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‘I’m too left-wing for the SNP and I never considered Labour’ – an interview with Iris Duane

Paula Lacey speaks to Iris Duane, the Scottish Greens candidate seeking to become the first trans woman of colour MP

5 to 6 minute read

Picture of Iris Duane smiling, wearing a denim jacket

Paula Lacey

So how did you get into politics?

Iris Duane

I constantly say that I didn’t get into politics, politics got into me. I have so much passion to give back to the world, to support people and represent my community. I’m from a lower working class background, my mum worked incredibly hard to get us where we are now. I’m so proud that I’ve got that experience, but no one should ever have to fight nearly as hard as she did to support her children.

I ended up in politics because – and I’m very open about this – I’m a socialist. I think it’s a scandal that in the sixth largest economy in the world a third of children live in poverty. I do believe that we need to be redistributing wealth and working together to make sure everyone is cared for.

Paula Lacey

Why the Greens? Did you ever consider joining Labour, or the SNP?

Iris Duane

I think I’ve always been too left-wing for the SNP. There are socialists in the SNP, for sure, but I have disagreements with the party, particularly on the environment – like we’ve seen recently, their using oil and gas licenses to win votes instead of actually trying to mitigate the climate crisis.

I’ve never considered Labour. In my opinion, the party keeps the working class in their place. It doesn’t uplift us, it doesn’t seek to free us from poverty. Another hard line for me is their attitude towards democracy and electoral reform – the fact that we live in a country where only 63 per cent of people vote is a disgrace.

At the Scottish Greens, we’re about cooperative politics, we’re about working together and doing what we believe is right for the community. We’re fully democratic, we’re a people powered movement – bound by what the people say, and what our members say.

Paula Lacey

What is your relationship to independence, and what do the Scottish Greens offer to a voter whose priority is independence?

Iris Duane

From where I and the Greens stand, we need independence as soon as possible. Lots has changed materially since the referendum, especially since Brexit, and we see time and time again that Scotland is being ignored. We elect pro-independence representatives and governments, but we’re repeatedly told by the two main parties down at Westminster that nothing can change.

There are some very key differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK that I think we cannot address within the United Kingdom; we’re more internationalist, we voted to stay in the EU, but we don’t even have control over our own immigration policy.

There are various pro-independence parties, we have very different opinions on what an Independent Scotland should look like, but we’re united on that. And then what happens next is through cooperation – which is why I’m also against first past the post. We should all be around the table, trying to compromise, trying to work together to best serve our communities.

Paula Lacey

Gender has been falsely pushed to the forefront of this election – how have you found campaigning as the only black trans woman candidate?

Iris Duane

There aren’t many trans women running for parliament, yes, but there are also only 39 black women running across all parties. The discrepancy goes further than my gender identity.

I’ve experienced abuse online, but I’ve also got a lot of support for being so open about my experiences of transition. Mostly though, what I’ve found in this campaign is that it truly doesn’t come up. Only 3 per cent of the population care about it, there’s less than 20,000 trans people in Scotland. It hasn’t come up on the doors once.

I’m loud in my activism, I’m open about who I am, and I will not be made to feel shame. I bring my identity to the table in politics. However, I’m careful not to be pigeonholed as the trans candidate – or the black candidate, or the disabled candidate, or the working class candidate – I’m me and I’m putting my policies forward which are so much more than my identity.

Paula Lacey

You have a background in activism and advocacy work, why have you decided to take this work to Westminster? What you would say to a voter, like many Red Pepper readers, have no faith in the system, why would you encourage them to engage with it?

Iris Duane

No, I get it. I think that the visibility and the fight being taken to Westminster is important, but that doesn’t denigrate the activism I’ve done in the past, or the work I’ll do in future, and it doesn’t denigrate the work extra-parliamentary organisations and campaigns do. I don’t believe in a monopoly on change, and I don’t believe parliament is the only way that things can change.

But, I also don’t think we can give up on it yet. Democracy across the world is backsliding, in my opinion, because of the failures of neoliberalism to address the ills in society and lift people out of poverty.

We need to be fighting this on the same level that they are, and now is the time to fight. We’re looking at an election where austerity has been normalised as the position of the left and the right. We need to show that there are not only radical solutions but genuinely tangible ones.

Westminster sees people as numbers on a spreadsheet. But that’s a mother, a child, someone going to sleep at night without food, someone in a situation of intimate partner violence that they can’t get out of, someone working day and night at a charity to support their community but can’t even feed themselves. We’re in this feedback loop of poverty that isn’t being broken, and I want to be able to push for something different.

That’s my fight, but I’m hoping to fight for everyone else’s too. And I want to do that arm in arm with everyone across the spectrum, to make sure that we have a safe country no matter the cards you’re dealt when you’re born.

Iris Duane is a feminist activist and Green Party candidate for Glasgow North in the 2024 general election

Paula Lacey is a Red Pepper editor

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