Meeting date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 21 September 2021
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Covid-19 Update, Scottish Ambulance Service, Net Zero Nation, Decision Time, Brain Injury in Football
- Time for Reflection
- Business Motion
- Topical Question Time
- Covid-19 Update
- Scottish Ambulance Service
- Net Zero Nation
- Decision Time
- Brain Injury in Football
Net Zero Nation
The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-01293, in the name of Michael Matheson, on a net zero nation.15:57
The debate is on a matter of parliamentary consensus: the need to tackle the climate and nature emergencies in a way that is both fair and just. The actions that we must take now will transform our society and our economy beyond anything that we have seen since the industrial revolution, so I would like to set out how, through the programme for government that we announced recently, we will go about helping to support the step changes that will be necessary on that journey.
Scotland has achieved much in its response to the climate crisis, so far. We have halved our greenhouse gas emissions and have set some of the most ambitious legally binding targets in the world, alongside our plan to get to net zero in a way that is fair to all. However, the progress that we have made does not take away from the scale of the challenge that remains, or from the opportunities for our economic prosperity, en route.
Members will be aware of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has been described as
“a code red for humanity”.
Transformational change requires us to do things differently. That is why we must confront the twin climate and nature emergencies in a way that captures the opportunities to deliver a fairer and greener Scotland. In doing so, we will need to decarbonise our homes and buildings as well as our energy, transport and industry, at an unprecedented scale and pace.
Since new members were admitted to his Government in recent weeks, has the cabinet secretary changed his policy on supporting the expansion of Heathrow airport?
As Willie Rennie will be well aware, and as has been repeated to him on many occasions, the decision to expand Heathrow airport is a matter for the United Kingdom Government.
Heat demand accounts for about 20 per cent of our emissions, so at least 1 million Scottish homes will need to move to a net zero heating system by 2030. That is why we will allocate at least £1.8 billion in the current session of Parliament to support exhilarated deployment of heat and energy efficiency measures in homes and buildings across Scotland.
Our draft heat in buildings strategy acknowledges that there are tensions between reducing emissions and ending fuel poverty. Many zero-emissions heating systems are costlier to install and to run than higher-emissions alternatives. That is why we are committed, during the transition, to supporting the people who are least able to pay, and to protecting those who are most vulnerable to increases in costs. This year, we have increased funding for our energy efficiency and fuel poverty schemes by allocating a record £50 million for the warmer homes Scotland programme in order to incentivise uptake of zero-carbon heating, which will benefit communities that are not served by the gas grid. That is also why the social housing net zero heat fund will invest at least £100 million over the next five years on supporting social housing landlords to contribute to our heat decarbonisation and fuel poverty objectives.
We will soon publish our final heat in buildings strategy and will establish a new dedicated national public energy agency to provide leadership and a co-ordinated approach to delivering at the pace and scale that are required in decarbonising domestic and non-domestic premises.
Another crucial priority is our energy transition. The planet and future generations demand that we transition from fossil fuels to renewables and low-carbon energy, but we must do that in a way that is fair and just.
We cannot consider our journey to net zero without touching on the North Sea. As was discussed in the chamber last week, the oil and gas sector will continue to provide an important amount of domestic energy. However, more crucially, its infrastructure, skills and expertise will be crucial assets in the transition.
We will make progress in helping Scotland to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Last year, the equivalent of 96 per cent of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources. That sits alongside our ambition to increase offshore wind power capacity to 11GW by 2030—enough to power 8 million homes.
Work has also begun on developing a refreshed energy strategy, with our reaffirmed commitment to a just transition for all regions of Scotland. Our just energy transition plans will also be an integral part of our refreshed energy strategy, which will take a whole-systems approach to energy and will provide a road map to 2030 and a vision to 2045.
To drive forward our green transport revolution, our strategic transport projects review will, by the end of this year, publish its phase 2 recommendations for formal consultation. The final STPR2 report will make recommendations for the Scottish Government’s future transport investment priorities over the next two decades. It is important that STPR2 includes a climate compatibility assessment, which will allow us to understand clearly the impacts on climate change of infrastructure investment options.
Very briefly, does the cabinet secretary have any idea of the timescale for STPR2? Clearly, it is very important that we know what is coming.
I mentioned that phase 2 will be published by the end of this year for consultation. It is on time, based on what was set out earlier this year.
We also know that the pandemic has led to fundamental shifts in travel behaviours. We want to ensure that people continue to make the sustainable travel choices that have been seen during the pandemic, that people return to public transport use and that our economic recovery does not overtly return to road-based travel. That will require us to maximise efforts to decarbonise the sector and to change our travel behaviour by making choices that are more sustainable. That is why our commitment to reducing car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030 is world leading. [Interruption.] I am afraid that I need to make progress.
Scotland’s nature and marine economy are also vital elements in securing a net zero future. Nature-based solutions will account for about 30 per cent of the emissions reductions that are needed.
Halting nature decline means that we need to invest now in protection and restoration of our natural environment. That is why, over this session of Parliament, we are committing at least £500 million to our natural economy, including £22 million for restoration of degraded peatlands in this financial year alone. Investment also includes £100 million to increase forestry planting, £30 million to expand Scotland’s natural forests and land, and £20 million to increase nursery stocks.
We will publish a biodiversity strategy within a year of the United Nations 15th conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity—COP15—next month and we will introduce a natural environment bill in year 3 of this session of Parliament.
We are also committed to stepping up our protection of Scotland’s marine environment. Some 37 per cent of Scottish waters are already designated as marine protected areas. We will now begin the process of designating 10 per cent of our seas as highly protected marine areas, and we aim to complete that by 2026. A healthy and resilient marine environment is critical to supporting a healthy blue economy and to achieving our net zero ambitions.
At the heart of our efforts is a defining mission to achieve a just transition that maximises economic, social and environmental opportunities and that leaves nobody behind. It is essential that we support the transformation of industries, that we help businesses to adapt and innovate, and that we support communities to ensure that they are cleaner, safer and more accessible. That is not an easy task, but it is crucial and will have rewards for us in the future.
Our response to the just transition commission and our national just transition planning framework, which was published alongside the programme for government, set out our long-term vision and approach, including a skills guarantee for workers in carbon-intensive sectors and new support for participatory budgets to deliver climate action.
We have also announced a new remit for the just transition commission and have confirmed that Professor Jim Skea will continue to chair it. The new commission will shift to a focus on delivery and will support and scrutinise the production and delivery of Government-led transition plans.
As a further demonstration of our commitment, we are working with partners, communities and other stakeholders to take forward a 10-year £500 million just transition fund for the north-east and Moray. That will support Scotland’s energy transition by creating jobs and maximising the region’s economic potential in becoming a centre of excellence.
The calls for further and faster action gather pace as we look towards Glasgow hosting the UN climate change conference of the parties 26—COP26—in just under 50 days. COP26 is the world’s best, if not its last, chance to make sure that we deliver on the Paris agreement. We will play our part in support of the aim of achieving agreement in Glasgow. We will do so by making sure that we target support at countries in the global south by doubling our climate justice fund to support those who have contributed least to climate change, but who are impacted most by it.
This Government, as has been set out in our priorities in the programme for government, will not shy away from taking on the challenges of dealing with climate change and nature loss. Delivering a just transition in a fairer and greener society will benefit us all. We are all determined to play our part in delivering that in becoming a net zero nation.
That the Parliament agrees that the Scottish Government must do everything in its power to tackle the escalating climate and nature emergencies and deliver a just transition for all; notes the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and the need for Scotland to advance determinedly to decarbonise homes, buildings, energy, industry and transport, and to restore, protect and enhance the natural environment and its assets; welcomes, therefore, the Scottish Government’s commitments in this area, which include investing at least £1.8 billion in zero carbon buildings during the current parliamentary session, achieving a 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030 and setting targets for species protection in a nature recovery bill; agrees that the transition to a low-carbon economy and a climate resilient Scotland requires urgent transformational action and must be done in a fair and just way that leaves no one, and no community, behind, and recognises that there are also significant opportunities for Scotland to lead the way globally in finding solutions.
I call Liam Kerr to speak to and to move amendment S6M-01293.1.16:08
I will start with a point of consensus—the cabinet secretary is absolutely right to demand that we note the IPCC report and its conclusion. However, although the SNP talks a good game, its record rarely matches its rhetoric.
Let us take the setting of legal emissions targets, which were missed three years in a row. Interestingly, when I asked the minister what sanction or penalties applied, and to whom, for a breach of that statutory target, I was told that ministers must
“bring forward—as soon as reasonably practicable after such a target outcome has been reported—additional policies and proposals to compensate”.—[Written Answers, 16 June 2021; S6W-00771.]
That is reassuring, then. Furthermore, the climate emergency response group noted that more than two thirds of Scotland’s key climate policies are not on track, with a tenth not met in any meaningful way.
Scottish Conservative speakers will examine specific areas more fully over this afternoon. I will briefly highlight three. The first is transport. In 2018, transport accounted for 36 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland. Since the 1990 baseline, such emissions have fallen by just 0.5 per cent. Private cars are the largest single source of transport emissions—they account for 39 per cent of transport emissions—so what is to be done?
It is not good enough to demand that we all drive electric vehicles, unless the Government can answer the issue of recharge points and range anxiety. The Climate Change Committee suggests that we will need an estimated 30,000 charging points in Scotland by 2030; currently there are only 2,558 public charging points, and I am sure that all members get emails from constituents to inform us about the ones that do not work. Transport Scotland reports that we will need more than 4,000 new public charging stations each year over the next decade if we are to meet the expected rise in demand—and that is before we even get into the digital connectivity that will be required in rural areas.
Instead of acting in that regard, the Scottish Government sets a target of reducing the distance that is travelled by car by 20 per cent by 2030, but it does not say where it got that figure from or how it will be achieved. It is interesting that the cabinet secretary did not say that in his speech. I think that he refused to take two interventions in which he would no doubt have been asked to clarify that point. Perhaps he will do it in his closing speech. The underlying research remains unpublished. Given that the distance that is travelled by car has increased by 5.16 billion kilometres since 1999 and Transport Scotland predicts that it will continue to grow into the mid-2030s, one wonders whether the Scottish Government’s target will be another missed target.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said at the weekend that people should be given the opportunity to test electric vehicles, perhaps at weekends, funded by the Government. Would the Conservatives support that approach?
It is an interesting idea. I saw that Alex Cole-Hamilton was flying the idea. The key issue is range anxiety, which goes to my point about charging.
The other point about transport that I must get over is that the decarbonisation of transport needs to overcome ministerial disapproval. In response to the news that British Airways is flying from London to Glasgow on sustainable aviation fuel, Patrick Harvie fumed:
“Take. The. Train ... and tax aviation fuel”.
If he ever decides to take the train somewhere out of central belt cities—of course, he will have to drive his ministerial car on a Sunday—perhaps he will come to Fraserburgh or Peterhead, which are further than any other town from the British Rail network and suggest to people there that they should take the train. Perhaps he will tell dwellers of rural Scotland that they must take the non-existent bus service. The Government has to start thinking about what it is saying. It cannot just spout warm words and soundbites.
One of the biggest challenges in reducing carbon dioxide emissions will be the management of energy consumption in our homes. The Climate Change Committee reports that domestic energy accounts for a fifth of our carbon dioxide emissions. As we just heard, the Scottish Government’s solution is to tell people to convert the systems in their homes from fossil fuel boilers to zero-emissions systems. According to an answer from Patrick Harvie last week, the average cost of doing that is £12,000, which might be possible on a ministerial salary but it is far beyond the reach of most people. I asked the new minister what plans the Government has to increase consumer awareness of heat pumps, and whether there is a roll-out strategy in that regard. I was told that the draft heat and buildings strategy, which the cabinet secretary mentioned and which was published last February, commits to developing and implementing
“a bespoke public engagement strategy for heat in buildings”,
to help people to learn about their benefits. When might that happen? We just do not know.
The member emphasises the need to decarbonise domestic premises. Does he recognise that one of the most effective ways of decarbonising domestic heating is the use of hydrogen in the natural gas network? Given that his party at Westminster controls the decision making about when that will be possible, will he advise the Parliament as to when the UK Government will give consent to decarbonising the natural gas system and turning it into a hydrogen-based system that can be deployed in domestic premises?
What is most interesting is that the UK Government published, just last month, a hydrogen strategy—[Interruption.] The cabinet secretary is shouting “When?” from a sedentary position; I might ask when the Scottish Government will publish a hydrogen strategy.
In his speech, the cabinet secretary trumpeted that he will provide £1.8 billion to decarbonise 1 million homes by 2030. I did some figures on that: it means £1,800 per household. Currently, data suggest that heat pumps are the best and most affordable way to decarbonise homes. Air-source heat pumps are the cheapest of those, at between £5,000 and £8,000. That pledge is therefore only a partial subsidy, which means that home owners will again need to incur significant costs to help to deliver the Government’s targets.
I am aware that I am coming to the end of my time.
Last week, I said that demand is among the biggest issues. Until we address the demand for energy, we cannot address the supply. The move to net zero emissions will require significant and wide-ranging demand reduction. Heat accounts for over half of Scotland’s total energy consumption. That is followed by transport, which accounts for around a quarter, and electricity, which accounts for just over a fifth. The UK gets around three quarters of its total energy from fossil fuels. We know from the debate last week that there will still be a significant need by 2050. Yesterday morning, gas provided slightly over half of Britain’s electricity. We are reading daily reports about how wholesale prices of gas have surged by 250 per cent since January. Of course global causes underlie that, such as European gas stocks being low and declining supplies from Russia. However, if we reduce production faster than demand, we will be at the mercy of global events. [Interruption.]
The member does not have time to take an intervention. He is winding up.
We will offshore our responsibilities and expose ourselves to significantly less environmentally sound sources.
Those are the principles that underlie my amendment.
I move amendment S6M-01293.1, to leave out from “welcomes” to end and insert:
“expresses concern at the lack of detail and planning on how the Scottish Government will achieve its climate change targets, including delivering a net zero economy by 2045; notes the Scottish Government’s failure to achieve its own climate change targets for the last three years; calls upon the Scottish Government to increase investment in making homes more energy efficient, particularly in supporting homeowners through a Help to Renovate Fund; notes the failure to deliver green manufacturing jobs, and calls upon the Scottish Government to link the transition to increased opportunities for workers in Scotland; calls for the Scottish Government to introduce a Circular Economy Bill; further calls for the Scottish Government to focus on a transition that reduces emissions through rolling out electric and hydrogen vehicles rather than abandoning key road upgrades; calls upon the Scottish Government to introduce a Nature Bill to strengthen environmental protections for land and species, and further calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the costs of the transition to net zero do not fall upon individuals, families and communities.”
We are slightly overrunning and are quite tight for time as a result of the statement.16:16
I am pleased to open the debate on behalf of Scottish Labour.
In his motion, the cabinet secretary asks the Parliament to agree
“that the Scottish Government must do everything in its power to tackle the escalating climate and nature emergencies and deliver a just transition for all”.
Labour members whole-heartedly share those ambitions.
When the Scottish Government declared a climate emergency back in 2019, the then Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform stated:
“The evidence is irrefutable. The science is clear, and people have been clear: they expect action.”—[Official Report, 14 May 2019; c 10.]
The people do, indeed, expect action. That is why I argued in the chamber last week that climate inaction is the single biggest threat to our planet. Although we support the intent behind the Government’s motion, we want to see bolder and faster action.
I believe that there is consensus on the ambition for a public energy company. The Scottish Government previously committed to that, there is a democratic mandate and, over the summer, I and a range of colleagues, including Lorna Slater, pressed the Government for an answer on a date for that project. I hope that we can have a constructive discussion on that today. It is disappointing that a public energy company appears to have been taken off the table by ministers. Scottish Labour wants to bring it back to life today.
We are asking the Parliament to agree
“that the Scottish Government should act with urgency to introduce plans for a publicly-owned, not-for-profit energy company”
because we believe that that could be a game changer with multiple benefits that could accelerate Scotland’s journey towards net zero while addressing the affordability of household bills.
We can all see that the market-led model of energy transition is failing. It is failing customers, workers and businesses in Scotland. We must recognise that the state has a huge role to play in helping to build a net zero nation. A Scottish national energy company that is not for profit and owns assets could remove profiteering from the picture and deliver affordable energy to customers. It could facilitate a quicker transition to renewable energy, and it could pioneer new ways of delivering heat into households through methods such as district heating and ground source heat pumps. It is important that it could also help to create the high-skilled green jobs that we badly need.
The just transition commission told us that a publicly owned energy company should be established
“at pace with a broad remit.”
That could be revolutionary for Scotland, and there is precedent for it elsewhere. We can look to Denmark and Ørsted. That company went from producing 15 per cent of its energy from renewables in 2009 to producing 85 per cent of its energy from renewables 10 years later. While the Scottish Parliament was swithering about declaring a climate emergency, Ørsted did better, went way ahead and ran with its big ideas. We can catch up.
The member mentions Denmark. Will she accept that there are many public energy companies in Denmark at a municipal level that are owned by the local community and that supply heat to local people? That could be a model for Scotland—having not just one energy company but multiple such companies.
I am glad that Mark Ruskell pointed that out. I was going to talk later about local energy co-operatives and what we can do at a local level. Today, the issue is not about being prescriptive about what energy companies should be, but to at least have the debate and to ask the Scottish Government to put those proposals back on the table. We have all got good ideas to contribute.
We need to catch up. The potential benefits of a public energy company were cited in the Common Weal report “Powering our ambitions” and include tackling fuel poverty and social inequality, assisting with achieving national emissions reductions targets, development and deployment of new renewable, low-carbon energy supplies, supporting local energy co-operatives and more. Is it ambitious? Yes. Is this achievable? Absolutely.
I was struck by the remarks of Dr Craig Dalzell, head of policy at Common Weal, when commenting on the escalating gas crisis. He said:
“Someone has to renationalise energy. If Scotland doesn’t, one of Boris’s more sensible successors will. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it situation for the Scottish Government. Use the powers they have to create a national energy company – focusing first on heat, where powers are fully devolved, or those powers will be used elsewhere.”
We believe that plans for an asset-owning, not-for-profit, public energy company should be brought forward without delay. Remember that more than a third of social housing tenants live in fuel poverty. Scotland is an energy-rich nation, but it is to our shame that so many households must choose between heating their homes and eating. The wholesale gas crisis is hugely worrying. We know that bills are rising. Too many children are hungry and too many homes will be freezing this winter. Cutting universal credit is absolutely the wrong thing for the UK Government to do.
I was going to talk about a local visit but I have run out of time because I took an intervention from Mark Ruskell. I will briefly point to the great work that North Ayrshire Council is doing under the leadership of Labour’s Joe Cullinane. It has impressive plans for a second solar and wind farm, which is very exciting and ambitious. There are many good examples of wind resource available to local councils.
The vote tonight should not be the last opportunity to debate and discuss what a publicly owned, not-for-profit, asset-owning national energy company should and could do. I ask members to support the Labour amendment at decision time because we need to choose climate action that is transformative.
I move amendment S6M-01293.3, to insert at end:
“, and agrees that the Scottish Government should act with urgency to introduce plans for a publicly-owned, not-for-profit energy company, to provide direction and large-scale investment into Scotland’s low-carbon energy sector, which will help create high-skilled, green jobs for workers in Scotland, tackle fuel poverty and reduce costs for consumers in Scotland.”16:22
We do not have a chance of meeting our climate change targets unless transport is rapidly decarbonised. In 2015, transport became Scotland’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions—it is the source of more than a third. Heathrow is already the single biggest producer of emissions in the UK. A third runway would go directly against our green ambitions. Scotland flights from Heathrow alone would release 600,000 tonnes of emissions into the environment.
Despite that, the coalition Government has a contract to support the building of a third runway. When the First Minister stood in the Scottish Parliament and declared a climate emergency, we were told that difficult decisions would have to be made and that everything would now be under review—everything, it seems, except that contract. However, with the Greens in Government, I now expect that to change—and it needs to change before COP26.
Achieving sustainability will require the acceleration of other work, including the opening of new railway lines and stations, establishing a network of well-maintained rapid chargers for electric vehicles and additional support to rapidly increase active travel. All new public sector vehicles should be electric. There should be longer, Government-backed interest-free loans to enable people to buy electric vehicles. We support a scheme to enable everyone to try out an electric car for a weekend, funded by the Government.
There is deep frustration in the agriculture sector about the dithering that has gone on for some years on the introduction of a new farm support scheme. There has to be a 31 per cent cut in agricultural carbon emissions by 2032—that is only 11 years away. The coalition Government has set up new working groups and has held consultations and debates on farm support, but that has been happening for years with little progress. There are tensions between forestry and productive land, between biodiversity and energy crops and between domestic production and offshoring. Decisions on all those things are difficult, but delaying them will not make them any easier. The longer the Government delays, the harder it will be for farmers to deliver that 31 per cent cut by 2032.
With energy prices ready to blow household budgets or energy companies apart, we face a crisis. The conditions for the price rise are understandable, with the economy surging after the lockdown and gas production spluttering to catch up, but the consequences cannot be tolerated. We must accelerate our sustainable energy generation so that we can have the security of supply that we desperately need. All Governments have been far too sluggish on the transition to renewables. Our plan for the transition to less demand for fossil fuels means exploiting every technology, from decarbonising home heating—I want a million heat pumps in Scotland—to using hydrogen and electric for transport and making more use of wind and wave power.
The Scottish Government talks big but often fails to deliver. Let us take, for example, the state-owned energy company. For years, I have been asking questions about the Government’s last failure: Our Power. That project wasted £10 million of Government funds, and it appears that very little was learned.
Mr Rennie, would you bring your remarks to a close, please?
Certainly. I suspect that the current Government wishes that it had agreed to my request for an inquiry.
From Heathrow to transport to agriculture, this Government talks a good game but often fails to deliver.16:27
This is a general debate, but, during this parliamentary session, we must focus in depth on every element of the climate change and biodiversity crisis. It is clear that there are three key priorities: heat and housing, decarbonisation of transport and biodiversity. In this short speech, I will briefly touch on skills, innovation, nature and transition.
We have already heard about the need for ambition and leadership, but we also need precision of policy and pace of delivery, and I have some initial suggestions to make in those areas. In relation to skills, I recommend three specific steps. On Monday, I visited West Lothian College, which is ready, able and willing to gear up at scale training for new building standards and retrofitting skills in an area of growing population. We need the Government to ensure that the Scottish Funding Council can be equally as agile at funding colleges in order to scale up quickly.
It is not just down to industry: the Government and its agencies will have to have the volume and skills base needed, for example, to deliver mass marine renewable licences and consents at scale. I am also yet to be convinced that there is sufficient co-ordination in delivering a skills passport so that energy workers in carbon do not end up having to repeat payment for dual fuel training. A renewable skills guarantee for carbon workers is welcome, but, if it is just a safety net and not a comprehensive, co-ordinated and immediate exercise, it will not be enough. [Interruption.] I have only a short period of time in which to make my remarks.
On innovation, we need to create the space, demand and, where needed, the support to incentivise domestically based and, preferably, domestically owned renewable manufacturing companies. I recently visited Invinity Energy Systems in Bathgate in my constituency, which is the only UK producer of long-life vanadium storage batteries for the renewables sector. It supplies the European Marine Energy Centre project in Eday in Orkney and provides storage capacity for a mass solar farm in Australia, and its batteries are an alternative to lithium batteries, which, as many people know, have issues. That company is not Scottish owned but it is expanding and using highly skilled Scottish engineering talent.
However, if we want innovation, we cannot preclude by size. The cabinet secretary should review and increase the size by which small innovative companies can secure marine licences, so that they can grow, rather than play safe and have large monopolies of capital underwriting, controlling and benefiting from the economic opportunities of renewables.
I welcome the £500 million investment in our natural economy, with £150 million for woodland creation and £250 million for peatland restoration. More action is needed at all levels to halt the loss of biodiversity, and the current ecological situation cannot and must not be left in the shadows of the net zero drive. That is why I welcome the proposals for the natural environment bill, which will contain statutory targets aimed at preventing any further extinctions of wildlife and halting declines by 2030, and driving progress in restoring Scotland’s natural environment by 2045.
Finally, on transition, oil was first discovered in my West Lothian constituency. It was shale oil, and we can still see the red shale bings as we come into Edinburgh. We then transitioned to coal, then car making with British Leyland, then semiconductor companies and, when they all closed, the UK Government sited Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in Bathgate before removing more 1,000 jobs to Edinburgh recently. We know from harsh experience that transition must be proactively managed if communities and people are not to be damaged. That is why, above all, we must ensure that the shift to renewables is a just transition. With not only ambition and leadership but precision of policy and pace of delivery, Scotland can do just that so that we can have a Bathgate once more.16:31
I think that we can all agree in this debate on one thing, which is that we need to cut carbon emissions and that whatever target we set to reach net zero, we have to achieve it.
I will focus my remarks on transport, the biggest contributor to carbon emissions, and start with active travel, which I am keen on. There is no reason why people cannot walk or cycle instead of taking the car for many short journeys, but still too few people do. When it comes to cycling, many people do not feel safe, so we need to invest more in segregated routes and maintain them. We also need to teach children and adults how to ride safely. The Scottish Government’s recent conversion to our own manifesto target of spending 10 per cent of the transport budget on active travel infrastructure is welcome, but it must deliver.
Next, on motor travel, we need a green recovery from the pandemic, but it cannot be a car-led one. That does not mean that we ignore cars, vans or lorries, because investment in roads is needed as congestion is bad and therefore projects such as the dualling of the entire A96 must go ahead. However, ultimately, we will have to move to zero or low-emission vehicles, be they electric or hydrogen. The infrastructure is not fully there yet and it often does not work. For example, someone told me at the weekend that a fast charger near where I live works only if twigs are stuck in it—that is not good enough.
On public transport, I am convinced that people will use it if it gets them where they want to go, is integrated and has simple, low fares. Decarbonising the bus fleet is vital, but the idea that we can replace half the Scottish bus fleet by 2023 is for the birds. After talking to Scottish bus operators this week, it is clear to me that they are on board but that, having already met strict Euro 6 emissions targets, they will struggle to do it all again. Aside from the cost, the speed at which utilities move was described to me as “cripplingly slow”, and bus manufacturers will struggle to keep up with demand.
Next, on trains, we need a mix of technologies in Scotland, from electrification of some lines—like the one to my home town of East Kilbride—to the use of battery trains, hybrid trains and hydrogen. However, we might need to keep diesel for a while as we get that right. We need to work with the UK Government to shift more freight on to trains and we should also, where feasible, open up old lines. I am not convinced that nationalisation will achieve any of that, and the Scottish Government should say why it believes that it will. It has not done that so far—but there will be more on that tomorrow.
Whenever we can get new ferries—we can only hope—it is clear that they should be more fuel efficient. If we have an aviation sector left after the pandemic, it can be a catalyst for change.
Last week, the SNP Government published a 54-page document on how it will engage with the public on climate change. It was the usual waffle with a nice photo of a father and daughter at an iron-age fort, a somewhat fluffy introduction from Michael Matheson and the claim throughout that we, in Scotland, have something that is described as an open Government—I am none the wiser, either. If we really want to get to net zero, we need less Governmentspeak such as that and more Government action.16:35
I have been a climate activist since my teens and, long before such activity was widely seen as desirable, my husband and I ran an eco shop in Ayrshire called Green People, which supplied the area with locally produced organic foods, clothing, reusable menstrual products and staples for refilling. I knew back then that supporting our producers to work in sustainable ways is key to dealing with our climate emergency. The recent code red report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change further underlines the emergency that we face.
My mum grew up on an Ayrshire dairy farm, and I will use my short time today to speak about the huge amount of work, which often goes unnoticed, that is happening in the dairy sector to address climate change. It is vital that our farmers and producers are afforded a just transition that is seen as being every bit as important as our move away from oil and gas. Sustainable farming must be at the heart of our rural communities as we seek to deliver the ambitions that are set out in our programme for government for a fairer, greener Scotland.
My constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley has among the highest concentrations of dairy herds in Scotland, and dairy farmers across the area are coming together to drive forward sustainable farming goals. Prominent milk co-operative First Milk is facilitating workshops across Ayrshire and Scotland to deliver on its first4milk regenerative farming pledge, which more than 93 per cent of its members have signed up for.
Through extensive research and data analysis, First Milk believes that regenerative agriculture presents the best opportunity to meet our collective climate and biodiversity obligations in a way that complements how most of its members already farm. To put it simply, under regenerative agriculture, food production also improves the environment. Regenerative farmers typically disturb the soil as little as possible and never leave it bare. They encourage plant diversity while always maintaining a living root, and they incorporate livestock into soil cultivation.
Before the pledge was introduced, most First Milk members already farmed at least some of their land in a way that could be called regenerative. By holding farm workshops, First Milk is capturing the good work that is being done as well as encouraging the adoption of regenerative principles more widely.
We all realise now that peatlands offer a huge amount of carbon storage, but many people have failed to realise that, by stripping out some modern-day intensive farming methods such as overtilling the soil, we can create conditions that allow a rich and biodiverse universe under our fields, which actively draws down a huge amount of carbon while allowing crops to flourish up top. Healthy soil equals carbon reduction. We must ensure that carbon calculators such as Agrical and Cool Farm Tool capture that.
In a bygone era, bison, caribou and wildebeest grazed lands around the globe and helped to create rich and fertile soils. Unfortunately, such lands have been depleted and turned into dust bowls all too easily by modern farming methods. By reintroducing a more natural grazing method and planting multispecies grazing crops that promote root growth, which keeps underground organisms thriving while offering the grazing animals a more nutritionally dense feed, and by rotating grazing paddocks regularly and always ensuring a crop cover, farmers will reduce their costs, increase their yield and improve animal and soil health—all while driving down their carbon emissions.
The recent establishment of the agriculture reform implementation oversight board—that is not easy to say—will continue to ensure that farmers lead our move towards sustainable farming and will drive forward the recommendations of farmer-led groups from the previous parliamentary session. The board will place farmers and crofters at the heart of a future support framework and will help Scottish agriculture to become more economically and environmentally sustainable.
What is certain is that, by farming regeneratively, our farmers are part of the climate change solution while ensuring that they create resilient sustainable farms that are future proofed for generations to come and that they continue to feed our nation with our amazing Scottish larder.16:40
I welcome this timely debate on how we move towards a net zero society and support for a just transition. The cabinet secretary said that it is a matter of consensus; indeed, many parts of society are already working on how they decarbonise.
The concept of a just transition came from the trade union movement, although we all have to accept that there has probably never been a just transition. When there have been economic changes in the past, there has been no just transition, and working people and their communities have suffered. Therefore, the challenge of delivering a just transition is not easy.
Employment in Scotland’s low-carbon and renewable energy sector fell from 23,000 in 2012 to 21,400 in 2019, and that was before Covid. The Scottish Government has promised to deliver 130,000 green jobs by the end of this year but, so far, it has delivered only 21,000. A Friends of the Earth report that was published last week showed that North Sea production has increased by 15 per cent since the climate emergency was declared. I say those things not to make political points but to highlight the scale of the challenge.
The Labour manifesto for the 2019 general election committed to guaranteeing a job with equivalent terms and conditions to those of workers in the oil and gas sector who lost their jobs as a result of the move away from the sector. I have called for the use of furlough for oil and gas workers until equivalent alternative employment can be created. We need to show that level of ambition to ensure that there is decisive action to address the climate challenge.
The other week, the just transition commission told the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee that the number of such jobs is significantly lower than the number of jobs in the oil and gas sector. How does the member square that circle?
A Scottish Trades Union Congress report has estimated that 350,000 jobs could result from green policies. Actually, we do not have a choice. I suspect that, in the coming weeks, there will be a great deal of debate about the climate emergency. The challenge that the Parliament faces is how we deliver a net zero economy and how we create jobs so that the issue that the member is raising is addressed.
There are a number of ways in which we can do that, but we need to be more ambitious. We need to look at how we retrofit homes in the way that the Government is speaking about. That should be delivered by councils on a universal basis, which would address not just the challenge of the climate emergency but the rising cost of fuel and the cost of living crisis that many people have to live with. As Monica Lennon said, a publicly owned energy company should be central to our energy strategy.
Job creation and decentralisation go hand in hand. Liam Kerr referred to one particular bit of evidence, but there is a great deal of evidence that green policies create a huge number of jobs.
As we approach COP26, Scotland needs to lead the way. The Parliament needs to put out a very clear message—on a cross-party basis, I hope—that we must be more ambitious and decisive and that we need faster action. I call on the Scottish Government to heed those calls. I believe that, in the coming weeks, there will be many people on the streets making that challenge. We need to live up to that and do what is required for the sake of humanity.16:44
I thank the Scottish Government for securing this important debate. I will focus on the role of communities in our ambitions to be a net zero nation.
“A climate resilient Scotland requires urgent transformational action and must be done in a fair and just way that leaves no one, and no community, behind”.
That is a line from the Government’s motion today.
Yesterday, I had a meeting with my constituent Philip Revell, who is the convener of the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network. Along with Rosie Harrison, he leads ELCAN—the East Lothian Climate Action Network—in my constituency. Philip was part of the transition town network, which 15 years ago recognised the urgent need to change our way of life. At that time, he and others started Sustaining Dunbar, of which I was a trustee.
Philip and I have been discussing what a local wellbeing economy would look like. He sent the following thoughts, with which I agree:
“We need a rapid transformation to a wellbeing economy. Individual wellbeing is intimately connected to being part of a stronger, empowered community. Covid demonstrated how small-scale community initiatives can spring up rapidly, and have the agility, local knowledge and connections to quickly innovate solutions to meet local needs.”
In the same way, the new wellbeing economy can be built from the bottom up. On a small scale, new ideas and approaches can be quickly prototyped and refined. Through networking, such approaches can then be picked up, adapted and replicated to bring about rapid transformation.
Will the member take an intervention?
Apologies—I am short of time. I have only four minutes to get through my speech.
We have a good understanding of what basic infrastructure each community needs for local wellbeing economies to emerge. We need to remove barriers to local action and ensure that our communities have access to the resources that they need.
Our transition should be based on five key principles. The first is dignity and everyone having enough to live in comfort, safety, and happiness. Transition must be included in that. The second is nature, including having a restored and safe natural world for all life. The third is connection, being a sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good. The fourth is fairness through having justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest being greatly reduced. The final principle is participation, which is very important.
Will the member take a short intervention on that point?
No. I am sorry, but I need to get through this. I have four minutes, and I am conscious of the time.
With participation, citizens are actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies. Relocalisation of our economy provides huge opportunities to achieve multiple goals and provide numerous, meaningful and creative livelihoods.
Back in 2014, SCCAN members distilled a vision of what a relocalised future would look like. What do our communities need to do to act? Community organising involves using the time of experienced and skilled development staff to engage and link across communities. We have heard about local energy economies and about trusted, knowledgeable energy advisers providing detailed, tailored advice on retrofitting homes. We need local food economies, including access to land and workspace for local food processing and distribution. Local enterprise, with accessible and locally appropriate support that is focused on the planning and development of social and community enterprise and community wealth building, is also required.
We need networks that support our local communities in moving towards transition, as well as strong links to properly resourced regional and national networks for mutual support and inspiration.
We have many fantastic people such as Philip in our communities, who work alongside local and national Government. Our local communities are key to delivering a net zero Scotland; let us support them as best we can on our journey.16:48
The reannounced circular economy bill is an opportunity to make serious progress towards net zero. Even if the bill is some time away, we must urgently explore the issues that it should tackle, such as the growing problem of plastic pollution, which risks exacerbating climate change, weakening ecosystems and damaging economies. Just 2 per cent of the plastic waste that is collected in Scotland is recycled here. Let us build a new plastic recycling facility to use our waste as a resource while providing green jobs.
We can do the same for textiles. Scotland has no significant textile recycling facilities, so let us build them. We should also use more native fibres in our textiles industry. With the right help, our farmers can grow the relevant crops, such as nettles, and create a vibrant closed-loop industry with a smaller environmental footprint.
The new textiles innovation fund is a welcome start—I hope that it will make up lost ground after the Scottish National Party’s abandonment of Zero Waste Scotland’s textile programme and the Love Your Clothes campaign.
However, in our push to net zero, we must be alert to unintended consequences. The SNP has abruptly ended support for oil and liquefied petroleum gas heating systems, instead of phasing out support in good order. That means that those in fuel poverty are likely to suffer, especially people in rural communities where those heating systems are the only realistic option in the short term.
The SNP is set to miss its fuel poverty target, having missed its previous target. I urge ministers to look again at the issue. Net zero must not come at the price of pushing people into fuel poverty.
I also urge ministers to consider raising the cap on floating offshore wind innovation projects, so that the Marine Scotland innovation and targeted oil and gas decarbonisation plan is increased from 100MW to 300MW, to ensure that Scottish projects are competitive with those in England and Wales, and are not disadvantaged in future contracts for difference auctions. I hope that the minister will deal with that point in her closing speech.
The SNP-Green coalition must work with others and admit it when its plan is not working. For example, more than two thirds of the Government’s climate change policies are off track; it has failed to meet its emissions targets for three years running; it has failed to meet 11 international biodiversity targets; and our recycling rate is worse now than it was five years ago.
Instead of implementing a landfill ban, the SNP-Green coalition is burning rubbish. Incineration capacity for household waste is skyrocketing towards 2.1 million tonnes a year. Perversely, if recycling increases, there might not be enough domestic waste left to burn. The SNP-Green coalition could end up importing rubbish to keep the incinerators running, turning Scotland into the waste dump of Europe.
If the Government tries to shut incinerators, taxpayers could end up footing the bill. Lorna Slater has already admitted in a written response that incinerator operators are not required to fund full decommissioning costs.
The coalition is proving worse than woeful on the environment. How is the public supposed to believe that there will be a just transition or that we will even reach net zero at all?16:52
Taking action on climate change is the biggest challenge that we, as a Parliament, our children and our communities will face for years to come. We must act now to help minimise Scotland’s contribution to climate change. We must restore as much nature and green space as we can and enhance our climate resilience in a just and fair way.
As Glasgow hosts COP26, the spotlight will be on Scotland. We should use the opportunity to highlight the steps that we are taking to achieve net zero. The programme for government outlines our plans for achieving net zero and we must ensure that we can take bold steps to get there. We simply cannot wait any longer. We must act now, as there is so much at stake.
As a Parliament, we should all be working in our constituencies to bring people along with us on our journey to net zero, whether that is through the decarbonisation of transport links—as is happening in my constituency through the actions of First Bus and Stagecoach—through reducing heat loss from properties with the Scottish Government’s warmer homes Scotland initiative, or through free bus travel for the under-22s.
We are also establishing a fair fares review—that is a bit of a tongue twister—of the discounts and concessionary schemes that are available on all transport modes. We need to consider options against a background in which car travel costs are declining and public transport costs are increasing. Public transport should be affordable and accessible for all, and investing in our communities is key to help us achieve our goals.
We also need to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Encouraging the use of active travel is of great benefit—the Scottish Government is investing 10 per cent of its transport budget in that.
In our first 100 days, the Government has already established 12-month pilot projects to deliver free bikes to school-age children who cannot afford them. The pilots will inform how the Government can roll out the scheme nationally.
The Scottish Government has committed to maintaining the cycle repair scheme, thereby ensuring that bikes remain in a roadworthy condition and helping to renovate old bikes to get folk back out on the roads—although I will probably not be one of them, as I am not very good at riding a bike. That is a welcome announcement as we seek to establish an active freeway network in Scotland that utilises existing local networks and links major destinations—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but I will not take an intervention. I am short on time—I have only four minutes.
Renewables will play a key role in our move to net zero, and I welcome the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to a green recovery. It has committed more than £9 billion over this session of Parliament to environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero.
By summer 2022, the Scottish Government will establish a new global renewable centre, working with our international development partner countries to exchange knowledge and research in renewable technologies. In addition, there is an ambition to increase the gigawatt output from our offshore wind turbines to create enough energy to power more than 8 million homes. I just love seeing the turbines from the beaches of Aberdeen. The first cycle of ScotWind leasing is under way, with new projects coming online later this decade.
I see that I am running out of time, Presiding Officer.
Yes—you are running out of time.
I will finish off, if I can.
In our move to net zero, we simply cannot leave anyone behind, whether that be our communities or the industries in which we work. Our journey to net zero must be a just one, taking communities with us, engaging with them—
Thank you, Ms Dunbar. I am sorry, but we are very tight for time. I call Mark Ruskell—you have up to four minutes, Mr Ruskell.16:56
I will focus my brief comments on the global emergency that gets the least attention: the nature emergency. It is a real supertanker of a crisis—it first has to be slowed down and then turned around, while all the while climate change is accelerating many of the catastrophic global biodiversity declines. The full restoration of nature cannot happen overnight; it will require changes that unravel centuries of exploitation and degradation. Traditions will need to be challenged and transitions will need to be just.
We need a clear vision that is backed up by legally binding targets, resources and new partnerships that are committed to delivering change on the ground. For years, meaningful action on the nature emergency has, for many Governments, been in the too-difficult-to-do box. Vested interests have resisted change; reforms have been slow or non-existent; agencies have often been too cautious; and the status quo has won out time and time again.
Change is long overdue, but the agreement between Green MSPs and the Scottish Government marks a fresh starting point for the regeneration and recovery of nature. Setting those legally binding nature targets will be critical in driving the change further and faster, and they must reach across every area of Government policy, from agriculture to fisheries, to planning and beyond. Ahead of the environment bill that is coming to Parliament, it is critical that the boots on the ground start delivering today. There should be no delay in the action that is needed. The nature restoration fund that the Greens secured in the budget earlier this year is already making a big difference, and will be dramatically expanded with multiyear funding. The demand is there for projects at a landscape scale that can truly deliver.
In the summer, I visited RSPB Insh Marshes, on the Spey, and I was blown away by the diversity of the wildlife there. I was also struck by how reserves such as Insh Marshes can be strengthened if they are part of much larger networks of linked habitats across catchments and regions. Regional land use partnerships have a key role in that regard, and they need to be rolled out further. Yes, they need to be guided by local decision making, but they also need crystal-clear objectives to enable them to deliver on national targets for climate and nature. Growing those nature networks will be critical. With initiatives from pollinator superhighways to farm woodland corridors, we can join up fragmented habitats and embed them in the national planning framework.
The commitment in the agreement to deliver 10 per cent of our seas as highly protected marine areas, removing all damaging activities, will be significant. However, there remains a wider problem with the inshore, which needs to be tackled. Capping activities that damage the seabed within 3 nautical miles of the shore is a step in the right direction, but if the evidence shows that that is not effective, the exclusion of dredging and trawling must be an option in the future.
Marine protected areas must be meaningful. They will not deliver as mere lines on a map; they must come with strong plans for management and enforcement. Aquaculture needs major reform to address the multitude of environmental and animal welfare problems that are associated with it. The Griggs review, which will come to the Parliament soon, must deliver reforms that address the concerns that many coastal communities have with the current regulatory and planning framework. There will be a need to apply just transition principles. For example, conversations with the scallop dredging sector about its future need to start now, and farms in the uplands must be supported to deliver—
Will Mark Ruskell take an intervention?
Mark Ruskell will conclude shortly.
Farms in the uplands must be supported to deliver the changes in land use that are needed to tackle the climate and nature emergencies while keeping people on the land.
The Green-Scottish Government agreement provides the right vision and concrete actions to restore the environment. I look forward to the Government hitting the ground running.17:01
Climate change is the biggest threat that we face as a society. As we all know, the COP26 climate conference will come to Glasgow in just six weeks’ time. It will, I hope, act as the catalyst for a new climate agreement, for bolder and more ambitious carbon reduction targets, and for the ratification of our transition to a future in which renewables are at the heart of our energy supply mix.
That being said, although we should be heralding a new dawn of renewable technologies with the benefits that they bring, I fear that we have missed the greatest opportunity to be presented to us in generations, because of the loss of the skills and industrial base that are required to capitalise on our natural assets. For years, we have watched wind farms appear on the horizon while jobs disappear into the sunset. We see examples of that across the board, with offshore behemoths such as the Neart na Gaoithe wind farm off the coast of Fife having been manufactured largely in Indonesia, while the Harland and Wolff yard in Methil—just 10 miles away—receives a subcontract for just 15 per cent of the steel jacket foundations that are needed. The 54 highly complex Siemens Gamesa turbines will be manufactured entirely abroad.
There has been a failure of public planning and a tacit acceptance that market forces will continue to dictate our renewables future. There is a mentality that is hard-wired into the civil service and all levels of government, which is why there is no fit-for-purpose industrial strategy. There is no plan to combine decarbonisation with opportunity, energy security with financial certainty, or untapped potential with economic prosperity. It is tragic to watch skilled workers broken in the face of that. I witnessed it at the Caley railway works in Springburn just two years ago, and now Scotland—once the world’s largest manufacturer of locomotives—has no domestic capability to build and maintain its own trains.
Until we reach a point at which we can say to everyone in this country that they will genuinely benefit from our transition to a green economy, we will fail to take them with us. That is why we need the state-owned energy company that the Government promised before scrapping it, and it is why we need to stop offshoring industrial manufacturing and technology contracts for renewables projects in Scotland. That should have been done years ago, but inaction, lack of imagination, and absence of ambition have led us to where we are today.
It is a lack of imagination that sees Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government about to blindly spend hundreds of millions of pounds on reconstructing concrete M8 viaducts that have scarred central Glasgow for 50 years at the expense of new active travel routes in the city. Just think of the message that that sends to the world in the year of COP26: the largest infrastructure spend in the city in decades will be the propping up and repairing of a defunct motorway. Why not spend that money on greener alternatives, especially when no new railway lines have been constructed in Glasgow during the past 15 years of this Government? We are now at the absurd point at which ScotRail is cutting 300 services a day from its timetable, and the cabinet secretary is scratching his head and wondering why more people are using their cars.
We need a Government with ambition that matches the scale of the challenges that we face, that is willing to face down global market forces and say, “Enough,” and that commits to an industrial strategy with workers and communities at its heart. We need a Government that provides everyone with the opportunity to benefit from our transition to renewables. Is this Government up to that challenge?17:05
I spoke in last week’s debate on making Scotland a fairer and more equal country. Today’s debate ties in with that. It is so important that our transition to net zero leaves no one behind.
Climate change provides an opportunity to drive social justice. Good quality, zero carbon housing is essential in that endeavour. In addition to funding the building of thousands of new homes, the Scottish Government is stepping up investment in heat decarbonisation and home energy efficiency measures. Those investments should lead to large reductions in fuel poverty in the future. However, we must tackle that now. The Scottish Government’s commitment to make around £0.5 billion available to support those in fuel poverty during the heat transition is therefore welcome.
Transport is the largest source of greenhouse gases in Scotland. To achieve a reduction in car use, we must ensure that there is good and affordable public transport. The programme for government mentions the continued investment in decarbonising Scotland’s railway, including the electrification of the East Kilbride line. That major investment will lead to a better service for passengers, with longer, greener, quieter trains, and it will help to reduce overall transport emissions.
The transition to a low carbon economy will come with challenges, but there is also an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way. Although I am biased, I believe that East Kilbride can play an important part in that. Coca-Cola Europacific Partners begins production of 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles this month, saving thousands of tonnes of new, non-recycled plastic across the country. Excel Vending produces reverse vending machines that will be extremely useful when the deposit return scheme is introduced. TÜV SÜD has experience in the oil and gas sector but it is now developing new technologies to help build a net zero nation, including work relating to a new domestic gas metre for hydrogen.
Those three companies in East Kilbride are not only helping to reduce waste and cut emissions, they all pay the real living wage as a minimum. There is great potential for new green jobs that deliver fair wages. The Scottish Government’s commitment to a green jobs workforce academy will, I hope, encourage more people to train or retrain and to reap the benefits that a just transition can bring.
I will mention another initiative as we work to transform Scotland: 20-minute neighbourhoods. East Kilbride can offer a good example of what we should aspire to, given that most of its housing areas have a local square with shops and services to meet residents’ daily needs. Greenhills Square has a church, library, post office, shops and restaurants, a GP surgery, dentist and pharmacy. There is a regular bus service to the square and there are two primary schools and a nursery. East Kilbride is not only about roundabouts; there are squares too.
Local shops and services, good public transport and energy-efficient homes will be invaluable as Scotland becomes a net zero nation. We are delivering lasting action to secure that future and we will do it in a fair and just way that leaves no one behind.17:09
The motion seeks to paint a picture of a Scotland that has not endured 14 years of inaction and broken promises at the hands of this Government. In June, we saw the consequences of that continuing inaction from the Scottish Government when it failed to meet its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and it has allowed emissions from domestic transport to reach worryingly high levels. At this rate, Scotland will struggle to meet its 2045 net zero target without significant intervention.
The Scottish Government is also failing to meet its targets on renewable energy. The latest figures show that just 24 per cent of current energy consumption is coming from renewables. With energy bills set to rise for households across Scotland, the Scottish Government’s failure to deliver a publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company is unforgivable. However, it is not too late for it to reconsider. A publicly owned energy company that produces local energy as well as supplying it could reduce costs for consumers and direct investment into much-needed green technologies.
The motion rightly recognises the need to deliver a just transition. That is particularly important to the workers and communities that I represent in the north-east. At First Minister’s question time two weeks ago, I challenged the First Minister to consider introducing an offshore training passport. Last week, I received a response from the just transition minister that avoided giving a firm commitment to introducing such a passport. Warm words are not enough. We need practical solutions.
One such solution would be to expand the role of the Energy Skills Alliance, which is developing an all energy apprenticeship. That is good for new entrants, but it does not help the current workforce. However, that work by the ESA suggests that standardised training for the energy sector is possible. Will the Scottish Government consider tasking the ESA with developing an offshore training passport as part of a wider, all-energy training programme for the existing workforce?
I do not know whether the cabinet secretary wants to intervene on that. As I asked a question, I think that I should give way if he wants to answer it.
Will the member take an intervention?
I ask the member to resume her seat if she is giving way, and I will then call the cabinet secretary.
Sorry, Presiding Officer.
I am grateful to the member for giving way. I recognise the important point that she makes about the skills transition and the potential role that a skills passport can play in that. I will take away the point that she made about the ESA and the potential role that it could play in helping to inform the process, and I will ensure that she gets a detailed response on that from the minister who is responsible for the just transition.
I thank the cabinet secretary. I am sorry if I did that wrong, Presiding Officer.
On transport, the Scottish Government’s motion emphasises the need to reduce car dependency, but its current actions undermine that aim, because Scotland’s railways are set to face cuts to services that will put them at below pre-pandemic levels. Scotland’s bus network is still run for private profit and not to meet passengers’ needs. Entire communities face cuts to routes and will be left without reliable services. On top of that, the Scottish Government is set to spend millions on the M8 motorway just weeks before Glasgow is due to host COP26.
The Scottish Government must do everything in its power to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies. The truth is that it is not doing that. It is missing its energy and renewables targets and dragging its feet on delivering sustainable transport. Labour is offering constructive solutions, which is why our amendment calls for the creation of a publicly owned energy company. It is also why I have outlined a practical solution to help to deliver a just transition for offshore oil and gas workers.
If the Scottish Government is serious about delivering the urgent action that is needed, it will back the Labour amendment.17:14
I am delighted to be closing the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. As I said last week, the climate emergency is one that we just cannot ignore.
In taking part in today’s debate, we must remember that we do so against the backdrop of an ever-increasing global population, rising energy demand, the continued deforestation of our planet, the increase in pollution from the burning of coal in countries such as India and China, and the increase in pollution from discarded waste, such as the mountains of plastics that we see in our seas and oceans. We should never forget that we are talking about a global problem that requires global collaboration.
The UK Government’s hosting of COP26 in Glasgow is a huge opportunity for Scotland to showcase what can be done through leading by example. Therefore, I will start with what the Scottish Government is really good at. It leads the world in setting targets—it is absolutely world class in generating headlines from those ambitious targets—but, as Maurice Golden said at the start of his speech, in probably the most important statement that can be made, inaction has become the greatest threat to our net zero efforts. Like Liam Kerr, Maurice cut straight to the chase, highlighting all the areas in which the SNP Government’s talk is not matched by its actions or outcomes.
Just 2 per cent of our plastic is recycled in Scotland, yet the Scottish Government continues to allow an increase in incineration capacity. That is not compatible with a net zero target. The Scottish Government wanted to end landfill by 2021, yet here we are in September 2021 with no sign of an end to landfill and no clear path to it. That is not compatible with a net zero target. Procuring and processing food locally is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint, yet in schools and hospitals the greatest percentage of our food is procured from abroad despite the fact that our farmers produce some of the highest-quality food in the world. That is not compatible with a net zero target.
The Scottish Government told us that there would be 28,000 new green jobs by 2020. Only 1,400 have been realised. Renewable energy technology has been imported, along with all the servicing contracts. Why do we not build our wind turbines in Scotland? Paul Sweeney made that point. Why are we not linking our education sector with the future jobs market? It is ridiculous that we need to import those skills.
Will the member give way on that point?
I will let the cabinet secretary in once I have finished my list of all his Government’s failings.
Burntisland Fabrications and Ferguson Marine had ambitions to build turbines, but then the Scottish Government stepped in and created an almighty mess. Speaking of Ferguson Marine, we must not forget the fiasco of the MV Glen Sannox and hull 802, the great hopes for the future of Scotland’s ferry fleet, which are over budget and overdue. It is a staggering mess. It now seems that a yard that is owned by the Scottish Government cannot even make the shortlist for a Scottish Government tender. That is not compatible with a net zero target.
On the member’s point about the challenges for the renewables sector—in particular, the onshore renewables sector—is he aware that the biggest negative impact on securing onshore wind jobs in Scotland was caused by the UK Government’s withdrawing the subsidy for the programme? That, in itself, cost thousands of jobs across the sector.
I wonder whether the cabinet secretary is aware of the number of wind turbines in Scotland, especially in my area, that were built abroad. We had the opportunity to build them in Scotland but, as I said, the Scottish Government stepped in and completely destroyed the two companies that could have built wind turbines. [Interruption.] It is right to say that it is a mess, and it is tempting to say that the SNP Government is all at sea with those issues, but of course that would require it to successfully build a boat.
Net zero requires a transition to clean energy at the fastest practical and sustainable rate. It will require innovation, and I suggest that the solutions that will ultimately make the step changes that we need are yet to be developed. It is therefore crucial that research and development and innovation are encouraged and supported by Governments. The organisations that have the largest R and D budgets—those that are investing the most in renewable energy—happen to be in the oil and gas sector. They have known for some time that their business model had to change, and they have been doing that.
For example, Lightsource bp will more than double its global solar expansion by 2025 in a deal worth $1.8 billion to develop enough solar farms to power the equivalent of 8.4 million homes, which will turbocharge its capacity to 25GW by 2025. Oil and gas companies are investing in hybrid engines for aviation; green and blue hydrogen; offshore wind; tidal energy; and pumped storage. They are rapidly changing their model.
We will still require the oil and gas industry—as, I think, we all agree—because the petrochemical industry is not just about fossil fuel. However, as we witnessed last week, there are those in Government, especially the Greens, who want to shut business down.
Graham Simpson rightly highlighted that the way in which transport is developed will be significant in tackling climate change. Contrary to what the Greens have said—that road building is a threat to climate change—building roads is not the problem; it is about what we put on them. In fact, upgrading infrastructure in the south-west would significantly benefit the environment by taking all the heavy goods vehicles out of towns and villages, which would ensure that journeys were much less stop-start and far more economical.
We should be creating an electric hydrogen superhighway that connects the south-west—including the port of Cairnryan—with the central belt to the north and the rest of Great Britain to the south. The rail link from Ayr to Stranraer is woefully inadequate and in desperate need of upgrading. However, as Liam Kerr pointed out, there is not even a rail link north of Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh. The development of rural infrastructure is key to not leaving anybody behind; developing that infrastructure, as well as options for active travel such as cycle routes, should be part of that plan.
The Greens should be the conscience of the Parliament, as they are across Europe. They should be leading the critique of the Scottish Government’s woeful record in its drive to net zero; instead, they propose policies that have only a passing acquaintance with reality and which present a risk to a genuinely sustainable green economic recovery. Not content with that, for the small price of a couple of taxpayer-funded ministerial positions, they are content to prop up an SNP Government whose contribution to climate change is mostly hot air.
There is so much positive change that the Scottish Government could make to make a significant inroad into the climate change emergency. However, when outcomes are all that matter, and while the SNP Government continues to fall short, we will continue to call it out and put forward better alternatives. As JFK once said,
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
With its head-in-the-sand approach, the SNP has shown that it has the capability neither to learn nor to lead. If we are to achieve net zero, that will have to change.
I call Lorna Slater to wind up for the Scottish Government.17:21
I thank all members for their excellent contributions to today’s debate. I will refer to as many as possible in the time that is available, although there have been so many excellent contributions that I might miss a few.
Today’s debate has reaffirmed the need for transformative action to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The crises are intrinsically linked: climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss, while a thriving natural environment has a vital role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. Both crises stem from the earth’s systems being stretched beyond their sustainable limits. The same urgency that we attach to tackling climate change is now also needed to address the biodiversity crisis.
Global reports show that the health of the planet’s ecosystems is deteriorating faster now than it has at any time in history. The “State of Nature 2019 Scotland” report highlights that 49 per cent of Scotland’s species have decreased in abundance over the past 20 years and that one in nine species is threatened with extinction.
The minister made a valid point about biodiversity loss and the failure of the SNP Government to meet its own targets on that. Will the minister commit to reducing and removing support from the SNP if the SNP-Green coalition also fails to meet its biodiversity targets?
Biodiversity sits within my portfolio. Maurice Golden is welcome to hold me accountable in the chamber for our delivery on that matter.
Urgent action is needed to address the drivers of biodiversity loss. We need to change how we use and manage land in order that we can stop the damage to nature that is caused by intensive agriculture, overexploitation and pollution, and so that we can reduce waste and excessive consumption.
By taking action now, we can transform our country for the better. Protecting and enhancing our natural environment and biodiversity is vital for our future economic prosperity and our communities’ wellbeing.
Will the minister take an intervention?
Let me finish this paragraph.
So many of the jobs in the future rural economy will depend on Scotland’s nature being resilient and abundant. Scaling up peatland restoration, sustainable agriculture and tourism, and planting more native woodlands—so called nature-based solutions—can make a significant contribution to Scotland meeting its emissions targets. Nature is our ally—an essential ally—in helping Scotland to cut our emissions and create a low-carbon economy.
The Scottish Conservatives consider that wind power should form part of our future energy generation. That said, in recent months, despite 13 wind farm applications being rejected by communities in Dumfries and Galloway, nine were then approved by the Scottish Government, with only four objections having been upheld. Those applications received more than 1,900 objections.
Could you come to your question, please, Mr Carson?
Given the minister’s comments on community wellbeing, are there enough wind farms in Galloway? Yes or no?
I cannot comment on specific applications in a particular area. We absolutely want wind energy to be part of the mix for a sustainable future.
Investing in solutions for biodiversity and nature recovery will create sustainable employment and innovative business opportunities. There are potentially thousands of green jobs and skills opportunities to be developed and realised. That is particularly relevant for remote rural and island communities.
It is essential that we invest in our education and skills systems to ensure that we are well placed to take full advantage of the opportunities that are arising. That is why we are taking forward a root-and-branch review of land-based education, to identify opportunities to promote the excellent career opportunities in our land-based sectors. The review will have a key focus on exploring how we can redress the inequalities in land-based sectors, and it will look especially at how we might encourage more women to take up careers in those sectors.
I was pleased to hear my Conservative colleagues Liam Kerr and Brian Whittle push so firmly for climate action and traffic reduction. I clarify that we are not demanding that everyone drive an electric car. A 20 per cent reduction in traffic is a key target. I am sure that the members will reflect on the fact that merely changing to electric and hydrogen vehicles does nothing to reduce traffic, so investment in active travel, buses and railways is the way to deliver on the target.
The cabinet secretary mentioned STPR2. Have the remit and criteria of STPR2 changed since the Green Party entered the coalition?
I thank Monica Lennon for lodging her amendment and for bringing up the following issue during the debate, and I thank Mercedes Villalba and Willie Rennie for their contributions on it. The public sector has a key role to play in the transition to a net zero energy system that is affordable and reliable. The new national public energy agency will help to deliver that by co-ordinating investment and supporting national, regional and local government delivery of heat decarbonisation and roll-out of energy efficiency by working closely with the public and private sectors and the third sector. Monica Lennon and other Labour colleagues might be interested to hear that the co-operation agreement explicitly commits to support for alternative ownership models, including co-operatives and social enterprises.
I congratulate Lorna Slater on her appointment. In June, before she became a minister, she urged the Scottish Government to get on with delivering a public energy company. I think that it is fair to say that a commitment to an agency is a downgrade. Has the minister’s position changed? Will she vote for the Labour amendment?
The Scottish Government recognises that there has been a significant change in the wider policy landscape and energy market in recent months. The climate emergency has been announced, we have set new and ambitious net zero targets, and the energy market has been hit by multiple supplier failures, rising consumer debt and volatile energy prices. A different approach is required.
Monica Lennon and several other members mentioned the gas price crisis, which I agree is a consequence of slow action to reduce our society’s dependence on fossil fuels, which have a long history of price uncertainty and shocks. In Scotland, we need locally generated reliable sources of energy. It is unfortunate that, in 2015, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May ended market support for offshore renewables such as tidal energy. Tidal energy is predictable, reliable and eternal. Thanks to that support being stopped, Scotland is six years behind where we could have been in building and installing tidal turbines in Scotland. [Interruption.] I need to carry on.
The programme for government commits to investment in marine renewables, with the intention of having a reliable long-term supply of energy.
I thank Fiona Hyslop and Mercedes Villalba for their comments about skills. Green skills are part of my portfolio, so I am interested in looking into offshore passports—they are on my radar—and other elements of the skills programme that the members mentioned.
I am really pleased that Graham Simpson supports our ends, even if we might disagree about the means. I very much welcome his call for segregated cycle lanes everywhere. My colleague Patrick Harvie will be delighted to hear that he supports such an approach. It is, unfortunately, the case that widening roads does not reduce traffic congestion, regardless of whether vehicles have electric motors or diesel engines. However, the member identified an excellent business opportunity for manufacturing in Scotland, in the building and scaling up of low-carbon buses. That is exactly the sort of economic opportunity that tackling the climate crisis brings.
I thank Elena Whitham for bringing up regenerative farming. I have long seen farming as being a big part of the solution to the climate and nature emergencies. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but I cannot take an intervention, as I have a lot of members’ comments to get through.
I say to Katy Clark that I am a member of Unite the union. She is quite right to push the Scottish Government on green jobs and the needs of the workers. The 350,000 jobs that she mentioned in her speech chime with other findings on the enormous potential for jobs in energy, sustainable farming, forestry, installing the segregated cycle lanes that Graham Simpson has called for and, of course, upgrading Scotland’s homes to make them warmer and greener.
Although challenges remain before us, there are real and lasting opportunities for Scotland to grasp in finding practical solutions to tackle the twin crises of the climate emergency and the nature emergency. That will require a whole-Government approach and, I would argue, a whole-Parliament approach. The reward for that will be a greener and fairer Scotland that has the natural environment truly at the heart of its prosperity.