Attempting to break the (Unsustainable) establishment: how the Scottish Greens co-opted a movement for democratic change

Iain Black

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Justification of the paper Much has been proposed regarding how we might change consumer lifestyles and influence the policies and actions of government and businesses so to avoid dangerous climate change. However, despite this, the main indicators of atmospheric pollution continue to increase (IPCC 2013) with this partly explained by the failure to persuade politicians from the largest polluting countries (i.e. USA, China) to agree to legally binding reduction targets. An ambitious research area that may help address this is to examine how wider social movements can be co-opted to change the established social order of countries where political and economic decision making is resistant to urgent calls for action. Purpose This paper helps understand how key barriers such as establishment individuals, governance structures and institutions, can be challenged and changed. Guidance is provided on how to appropriate democratic power to help us live sustainably. Theoretical framework Social movement theory (Della Porta & Diani 2006; Melucci 1989) is the organising framework used with particular reference made to Kozinets & Handleman’s work (2004) examining the aims of ideological groups. Results and conclusions The findings come from a study of the Scottish Green party’s involvement in 2014 Scottish independence referendum. They show how charismatic leadership, public debate and at some time ethically difficult collaborations with other related social movements (civic nationalism and republicanism), lead to the weakening of the prevailing narrative maintained by the UK establishment. By helping replace this with a more socially democratic, environmental conscience narrative, the green movement developed greater willingness to act, gained new activists, and a stronger policy voice within existing political parties. Hence changes to entrenched establishments are possible. Implications for Tipping Points It shows how changes to a country's politics can be made so that the voice of prevailing science can be heard and hence feasible engineering and behaviour change solutions may be enacted.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2015
    Event21st International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference - Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
    Duration: 10 Jul 201512 Jul 2015


    Conference21st International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference
    Abbreviated titleISDRS 2015
    OtherTipping Point: Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity


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