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Interview ‘It’s not about going back to business as usual, but about building back better’

MAGS HALL, Scottish Greens candidate for Cowdenbeath, tells Niall Christie about her political vision for the constituency

“IT DEFINITELY feels like there is a momentum with us,” Mags Hall tells the Star with little over two weeks left until election day. A lead candidate in Mid Scotland and Fife, the proud Fifer is extremely positive about the prospects for the Scottish Greens. 

Born and brought up in Kincardine, Hall did what she describes as the “usual thing” in areas like Fife — left to go to university and spent some time travelling before returning in 2010. As well as working for the Scottish Greens at Holyrood, the 36-year-old is now a prominent voice within the party itself, co-chairing its governing council and acting as the Greens’ policy lead on food and agriculture.

But despite having only joined the party after the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, previously being rooted in community and environmental activism, she is by no means a newcomer to electoral politics.

“Very frustrated with the referendum’s outcome, I decided to channel my energy into joining a political party, and it had to be the Greens — they’re the only ones with any credible environmental policy. It’s snowballed from there.”

Fife, where the Green candidate will also stand in the Cowdenbeath constituency, is a traditional Labour heartland, hosting Britain’s last elected communist, but it has lately shifted to become largely SNP territory. But the latter party has failed residents, Hall says, citing the near-collapse of BiFab, the closure of Longannet power station and the wider industrial decline across the region. A jobs guarantee for Scotland’s oil and gas workers — a Green manifesto promise — aims to prevent repeats.

“The government’s justification with BiFab was state aid rules meant it wasn’t a viable company. The announcement last week throws that into doubt. If elected in May, I will be chapping on the Energy Minister’s door to ask what happened there. That was a viable company, there was work there. BiFab could be publicly owned by now and those investments could be coming back to support a wider supply chain.

“I am very passionate about my local community and my area. It comes from my dad, who worked at Grangemouth. When I grew up in Kincardine, we had two power stations and a deep coalmine all within a couple of miles of the village. They’re all gone now. There are no jobs.

“Those communities were just dropped. It was a complete failure to plan for the transition we knew was coming. I am incredibly passionate about making sure that doesn’t happen again with oil and gas. For the folk who work at Mossmorran and Grangemouth, we have to be honest with them, ourselves and communities that oil and gas has to come to an end to tackle the climate emergency.

“If we don’t plan for it, the same thing that happened with Longannet and the coalmines will happen again. This is five years that we’re voting people in for and they’re possibly the most important years of my lifetime, certainly for the next few generations as well.”

The eco-socialist tells me this election means that she has now a complete set of “Panini political stickers,” having now stood in every election possible. With just days left until polling day, she says this is the best chance yet for the party to expand their number of MSPs across Scotland and in her own region. 

“It would be fantastic, but it’s desperately needed. I worked with Mark [Ruskell], who is standing again, but we just can’t do everything that is needed.

“We try our absolute best to work with anyone and any campaigns that need our support, but it is a region with really deep and profound issues, particularly environmental issues as well, and we are the first party people come to when they want action on things like Mossmorran, pollution on Dalgety Bay beach or public transport.

“Our MSPs have worked really hard over the past five years to represent people on local issues that other parties are just not responsive to or don’t understand. They don’t have the solutions to environmental and climate change issues.

“There’s going to need to be significant public investment, even to just recover from the pandemic, and the Greens will be there fighting every step of the way. It’s not about going back to business as usual, but about building back better and redistributing our economy to do that in a fair and just way.”

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