknowledge that so far they have failed us. So many conferences have come and gone and emissions and temperatures have continued to rise. Despite pledges to end subsidies on fossil fuels, governments in many industrialised countries, including our own, have dramatically increased such subsidies and have supported technologies that carry a high risk of pollution, such as deep sea drilling, fracking, and extraction of oil from bitumen (tar sands). World wide, fossil fuel subsidies are at least 4 times higher than subsidies on renewable energy sources. The number is even higher when failure to internalise costs of environmental pollution are taken into account, as they were in the IMF report released in May 2015. That report estimates subsidies as around 10 million dollars per minute.
On Monday, another conference will start in Paris. Can we expect any better? Certainly not if we aren’t prepared to fight, to insist, to not let them off the hook. Pledges made by individual countries, so far would see temperatures rise by more than 3 degrees – a catastrophic result. The conference is promoted as “business friendly” and corporate lobbyists are present in force, where ordinary citizens are excluded. We are promised business solutions, but, big business’ “solutions” for the climate remain basically the same: prevent any meaningful global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoid any form of public scrutiny and regulation by pushing failed market-based mechanisms such as a ‘global carbon price’, and promoting various for-profit schemes and hazardous techno-fixes.
Everyone can do something. Just making our representatives aware that we are watching their response to the demand for real action on climate change. On Saturday, Green Party members in the High Peak constituency were out talking to people in Glossop, encouraging them to sign a letter to our MP, Andrew Bingham. Please download the letter and send it to Andrew Bingham, or adapt it to include your own concerns – or send a similar letter to your own MP.
On 5th November, Donald and I were among more than 100 people, who gathered at Derby Cathedral for a public meeting on climate change, designed to give people the opportunity to hear about and discuss the issues to be debated at the Paris 2015 Climate Change Summit.
John Selwyn Gummer – now Lord Deben – addressed the meeting. He chairs the Independent Committee on Climate Change and will represent the UK at the Paris 2015 conference. He began by outlining the three arguments he uses to counter climate change deniers:
Risk – the choice between acting on climate change and not acting. If the promoters of climate change are wrong and we act, nothing will have been lost – the atmosphere will be healthier. If the climate deniers are wrong and we do nothing, we shall face catastrophe.
Care – he said that as a result of centuries of astronomical exploration planet earth is the only planet to support life as we know it. That does not rule out the possibility of discovering life on another planet; it does mean that for the time being, planet earth is rare and therefore needs to be cared for and treated with respect.
Act Responsibly – in other areas of life we do not choose to act stupidly and therefore it is wrong to go on acting stupidly by increasing CO2 emissions. The link between climate change and CO2 emissions was as true as the link between smoking and cancer. We must therefore keep our CO2 emissions down to avoid crossing the critical 2 degree rise in temperature threshold to prevent disaster happening.
Lord Deben went on to describe how we get to that target. He emphasised that the Climate Change Act 2008 was achieved by an All-party consensus in the UK and that was key to its success. He was very optimistic and positive when he talked about his hopes for Paris 2015. He pointed out that in Australia and Canada political changes had meant that both countries were now committed to taking climate change seriously. He remarked on the co-operation that now existed between China and the USA. He pointed out that there is now a scientific basis for the reality of climate change and that all the nations responsible for 85% of carbon emissions now all have climate change legislation.
Lord Deben concluded his talk by stating two key things that he saw as essential to progress being made in Paris.
The need to recognise that Paris will not achieve an answer that is perfect – it may get the best answer that can be had for the time being but it will need to be improved on and modified over time.
The importance of achieving a binding agreement in Paris – something to hold people and nations to, rather as the British Climate Change Act obliged the Government to take carbon emissions into account in any budgetary proposals that were put to parliament.
Apart from this, he said little about his views on the compatibility of economic growth and corporate deregulation with the need to cut net global carbon emissions to zero by mid century or whether corporate lobbying is delaying action to slow down climate change.
He spoke of the stand made by the Pope making a significant difference to worldwide awareness of climate change, not least in the USA, because it made it impossible to ignore the reality of climate change. He stressed that the encyclical also made it clear that you cannot deal with climate change in isolation from other issues such as world poverty and justice for the poor.
Q & A session:
Investment in Renewable Energy
Q If Britain, as he stated, is a leader in combating climate change, why have we not put more investment into renewals?
A It seems that renewables have been too successful. For example, off-shore wind farms were giving a return of 40% not the 29% forecast and this created a problem for the chancellor who presumably then decided they didn’t need investment!
Q Fracking is raping the earth so why are the government legitimising it?
A He appeared to imply that Fracking is a separate issue. He believes science and the evidence of science is that it is safe. By the mutterings from the audience, I think many people thought he must be looking at different evidence! He talked about the need to ensure that we had our “own” supplies of gas because of the dangers of being dependent upon Putin. He didn’t respond to the heckler who said that fracked gas is a fossil fuel, the implication being that we have to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.
The time for questions was limited as Lord Deben had to catch a train. There wasn’t time to go into the issue of other green-house gases, including methane, with agriculture, notably animal husbandry being currently a major emitter, coupled with the conversion of natural grassland and forest to cultivation of animal fodder or ask whether he still enjoys beef burgers!
Donald and Jean Macdonald
Derbyshire Green Party
This public meeting was organised jointly by the Derby Diocesan Environmental Group and Derby Cathedral Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee (JPICC) of which Donald is Chair.
Saturday 28th November 2015
10:30am – 4:30pm St. Peter’s Church, St Peter’s Street, Derby
Back by popular demand for its fifth year running, Compassionate Derby is an ethical living event that is free to attend and where everyone is welcome!
There will be a range of cruelty-free food and lifestyle products, lots of free samples, charity and campaigning stalls, children’s activities, a diverse program of talks throughout the day about health and services such as adult day care center in Marietta and of course a generous raffle and much more.
So why not head to Derby on November 28th to do a bit of Christmas shopping and find out more about living a compassionate lifestyle.
The Green Party will have a dedicated stall, so if you can make it, we look forward to seeing you there.
We can’t wait for the next elections in 2020. We must act now
against the government’s disastrous policies. Everyone can do their bit to save the planet and build a better society.
Over 80 people, of all ages, squeezed into a meeting room in Chesterfield last night, for a meeting organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC), supported by the local TUC, the Green Party and the Socialist Workers Party.
Margi Senior became active because of plans to drill for gas in nearby Calow. Local people came together, sharing skills and energy, and together they got the application thrown out, initially by the county council planning committee in Matlock ( in June 2014) and then at an appeal at the end of October. ” Hopefully that is the end of the matter” she said, an example of People Power that can and must exerted elsewhere to stop fracking and similarly harmful extraction methods.
The note of hope and optimism she struck continued throughout the evening.
Martin Empson of the national committee of the CACC spoke of two recent reports:
The World Bank ” Managing the Impact of Climate Change on Poverty ” predicts that an additional 120 million people would be thrown into extreme poverty by the impact of climate change. The report calls for ” comprehensive packages of carbon emission reductions” although its proposals remain focused on technological and big business solutions.
The CACC instead emphasise the importance of the People Power and the need to create a broad based popular movement to demand serious action on climate change. The Paris talks should be regarded not as a last chance but as an opportunity for this movement to develop and grow. Martin spoke of ” a growth in confidence among activists on the ground” and an increasing willingness to discuss fundamental issues and the need for radical change to create a better and fairer society, as evidenced by the popularity of the work of Naomi Klein.
Chesterfield TUC chairman, James Eaden, introduced the final speaker, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, saying how good it was to see and hear a prominent politician speaking out, and attending marches and rallies, about a whole range of important causes- trade union rights, respect for refugees, climate change etc.
Natalie spoke of her attendance at a lobby of Lancashire County Council, when, under pressure from a well organised anti fracking campaign, councillors, including some Tories, had rejected plans for fracking. There was a need for a message of optimism and hope she said, agreeing with Martin that the need for action on climate change presented an opportunity to create a better, fairer, more sustainable world. Although people taking individual action to reduce their own carbon footprints is all well and good, what’s really needed is fundamental systemic change, and the creation of a movement capable of bringing this about.
In response to discussion and questions from the floor Natalie reminded the meeting that the Tory Government had no mandate for its programme, including its withdrawal of support for green energy measures. We can’t wait until 2020. We must act now. Everyone can do their bit to save the planet and build a better society.
Among the wisest words of the evening were those spoken by a young Green Party member who made reference to the mini election that took place in his school on General Election Day. The Green Party had got more than 100 votes and the Labour Party over 80, compared to the Tories only getting around 20 and UKIP less than 10. The desire among young people was for real change. What he and they couldn’t understand was that the left seemed to concentrate too much on what divided them rather than what they had in common. This had to change. His contribution got perhaps the loudest applause of the evening, suggesting those in the room, whatever their age, agreed with him.
Green Party members from the High Peak local group have been looking at the fine print of Government policy, and doing a bit of informal research out and about in Derbyshire.
First of all, what do people actually want from the railways? Well, a good start might be that the travelling public should be able to buy a ticket to their destination and then get to the appropriate platform, and yet at many of Britain’s stations neither of these basics can be assumed.
You wouldn’t think that just buying, or trying to buy a ticket would cause huge problems, and yet we have found in this part of the country that it is the hassle of getting a ticket that exasperates people just as much as expensive ticket prices, poor station access and late trains. People put up with unmanned stations. Everyone has experienced being crammed onto an ancient, crowded train with just one guard. The last straw for travellers is when in addition to hurrying to get to work on time, they have to queue at their destination to buy a ticket before leaving the platform to avoid being fined. Try persuading a commuter to ‘think green’ and swap their comfy car for that option!
One High Peak resident who had recently lived and worked in Hong Kong commented: – “Returning to the UK, I didn’t expect the High Peak to be served by 12- car commuter trains which arrive every three minutes, but in 2015 and the age of smart phones, I was amazed to find that there are so few ticket dispensers installed on platforms, and such little use in the UK of stored value cards like the Oyster card.”
What has brought this about? Under-investment? Vanity projects? Profits before people? The current Conservative government has of course raised expectations with its talk of the Northern Powerhouse, and more recently with the announcement of its National Infrastructure Commission. In the foreword to ‘Transforming the North’s Railways’, the Secretary of State for Transport and Derbyshire Dales MP, Patrick McLoughlin wrote in February 2015: “This government has huge ambitions for the North of England and the railway is key to those plans.”
Great words – but at the Green Party we really wonder whether these ambitions can ever be achieved for the travelling public when it’s private companies bidding for franchises who are in the driver’s seat.
An issue we care about passionately at the Green Party is inclusion, providing a civilized society for everyone. Cloud-cuckoo land? Well, what about just getting to the platform?
One of our members spent a few hours observing conditions for travellers at Chinley, a station on the mainline between Manchester and Sheffield, where the only access to both platforms is via a footbridge with two sets of steep steps. Mums and Dads with pushchairs struggle to use the steps safely. Travellers to/from Manchester airport risk hurting themselves hauling heavy suitcases up and over the footbridge, and of course people with a mobility problem or people who use a wheelchair are nowhere to be seen. No ramp, that’s your lot, so they don’t come.
The Green Party demands an inclusive society, and we will acknowledge progress where it has been made. Representatives from the rail companies and the Department of Transport would argue that Access for All and Station Improvement programmes have delivered substantial improvements to many stations, and rail operators have a duty to help if access to a particular station is substantial. The Equality Act of 2010 does offer some protection for rail users if they feel discriminated against, but when it comes down to it, members of the public would just like to travel in safety and comfort from A to B without having to consider taking court action against the operator of the services, or tweeting yet another “dissatisfied” comment to Customer Services.
The Green party isn’t satisfied that our railways are being run for the benefit of citizens, and has committed to implementing a comprehensive plan for fully accessible transport so that public transport will be usable by all members of the public. What’s more, the Green Party feels strongly that the privatisation of the railways has created a situation where the tax payer is like a supplicant at the gate of the Lord of the Manor, begging for alms. We are not satisfied with this relationship. The needs of all of our citizens are our first priority, and only by taking proper control of our national rail network can we hope to achieve a civilized service for everyone.
We want our railways to be more accessible and attractive for everyone. Only when and if this happens will people ever be able to choose to leave the car behind and opt for more environmentally friendly means of transport which, alongside other benefits, will help provide a sustainable long–term solution to our chronic air pollution.
Interested in reading more? Have a look at the Green Party’s policies in detail at:
An outspoken voice on climate change, Lord Deben chairs the Independent Committee on Climate Change and will be representing the UK at the Paris 2015 conference.
This is a unique opportunity to put your questions to the UK’s leading representative on climate change. It is free to attend, and refreshments will be available.
Lord Deben has had a long and varied career in frontbench politics. Now the chair of the Independent Committee on Climate Change, he will be visiting Derby Cathedral to debate the Paris Summit on Climate Change. Chaired by the Very Revd Dr John Davies, Dean of Derby; questions welcomed.
Green Party members may wish to use the opportunity to ask Lord Deben questions face to face.
This event has been organised by the Diocesan Environmental Group and Derby Cathedral Justice & Peace Group
This government seems hell-bent on promoting fracking for shale gas in Derbyshire.
On August 18th the government announced it would hand out a fresh round of licences giving exclusive rights for gas and other fuel exploration in 27 areas across the country. Two of the 10km by 10km squares of land affected are in Derbyshire. The licence for land between Derby and Long Eaton will go to Warwick Energy. That company has said test drilling could start in 2019. The affected area runs across the East Midlands, as shown below:
The other area includes parts of Amber Valley, such as the countryside around Ironville, Riddings and Somercotes and the licence will be held by Ineos. It is somewhere in that square where the firm says test-drilling could start in 2016 or 2017 with the possibility of “early stages of producing commercial gas by the end of the decade”.
From August 12th until a couple of weeks before Christmas Britain’s wealthy elite will be let loose on its moorland uplands. Driven grouse shooting involves beaters going in front of the people with guns “beating” the heather so that the birds fly into the air where they are then shot at. Around half a million birds can be killed during the season. If that seems barbaric, even worse is the fact that in order to maintain this so called sport, all grouse predators are being destroyed on the uplands, and the moors themselves destroyed by burning the heather in the name of “management”.
Hen Harriers are an iconic bird of the uplands, however in 2014 there were only 4 nesting pairs in England. A couple of weeks ago there was an outcry in this country when it was discovered that Cecil the Lion had been shot and killed in Zimbabwe, but where is the outcry at the loss of Hen Harriers? Five adult birds have disappeared this year, and whilst the disappearance is reported euphemistically as “mysterious” the obvious answer is that they have been shot, poisoned or trapped by game keepers to protect the grouse for shooting.
In the same vein game keepers are now systematically ridding the uplands of mountain hare because they are said to carry a parasite which infects grouse. Literally mountains of mountain hare have been killed in Scotland and the practice is spreading South.
When concern is raised about grouse shooting and the practices which support it, the argument is put that it provides employment and income to areas which would otherwise have none. However the grouse shooting season is a few months and whilst the hospitality trade might benefit slightly during that period, assuming those that shoot do frequent the restaurants and pubs of local areas, that benefit would be spread much wider, both geographically and time wise, if people were coming to look at the wildlife rather than kill it.
Not only that but grouse shooting costs us in terms of higher water bills, because of the cost of clearing water polluted by higher particulates as a result of peat burning.
And then there is the cost to the atmosphere: Peat is a carbon sink and the High Peak is one of the biggest peat uplands in England and therefore one of the biggest carbon sinks in the UK. Management for grouse shooting consists of burning areas of heather on a cycle year by year. The effect of this is to release unwanted carbon directly into the atmosphere but more long term it has been shown to severely compromise the build up of future peat. It also obviously destroys the existing vegetation, much of which such as sphagnum moss is protected (and is one of the reasons for which subsidies from the EU to the landowners exist), and as stated effects water supplies. (http://www.wateratleeds.org/ember/)
You could also contact your MP to ask him or her to support a ban. Green Party policy is clear. The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all blood-sports. Our manifesto includes the commitment to ban driven grouse shooting.
It is interesting that Greece, the cradle of democracy is now having to defend that very concept in the face of an onslaught from the corporate masters of the global economy. With the Greek referendum vote, the issue in Greece has escalated from an economic crisis, to a crisis of democracy.
As Caroline Lucas has said:
“The Greek people have made a decision which must now be respected. This referendum has seen EU states do their very best to undermine the democratic will of the Greek people but it’s time to draw a line under the past and move onwards”.
We cannot argue that former Greek governments, both of the right and left, badly managed the Greek economy. The EU and international finance were complicit in making this bad situation worse by failing to ensure that further loans to Greece were used for investment and did not end up lining the pockets of the wealthy. But the neo-liberal ‘free-market’ policies that dominate world finance want and need debt and Greece was encouraged to increase its debt rather than address tax avoidance and increase Government revenue.
By crippling Greece with debt, international financiers have been able to force her Government to sell assets to the private sector. They have also ensured that the bulk of Greek revenue goes to debt repayment, that is, to the private sector financiers, rather than to the welfare of the Greek people. Debt has become a commodity; it is traded and used by the private sector to increase personal wealth. Neo-liberal economics needs debt to create money and wealth. By loading governments with debt the financial institutions can divert tax payers’ money away from social provision and state investment in to their own coffers as interest repayments. For these institutions, cfreating debt is good business and leads to hugh personal bonuses.
The Greek crisis is not really about debt but about repayments. Debt is now a corporate asset, if a borrower defaults, then the asset becomes valueless. This was the root of the 2008 financial crisis. If Greece defaults it is the big financial institutions that will be hit, and they are using austerity to protect their interests. They are demanding that money that should go to support the welfare of citizens goes instead to themselves. So the people of Greece must suffer in order to protect the assets of the wealthiest institutions and people in the world.
The interests of money and international finance are being put ahead of the needs of people – this is a democratic crisis. What are Governments for, to serve the people or international finance?
Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, said: “This referendum has provided an opportunity for all EU states to reflect on the balance of power between finance markets and democratic governments”.
This isn’t just a Greek crisis, it affects us all. The Conservative Government is determined to continue with its austerity measures in order to pursue its privatisation agenda and to reward its supporters with tax breaks. Austerity is not about sound economics, it is an ideology driven by the neo-liberal free-market. It is being driven by the corporate sector that has effectively hijacked governments. The rich and the powerful are once again driving the political agenda in their own interest and are ignoring the needs and wishes of people. They are challenging the very concept of Democracy.
The Greek people have raised their voices and have demanded that their government listen to them and address their needs, as they should in a Democracy. There are solutions to the Greek debt crisis and part of that solution is to recognise that some of the debt is un-payable.
Caroline Lucas has pointed out that there is a historic precedent for this: “History shows us that countries can escape crippling debt in a just way. In 1953, at the London Conference, Greece was among the European nations signing a deal which allowed for the cancellation of German debt, to enable the country to grow again after the destruction of the Second World War. Europe needs to come together to offer the Greeks a deal which allows their country to be rebuilt.”
But the difference then was that the debt wasn’t a corporate asset; Governments weren’t controlled by big business. It is essential now for the Governments of Europe and America to address the debt crisis and to be seen to be standing for the interest of the people and not spinelessly bowing to the pressures of the global corporations. This is the demand from Molly and the European Greens: “We now urgently need to see a conference to address the issue of Greece’s debt with restructuring and debt relief a clear outcome. There also needs to be clear support for rebuilding the economy, especially by investing in sustainable sectors of the economy”.
Further, we now need to see Governments acting as part of democracies, in deed and not just in word; to listen to the calls coming from their people for economic justice and for the gross inequalities in society to be leveled off. If they fail to do this, the global corporate sector will be triumphant and democracy will be effectively dead.
First posted on East Midlands GP Blog on 7 July 2015