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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 09 February 2021

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Urgent Question, Malicious Prosecutions, Green Recovery Inquiry, Decision Time


Contents


Green Recovery Inquiry

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Lewis Macdonald)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-24078, in the name of Gillian Martin, on behalf of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, on its green recovery inquiry.

15:56  

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

As convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, I welcome the opportunity to highlight the committee’s recent report on green recovery and to move the motion on its behalf.

Our inquiry explored the parameters of an effective green recovery from Covid-19 and identified key actions for change, immediate priorities and potential barriers to implementation. We heard from experts and stakeholders, and from people and communities across Scotland who have been adversely impacted by the Covid crisis and who may be more vulnerable to the changes needed to achieve net zero. Their voices were at the heart of our consideration. Many highlighted issues and actions across a broad range of cabinet secretary and committee remits, demonstrating the cross-cutting and integrated nature of a green recovery. I thank everyone who contributed to our inquiry—particularly in the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves—by providing written evidence, giving evidence remotely as part of committee meetings or engaging in our online outreach work, which took place across the country.

Our report opens with a quote from Christiana Figueres, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris agreement, who said:

“Moments of crisis are always moments of opportunity”.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis. It has tested the limits of our resilience and, as crises very often do, it has highlighted and, in many cases, exacerbated existing inequalities. It has set a new context for all policy making and will have a fundamental and lasting impact on the ways in which we live, work and travel.

However, as we look to the future and to the processes of recovery, we can see that the crisis has also given us a chance to build a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable society—a chance to address inequalities, empower communities and drive action across Scotland to tackle the health crisis and the crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. A green recovery should do exactly that. It should build a more resilient, just and healthy society and environment. It should take a systems-wide, integrated approach, and it must transcend sectoral boundaries and Government portfolios. It should also seek to build community cohesion, wellbeing and equality to create a greener, fairer and healthier Scotland now and for future generations.

Scotland has already shown that it can be bold in the face of a crisis. We have seen how a coherent route map, combined with strong leadership and urgent action at scale, can effect the necessary change in our policies and behaviours.

We must be equally bold in dealing with the climate and biodiversity crises and the challenge of ensuring a just transition as part of a truly green recovery.

Key to that approach is strong leadership and the creation of an effective route map for a green recovery, with clear timelines, clear responsibilities for delivery across all parts of the public sector, clear delivery plans for each sector to signpost the way and regular reporting of progress to Parliament and to the people of Scotland.

We need an increased commitment to—and financial resourcing of—actions to deliver an integrated, holistic green recovery, and we need to apply tests to all new and existing policies to ensure that policies and funding are aligned with that recovery. The coming year provides an opportunity to improve public policy alignment, as many policies have been, or are currently, under review.

We also need to tackle the implementation gap whereby solutions have already been identified but not applied. Ways out of the current situation are already in existence. We need to capture and lock in positive behaviours and to build resilience through valuing nature more.

Underpinning that is the need for us to focus on people, innovation, skills and jobs. An overwhelming number of expert witnesses in our evidence sessions pointed to the fundamental importance of skills development. We have called on the Scottish Government to carry out a skills audit and to produce a skills action plan to support the delivery of a green recovery. We have asked that the plan be focused on those who are unemployed, underemployed or at risk of unemployment as a result of the economic crisis and the transition to net zero.

We want those people to be offered meaningful upskilling, reskilling and skills diversification opportunities that will pull people across into low-carbon and environmentally and economically sustainable jobs. We must ensure that there are no gaps, in line with the goal of a just transition that leaves no community behind.

We made a few specific recommendations. Among them is the call for the Scottish Government to establish an enterprise fund to provide financial support, including grants and low-cost loans, to support business models that have emerged as a result of innovation during lockdown.

We want the Scottish Government to prioritise and fund the creation of community work hubs attached to childcare facilities and community spaces and to encourage the public sector to offer unused office space to support communities. We want to ensure that transport budgets and fiscal incentives are targeted at reducing demand for travel by car and encourage the use of active and sustainable modes.

We want spend to be front-loaded on housing retrofits and energy efficiency schemes, and we want the skills and training that are needed for that to be treated as a priority. We want to bring forward a natural capital plan for Scotland and establish a natural capital baseline, with monitoring reports to check progress and to align plans for job creation with the need for nature-based solutions and natural capital enhancement. As I say, a lot of the answers are already out there.

Taken together, those recommendations provide a springboard for the swift action needed to deliver a truly green recovery for Scotland—a recovery where no one is left behind.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s very positive response to our report and the fact that it is seeking advice on a green recovery from a range of crucial organisations, including the Climate Change Committee and the just transition commission. I also welcome the fact that the green recovery has been central to the Government’s approach to recovery from the pandemic and I welcome the recognition that the green recovery must be embedded in everything that the Government does. There has been a marked change in approach in the past two years, particularly as we have looked at the climate change bill—now the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.

I also welcome the commitment to respond to the significant lessons learned from living and working during the pandemic, prioritising quality of life, health, wellbeing and our net zero ambitions.

However, the committee believes that a comprehensive route map is needed to signpost the way. The climate change plan is part of that route map, but it is by no means the only part. Therefore, we would welcome further discussion and a more detailed response to the specific recommendations that we have made in our report.

The committee believes that delivering and scrutinising a green recovery will engage all parts of society and Government, and several parliamentary committees. It cannot be a siloed endeavour at policy level in Government or at parliamentary scrutiny level, as that simply will not work. My committee is already working collaboratively with other parliamentary committees to ensure that the 2021-22 Government budget and the updated climate change plan provide an effective response to the current challenges and set a foundation for a newly energised and inclusive era of action in Scotland.

I started with a Christiana Figueres quote, and I will end with one. She argues:

“If governments put health, nature regeneration and climate action at the core of every decision they make in recovering from this pandemic, we can emerge as a stronger and more resilient society”.

That is exactly what our green recovery report calls for. It calls on us to work collaboratively and innovatively across society to build a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable Scotland. Only by having such ambition today and committing to taking such action now can we build a better Scotland for tomorrow.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s 12th Report, 2020 (Session 5), Green Recovery Inquiry (SP Paper 845).

16:06  

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

The Scottish Government welcomes the debate and the work of the committee because, collectively, we face significant challenges both in the years ahead and in the here and now. Currently, we are collaborating across Scotland and beyond to save lives and livelihoods in the face of the global pandemic.

At the same time, and in the same manner, we must increasingly collaborate to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, and to deliver a green and just recovery. We need a collective response, following the pandemic, that builds on the progress to date in tackling the twin challenges of the climate emergency and biodiversity loss, while enhancing prosperity and wellbeing for all.

The pandemic, of course, continues to be hugely challenging for us all. Many people have had their livelihoods impacted and, tragically, many have lost loved ones. However, as the First Minister often says, there are brighter days ahead. At some point, we will be beyond the current crisis, looking back at this time and reflecting on what we have lived through together, what we have learned and how we, as a society, recovered from the impact of the coronavirus.

As has been emphasised, as we come out of the pandemic we have an important opportunity to design a better future and to arrange things differently. We in the Scottish Government are committed to achieving that. We want a green recovery that creates job opportunities, grows Scottish businesses and regional economies, and delivers wellbeing outcomes for all, as well as tackling the climate emergency as a key and all-inclusive priority, as I said.

In the spring, we moved quickly to seek advice on shaping a green recovery from the Climate Change Committee and the just transition commission, and we established an advisory group on sustainable and renewable recovery. The advice that was received contributed to our work to lay the foundations now for a green recovery.

Since then, we have followed a whole-Government approach. In the first instance, that has been done through measures such as our £62 million energy transition fund and the £38 million that we spent on pop-up active-travel infrastructure. Our programme for government focused on good green jobs, and measures such as our £1.6 billion of investment in heat and energy efficiency and our £100 million green jobs fund will make a difference. More recently, we have published the climate change plan update and the budget proposals, all of which are centred on green recovery.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

The minister talks about “a whole-Government approach” and what the Scottish Government plans to do. Can we do that independently, without the United Kingdom Government being involved?

Ben Macpherson

We face the challenge collectively, as a society and internationally. Therefore, we absolutely need the UK Government’s involvement, whether that is about reforming the contracts for difference scheme to deliver support for wave and tidal generation and local supply chains, decarbonisation of the gas grid, or a commitment to linking the UK emissions trading scheme to other schemes globally. Those measures, along with a wide range of others, will be important.

We seek to engage with the UK Government constructively and appropriately—indeed, I have done so this week. We cannot act alone. It is absolutely the case that we need input from the UK Government. I will say more about that shortly.

I mentioned the climate change plan and the budget proposals. A package of more than 100 new policies has been announced since the publication of the 2018 plan. Those policies are in the draft climate change plan update, which is currently being considered by Parliament. The update addresses many of the points that the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee highlighted in its report on green recovery. The two documents—the committee’s report and the CCPU—share a commitment to our recovering from Covid-19 in a way that delivers a just transition to net zero and an economy that is more sustainable, that creates green job opportunities and which contributes to wellbeing.

Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

When will the 2013 household recycling rate target be met?

Ben Macpherson

The importance of the circular economy is part of our collective challenge. I will say more about that shortly.

Our draft budget, which was published at the end of January, lays the foundation for us to rebuild a fairer, stronger and greener economy and to deliver opportunities for new work and growth, as part of a just transition to net zero. If Parliament agrees the budget, the first £165 million of our low-carbon fund will be committed in the coming year. That will include £14 million for the green jobs fund, £25 million for bus priority infrastructure and £15 million for zero emission buses, alongside complementary investment in active travel, heat, peatlands, biodiversity and recycling. The budget also proposes increasing low-carbon capital investment across the Scottish Government to a record £1.9 billion. Those investments underpin our commitment to a green recovery, and again demonstrate our cross-Government approach.

In addition, we are supporting our investments through a wider package of skills support—the need for which is an issue that the committee highlighted. That includes the creation of a green workforce academy, the £25 million transition training fund and the £60 million young persons guarantee. Early adopters of the guarantee include SSE, Capgemini and NHS Lothian.

Furthermore, the climate emergency skills action plan will support people to access green jobs through advice and retraining, and through aligning the skills system with growing demand for green jobs.

Nature-based solutions will contribute to green recovery through job creation, mobilising green finance and boosting local economies. That is why we have made significant multiyear investments of £250 million over 10 years in peatland restoration and an additional £150 million in forestry over five years. Our programme for government also announced initiatives to create green jobs in the natural environment.

The circular economy represents an enormous opportunity for Scotland’s green recovery. It tackles emissions through influencing product design, manufacturing and waste and resource management, and it plays a vital part in delivering net zero. The climate change plan update sets out ambitious policies on the transition to a fully circular economy.

We have an opportunity to make this time a turning point on our journey towards net zero and the creation of a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. Today’s debate is part of that process. I highlight the important role that the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has played. In particular, I thank the committee’s convener, Gillian Martin, for her leadership and her thoughtful remarks today. I also thank the committee as a whole for its “Green Recovery Inquiry” report, which, as I mentioned at the beginning, forms part of a continuous collective process.

I look forward to hearing other contributions and to us all working together, as a Parliament, to achieve our shared ambition, which is a green recovery that benefits the whole of Scotland.

16:14  

Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

It is fair to say that members across the Parliament both recognise and agree that the primary focus for 2021-22 must be to rebuild Scotland’s economy, and that as much of that as possible should be done in line with an ambitious and sustainable green recovery.

There is also recognition and agreement that there must be willing co-operation between the private, public and third sectors when it comes to meeting that challenge, whether that is in relation to policy making, job creation, stimulating investment and economic growth or tackling the immense challenge that is climate change.

To that end, “Eight policy packages for Scotland’s Green Recovery”, which the climate emergency response group published last July, specifically asked for careful consideration of where Government—at Westminster and Holyrood—should invest public money in order to deliver best value, and of what incentives are needed to stimulate sectors to invest in key infrastructure projects, including in our rural communities, which are so critical to the green recovery.

I suggest that the Scottish Government still has a great deal more to do in that regard, notwithstanding the infrastructure announcements that Michael Matheson made recently. Just about every green recovery witness whom we have heard from at the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, including at recent evidence sessions on the climate change plan update, has pushed us for accelerated investment in infrastructure and much greater commitment to that in the Scottish budget.

On 2 February, Chris Stark made it clear to the committee that he feels that much more action is required when it comes to delivery of projects, rather than just in their future planning. He also said that he feels that the Westminster Government is a little bit ahead of the Scottish Government when it comes to the focus on net zero projects, so he encouraged quickening of the pace.

In that respect, effective procurement is essential; the committee’s report clearly identifies it as being crucial in aligning funding with infrastructure development and capital investment. The role of the new Scottish National Investment Bank is extremely welcome, but it can succeed only if there is the willing co-operation between the private, public and third sectors, which I spoke about, and a full focus on delivering best value for money on regional and national bases.

That is why the circular economy is so important, as has been commented on significantly at committee in recent weeks. Iain Gulland, Stephen Freeland, Sarah Moyes, Andrew Midgley and Chris Stark all spoke about the need for a much more serious approach to the circular economy, which draws into question why the Scottish Government dropped its circular economy bill after heralding it as being very important. That hardly sent out the right signal—especially as the Scottish Government’s 2013 recycling target, which my colleague Maurice Golden mentioned, has not been met. I think that recycling rates are worse now than they were in 2016. The 2021 landfill ban has been delayed.

Even if we have better infrastructure in place, the green economy is also about jobs, and we need to put in place the necessary training to ensure that we have the right skills available to sustain it. I draw members’ attention to a remark that Benny Higgins made in his recent report, which was echoed by Lord Smith of Kelvin. He said that the Scottish Government has to do more to ensure that there is better engagement between business and Government on the necessary strategic thinking, and on how best to develop the skills that will be required in the coming years.

That will mean closer engagement with schools, colleges and universities, all of which—notwithstanding the very difficult period that they are currently facing—will be at the forefront of developing the basic skills that are required, many of which are very different from those that were adopted by previous generations.

Benny Higgins’s message is critical, because it picks up on the point—as the committee’s report does—that there needs to be much stronger policy coherence across portfolios, with emphasis on low-carbon projects and on the targets that are set out in the climate change plan. The committee is clear in its view that we need to do a lot more by taking an holistic approach that is at the heart of the national performance framework and the budget.

My colleagues will cover in more detail the rural and marine aspects of the recovery plan, which are extremely important, but I note that the regional land-use partnerships issue is a classic example of why there needs to be a much more holistic and integrated approach.

At committee last week, a witness from RSPB Scotland was just one who questioned why the Scottish Government has not done more on land use strategy so that agriculture, forestry and land management are seen as part of the same coherent plan. They also questioned why regional land use partnerships are being introduced only on a pilot basis.

I remind Parliament that the committee was particularly strong in its recommendation 41. The Scottish Government must do an awful lot better when it comes to proving that there is a commitment to delivery rather than just to plans. It needs to set out exactly where responsibilities lie across the sectors, and it needs much clearer and more realistic timescales when it comes to presenting the shared vision.

The Scottish Conservatives are happy to support the committee’s report, but a lot more work needs to be done, and the Scottish Government needs to accept that.

16:20  

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

On the far side of these challenging Covid times, there is a real opportunity to shape the future together, with a new, fairer way forward for the people of Scotland in the context of the climate and nature emergency. In that context, I am heartened by the wide engagement that the committee undertook, which led to our green recovery report and its robust, unanimous recommendations. I identify with the remarks of our convener, Gillian Martin.

Many of our findings and recommendations chime with those of other valuable reports and proposals, including those of the just transition commission, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the UK Climate Change Committee and more, and they chime with many of the Scottish Government’s recommendations.

I want to start with our exploration of the green recovery landscape in Scotland. What do we mean by that? Is it flat, hilly or mountainous? Are there barriers to climb over? It is a tough and, some would say, a pretty rocky track. With the right strides, however, I believe that we can do this together.

Zero Waste Scotland very helpfully included a compendium of 270-plus green recovery recommendations made by more than 20 organisations in Scotland. Some might argue that that makes for a cluttered landscape—with respect, they would be incorrect. The compendium demonstrates the synergy between a wide range of respected organisations that are signposting our way to the future.

The committee stresses the importance of policy coherence, as we have heard from other members today, and cross-cutting action in the climate change plan update, the national performance framework, policy development and the Scottish budget. For a number of years, I have been part of a round table on the national performance framework. Many years back, that group grasped the significance of having cross-cutting and clear indicators. The committee’s report recommends that

“the Scottish Government provide reassurance that the National Performance Framework adequately embeds wellbeing and green recovery principles.”

Although all aspects of policy and what underpins it must support the rapid shift to net zero, I want to single out two. We took strong evidence on the land use strategy—we heard from Liz Smith on that—and I have long argued that it is vital that the pilot schemes are rolled out across Scotland quickly, are inclusive and have adequate funding. Understanding and buy-in will be essential, and it is vital that all land uses are evaluated and taken forward holistically. Marine policies must not be overlooked and must include something that I and others, including Paul Wheelhouse, have long advocated for, which is the real action that we need on blue carbon. That must start with salt marshes, on which we took evidence in a session on the climate change plan update.

The committee is robust about the opportunities that are presented by the climate change plan update. We “expect to see” net zero policies with clear pathways as the climate change plan is developed. However, those are not yet evident in many policy areas. For instance, it is disappointing that the Scottish Government has, in my view, failed to address fuel poverty robustly enough at this stage in the climate emergency. Scottish Labour is calling for radical action now, including the doubling of investment to at least £244 million for the coming year, in order to see a step change that really tackles fuel poverty, brings local, skilled jobs, prevents rising long-term costs and tangibly improves the lives of our rural and urban communities. Paragraph 32 of the committee’s report stresses:

“A just transition must be at the heart of the green recovery, prioritising the most vulnerable and those whose paid employment is likely to be adversely affected by the transition.”

I and other members cannot emphasise enough our recommendation on the circular economy. The report states that that approach to procurement and to the future

“will help increase local jobs through repair, remanufacturing, reuse and leasing opportunities.”

We will hear more about that from Sarah Boyack.

Finally, I want to reinforce our recommendations on finance by highlighting the importance of conditionality and the Scottish Investment Bank. Private investment will be vital as well.

I call on all MSPs, particularly members of fellow committees, councillors, policy makers, businesses, trade unions and educators, and everyone in civic society—in fact, everyone—to read and reflect on the committee’s report, which is important in leading us to collective action for a green recovery.

16:25  

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I extend my thanks to Gillian Martin and members of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for their work, aided by witnesses and support staff, in producing a detailed and insightful report.

As we come to the end of this parliamentary session and look ahead to a new one that starts later this year, it is increasingly clear that some of the most profound and challenging choices and decisions in Scotland’s history will fall to the incoming generation of decision makers. Because the world is on the brink of irreparable damage, decisions that will be made over the next 10 years—and probably in less time than that—will either make or break our planet.

The climate emergency is beyond dispute. The year 2020 began with apocalyptic wildfires in Australia, which were declared to be among the

“worst wildlife disasters in modern history”.

Extreme weather and the fires, floods and droughts that follow it are becoming more and more commonplace, and a global average sea level rise of more than 3mm per year over the past two decades has set alarm bells ringing.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have long recognised the threat that is posed as well as the urgency and ambition of the action that is needed to combat that threat. We have been instrumental in forcing the pace of change, and we have played our part in ensuring that Scotland now has some of the most challenging emissions reduction targets in the world. Those targets push us to the brink of what is currently possible. The chief executive of the UK Climate Change Committee, Chris Stark, recently described the 2030 target as “very, very stretching”.

The challenge may seem daunting, but the pandemic has been a timely lesson in what radical change really means. Covid-19 has shown everyone what is possible when public interest and political will demand it. We have seen how a global emergency should inform and influence decisions at every level so that what happens on the ground reflects the best of our intentions. That transition from ambition to action must now be seen if we are to address the climate emergency. As Benny Higgins reminded us:

“The test is not in writing it down; the test is in doing it.”—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 8 September 2020; c 3.]

Scotland already knows what happens when those issues drop down the political agenda. Ten years ago, the Scottish National Party promised 28,000 green jobs, with Scotland becoming a world manufacturing base for offshore renewables. Last year, contracts for 114 wind turbine platforms for the outer Forth estuary were awarded. A Scottish yard bid for just four of them and did not get any. All 114 platforms will be made in the middle east and China. Scotland also missed its emissions reduction target for 2018. Although the SNP’s rhetoric and promises are world leading, its delivery so far has failed to fully walk the talk.

As we move to ensure that our ambitious legislation results in ambitious action, Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to play a constructive role. We have done so in pushing for greater action on electric vehicles, warm homes and plastic pollution, and we will continue to do so across the range of areas in which progress is desperately needed. We have held the Government to account on its support for policies such as a third runway at Heathrow, which flies in the face of tackling the climate emergency.

We need a detailed, costed, funded and realistic route map for every sector and every area. What we do not need is a list of excuses about why promises are not delivered and how everything would be solved with the wave of a constitutional wand.

I again thank the committee, and I look forward to playing my part in the delivery of the actions that are set out in the report.

16:29  

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

After Scotland emerged from the first Covid lockdown, last spring, it became clear that we had many lessons to learn from the experience. Amid the turmoil, economic uncertainty and pain of the pandemic, we had rediscovered the resilience of our communities. We had also found solace in our connection with nature. Our daily need for travel had been redefined as a need for access. Suddenly, bandwidth was a more limiting factor than traffic congestion, with clearer streets and skies building confidence in people of all ages to walk and cycle.

One of the biggest lessons was that, when faced with an existential crisis, Governments acted. Major mistakes were made along the way, but the intervention by the state was on a scale not seen since the second world war. In many ways, Covid has been a dress rehearsal for what is to come with the climate emergency, albeit that the challenges and changes will be on a far greater scale.

Covid has also shown that, when faced with a crisis, inequalities often widen. For those who had insecure work, the insecurity has become deeper. For young people struggling to find a path in life, the climb out of poverty is now that bit steeper.

Inequality also lies at the heart of the climate emergency, with the richest 1 per cent responsible for more emissions than the poorest half of the world. The cry for global climate justice cannot be ignored, and, alongside it, a plan for a just transition so that no workers are left behind is imperative for the industrialised world.

Never at any time in our history has it been more important to shift to a wellbeing economy that enables us all to live within the boundaries of our planet while ensuring that the basic needs of everyone are met. It will, however, take more than a TED talk from the First Minister; it needs a big shift in thinking and governance.

The Government should start by scrapping gross domestic product economic growth as the central goal. It should set up a future generations commission, as Wales has done, to demand coherent policy decisions that will leave a better world to the next generation. A green recovery cannot be undermined by incoherent policies and budgets that lock in climate emissions and store up costly problems. The days of the Scottish Government justifying a massive trunk road expansion programme by having a cycle path running alongside it must come to an end.

Investment in low-carbon infrastructure, whether it be for electric buses, active travel or efficient buildings, must be front loaded in budgets—build it and they will come. At the moment, however, only 36 per cent of infrastructure spend is low carbon. That must rise to 70 or even 80 per cent if we are to avoid missing climate targets.

That is why the Scottish Greens published our “Rail for All” report last month. Big, visionary thinking is needed if we are to make rail the natural choice for travel. From improved intercity services to new stations including Newburgh, St Andrew’s, Clackmannan and Kincardine, our costed plan would deliver jobs and economic benefit.

The committee’s report poses major challenges to the Government about its vision, about how policies are formulated and about how budgets prioritise coherent action for the future, but the Government’s early response to the report is disappointing. It appears to be a dump of policy examples, and I get no sense from it that there is a major shift in Government thinking. Many of the more searching recommendations have been ignored.

Yes, the Scottish Parliament needs more fiscal powers so that we can choose our path and invest in the future, but we will not win the case for more powers with a paucity of vision. The time for tinkering around the edges is over. Covid has opened our eyes to what is possible and what is necessary. All that remains to be shown is our will to rise to the challenge of a green recovery and make it happen.

16:33  

Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

I congratulate the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee on its inquiry and report, which I see was published last November and which has already begun to help to shape our agenda in the green draft budget.

We were already planning our green future before Covid-19 came along, and, given the choice, that is where we would all have preferred to stay. Unfortunately, the virus did not give us a choice, so we must now plan the green recovery in that context. That is why I welcome the immediate and urgent action taken by Kate Forbes in the draft budget, which invests a record £1.9 billion in tackling climate change and creating good, green jobs.

It is particularly heartening that green jobs have been prioritised despite the significant financial challenges of Covid and delays to the UK budget and UK Government spending review, which have worsened our capital position. For example, one of the conclusions in the committee’s report notes that the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets sets price controls and influences investment and profit levels across the gas and electricity markets. The committee wants Ofgem to invest in and enable the swift development of infrastructure and the energy network to effectively deliver a low-carbon transition, but Ofgem works within a policy framework that is set by the UK Government and answers to UK ministers. I welcome the committee’s acknowledgement of that fact.

The committee heard that energy transition in relation to heat and transport poses one of the biggest challenges faced by the Scottish economy as reliance on oil and gas shifts to renewable electricity and hydrogen technologies. I agree with the committee’s report that, to achieve a just transition, new skills, technology and infrastructure will be required on a bold scale. I therefore welcome the launch of the climate emergency skills action plan, along with the climate change plan update, which will ensure that the skills system supports people to access those jobs through advice, skills and retraining. I note that the plan includes establishing a green jobs workforce academy.

I also welcome the new £180 million emerging energy technologies fund and look forward to some of that investment coming to the area of Scotland that I represent, which has already established itself as a leader in green technology. Last summer, for example, I was honoured to help open a new £1.8 million green energy hub at Dumfries and Galloway College thanks to funding from the SP Energy Networks green economy fund with support from the Scottish Funding Council.

The hub will promote sustainable economic growth, increased air quality and other aspects of environmental forward planning and allow access to a significant range of practical solutions to the challenges of heating, power and water supply. Flagship education programmes such as that one help to power the next generation of sustainability experts and create the workforce of the future.

I draw attention to the work of the Crichton Carbon Centre in Dumfries and Galloway, whose expertise includes advising on peatland restoration. I very much welcome the fact that the Government’s climate change plan is committed to delivering an ambitious 10-year, £250 million peatland restoration plan by 2025. Restoring degraded peatland makes an essential contribution to sequestering carbon and to protecting biodiversity. It can also catalyse the creation and development of land-based jobs and skills in rural and remote communities across Scotland. The Crichton Carbon Centre provides free condition assessments, site surveys and planning and it can help with all aspects of funding applications and project support through the Government’s peatland action programme.

I welcome the committee’s report and congratulate the members again on their work. I also welcome the Government’s action to ensure that a green recovery is at the heart of the 2020-21 programme for government and the climate change plan update. I look forward to all areas of Scotland, including my area of South Scotland, benefiting from the green recovery.

16:38  

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. I am sure that there is total agreement across the chamber that few things are as important as tackling the climate, ecological and biodiversity emergencies and finding ways of mitigating their disastrous consequences.

Having read the ECCLR Committee’s report, I am surprised at its silence on the marine environment and shocked at the lack of ambition on marine issues from the Scottish Government. The UK is a proud maritime nation and, having just left the European Union and the common fisheries policy, we now have the opportunity and responsibility to design a management regime for our fishing industry with ambitious, practical and measurable targets and with sustainability at its heart.

Not everyone realises that farmed salmon is Scotland’s biggest food export. Its quality is world renowned, so I would have thought that that industry would have been another priority for the Scottish Government’s green agenda.

To omit the marine environment from the green recovery is ignorant at best and downright dangerous at worst. The importance of having a healthy and balanced marine ecosystem cannot be overstated, and the Scottish Government must do more to establish a risk-based approach to fisheries management.

As Scotland has left the restrictive CFP, the Scottish Government has an opportunity to set maximum sustainable yields for all important species, which would ensure the long-term future for our fishermen and the health of the marine environment. However, the Scottish Government has been completely silent on the issue, which is not good enough.

Hand in hand with setting sustainable catch limits goes tackling discards in a workable manner. We can learn much from the Norwegian system. Discarding is wasteful and undermines efforts to fish at sustainable levels. There is a pressing need for the Scottish Government to do the work and come up with a plan.

The recovery plan needs to address our declining marine biodiversity. Rising sea temperatures have driven organisms such as zooplankton and sand eels northwards. Sand eels are a key prey species for fish and seabirds. Recent figures show that, in 2020, Danish fishermen caught more than 240,000 tonnes of sand eels, which all went straight to fishmeal. It is no wonder that there is now good evidence that declines in the abundance of sand eels have reduced the breeding success of seabirds around our coast. Our seabird population’s health is a good bellwether for assessing the biodiversity and health of the marine environment, which does not look good by any measure.

The SNP keeps making grand promises to tackle the climate crisis but, time and again, it misses targets and fails to deliver. The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which I sit on, has taken evidence at recent meetings on climate change. It has become apparent that, although the SNP is good at setting targets, it is severely lacking in the detail on how to achieve them.

However, at least there are targets. In a proud maritime nation, it is a disgrace that there are not even targets for marine issues. A renewed focus on our seas must be included in the green recovery, with sustainability at the heart of any approach. That is the only way in which we can address the environmental and ecological challenges and ensure the future of marine species, our fishermen and our coastal communities.

16:42  

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

That was a brave speech for Peter Chapman from the Tory party to make on fishing, when many fishing companies around our rural communities are going out of business as a result of Tory actions. However, I will focus on other matters.

I thank the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s clerks and advisers for their considerable input into the report that is before Parliament.

There are a number of things in the report that it is important to focus on. The committee discussed conditionality. As the Government and our enterprise agencies support companies, we must tie into that support more conditionality that relates to our green agenda and creating a green economy for the long term.

There are investment opportunities. The Scottish National Investment Bank is a new vehicle that will help and will have such matters as part of its important priorities. We also need wider state investment and private capital. Much of the private capital that will support the green economy will come in because of the economic returns. That is one thing that we must tell people about.

Today, we have heavy snow in the north of Banffshire. We were able to get out for our Covid jabs—thank you very much to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport—but two deliveries turned away because the vehicles could not reach us.

I can see that we have snow on our roof. Why do we have snow on our roof? Because we took our insulation in the loft up from 200mm to 600mm—I thank the Government for paying for that—which means that there is no heat going up to melt the snow on our roof. Not all the houses that we passed on the way down to Macduff were similarly insulated.

Some of the actions that we need to take are very local actions—very simple, straightforward and not high-tech—but they give huge benefits. Of course, the benefit to us of taking that action was a halving of the cost of heating our house. Many of the good things that individuals can do have benefits. If we drive fewer miles, we spend less money. If we walk, we are healthier and we spend less money on being unhealthy. If we cycle, that is a good way to travel and, again, it promotes a healthy agenda for each and every one of us.

The Covid crisis has illustrated how flexible, responsive and effective Government and the civil servants who work in the Government can be when faced with a challenge. Relieved of some of the perhaps narrow constraints and told to just get on with it, there has been a magnificent response right across the public sector—not simply in the Scottish Government but in parts of the UK Government and, more fundamentally, in local government, which is important because many of the decisions that will make a difference in this agenda will have to be made locally, with regard to local needs and requirements. The needs in the centre of Glasgow are fundamentally different from the needs of rural communities such as those in my constituency and others across Scotland and those in more remote areas that have only a few houses and limited roads.

We are making the kind of progress that we need to make. The agenda is now a shared one across Parliament, and I commend this report from our committee to Parliament.

16:47  

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

It is great that we are having this debate this afternoon, and it is vital that our response to the economic crisis and the climate emergency links into bold action to deliver a more equal society as we recover from the pandemic. That means using procurement to deliver long-term local jobs and training opportunities. The exciting energy efficiency programme that was mentioned by Claudia Beamish would be an excellent way to kick-start a green recovery because it is work that is already being done and could be ramped up significantly.

I was glad to see in the committee’s report that recognition is being given to the role of localised procurement. That has been mentioned by a few colleagues across the chamber. The key point that was made was about new procurement models being needed and the need for a fundamental shift away from an approach that involves procuring at the lowest cost to a holistic approach that takes into account the whole-life costs and benefits of investment and intervention—fiscal, social, environmental—right across the public sector. As others have said, it is a big issue for local councils, too.

In advance of the 26th conference of the parties, or COP26, we should be looking right across the public sector in relation to issues such as supplying clothing for our national health service. We need to think about procurement. What is the source of those products, how sustainable is their production and how do we support affordable, ethical products?

Food procurement is also important. We have seen a lot of progress on that in Scotland, but there is much more to be done to ensure sustainable food production that links into local businesses and public sector organisations such as the NHS and our councils. It is critical that we secure food that is locally sourced and affordable.

Another issue that nobody has mentioned today but that I think should be part of this agenda is community wealth building. Labour-led North Ayrshire Council is an excellent example of political leadership that links into public sector procurement to improve the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of a council area. Last month, the council approved proposals for a council-owned solar farm that will generate 34 per cent of its pre-Covid energy needs and will deliver a financial surplus of almost £13 million, which will be reinvested in North Ayrshire. The council is also looking at a second solar farm site and is exploring opportunities relating to wind power, hydrogen power and battery technology. Those initiatives are relevant as we look towards the 2030 targets, and they also deliver sustainable income streams.

Those are practical achievements on the ground, and they build on the community renewables and co-operatives that we have seen in our rural communities for years, generating local benefits, led by local communities. However, there is much more that can be done. The Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative is a model that should be followed across Scotland. Our school buildings have solar panels on their roofs and investment is now being made in our schools and community projects.

I am glad that the Scottish Government’s heat and buildings strategy looks at achieving net zero emissions from our buildings in Scotland. The strategy references past experience in Scotland and the importance of using positive business models to support community-led development. We now know what works and we have good examples in our local communities, but such work needs to be happening everywhere. Every local council needs to kickstart such projects. I hope that the Scottish Government’s investment will feed through to local communities so that they can deliver.

Another critical area is public transport recovery. People should be given real choices so that they can shift from using their cars to using public transport. Anyone who listens to “Good Morning Scotland” every morning will hear that we still have traffic jams in Scotland, even though people are not going to work in the same numbers. We need to kickstart public sector transport again. I note that the Welsh Labour Government has just taken its railway companies into public ownership.

Sitting alongside rail are the bus companies. Why is the Lothian Buses model not being replicated across Scotland? The Scottish Government has its bus fund, and we have the legislative competence through the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. Can we make such action part of our green recovery?

Such action will also help to deliver 20-minute neighbourhoods, which is the concept of the moment. That means remaking our town centres, investing in retail and hospitality, reusing empty buildings and creating new homes. That would represent a green recovery. Using existing buildings is hugely important to the environment.

We should all be able to support the delivery of local jobs, training, procurement and initiatives, which should be supported by Scottish Government investment. Let us get on with that, because we know that it can be done.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

I was enjoying your speech, but you went on too long. That is the problem, but there you go.

16:51  

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

I am pleased to contribute to the debate in the week that it was confirmed that Scotland’s carbon footprint has hit another record low. Analysis by the Scottish Government shows that Scotland’s carbon footprint fell by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2017. That compares with a 21 per cent decrease in the rest of the UK.

During the 10 years of SNP governance, Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 30.4 million tonnes of CO2—that is equivalent to the emissions from nearly 400,000 lorry loads of fuel. That is what you call progress, but that progress should not detract from the urgency of addressing the climate emergency in tandem with our green recovery.

As we have heard, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused sudden and dramatic changes to our way of life, and every person and industry has felt the effects. The Covid-19 crisis has not reduced the urgency of addressing climate change, but it means that it is imperative that the necessary economic recovery is sustainable. The green recovery allows us to link the economic and environmental advantages of investment in a sustainable recovery. However, we need to ensure that the transition happens in a way that leaves no one behind. Of course, it is imperative that that work gets under way now.

The ECCLR Committee report states that, for a just transition to be successful, new skills, technology and infrastructure will be required at a scale that has not yet been seen. That includes the need for investment in carbon capture and storage. Although there is much debate about the inclusion of CCS in the climate change plan update, there is no doubt in my mind that it must be part of the equation.

I say that not least because I represent the Falkirk East constituency, where Grangemouth sits. Grangemouth emits 33 per cent of the total emissions from companies in Scotland. A related statistic is that it accounts for 8 per cent of Scotland’s emissions but only 2.9 per cent of the total population. We can therefore understand why the Scottish Government, Falkirk Council and major industry players including Ineos are keen to develop plans for carbon capture and utilisation schemes in Grangemouth, as part of the green recovery.

I am pleased to say that Ineos engages closely with Falkirk Council on measures to reduce the amount of carbon that is emitted from the site. Actions include investment in a new energy plant, replacement of flaring equipment and upgrades to the KG cracker. Ineos has also been actively engaged in work on the investment zone and on carbon capture and utilisation schemes. Although I have put on record my disappointment that Ineos has not engaged directly with the Parliament’s scrutiny of the updated climate change plan, it is fair to say that it has engaged indirectly via the Chemical Industries Association, which Ineos believes can give broader industry input.

It is also fair to say that the petrochemical industries are key not only to our local economy in the Falkirk district, but the Scottish and UK economies. Our economy in the Falkirk district has a symbiotic relationship with Scotland’s oil and gas sector, and we must accept the need to support those industries through this immediate crisis and recovery, as well as looking to the longer term and developing a new, greener industrial base in Grangemouth.

It is, of course, worth pointing out that Scottish industry would become less competitive if it were required to decarbonise at a faster pace than competitors, and there is a risk that that would lead to the offshoring of operations, which is clearly the last thing that anyone would want.

We have learned from the pandemic that the new normal must reflect the need to build wealth and resilience into local economies. It should have a strong focus on promoting carbon reduction and reinforcing the value of place and how people engage with the spaces around them, as lockdown eases.

In my view, the Falkirk district typifies the risks and opportunities post-Covid-19 and there are opportunities for my Falkirk East constituency to act as a demonstrator for the transition. There are potential early wins around the significant investment plans of local industry to modernise its infrastructure, creating new energy generation potential and upgrading assets.

I look forward to the work of the newly-formed Grangemouth future industry board proceeding at pace and to having the Grangemouth industry’s keenness to be part of the just transition and green recovery recognised and embraced as we move towards net zero by 2045.

16:56  

Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests, as I am a partner in a farming business.

I start by welcoming the consensus around the chamber for an economic recovery that does not jeopardise progress toward positive environmental outcomes. The position in which we find ourselves is unprecedented. Large parts of our economy have been shut down and considerable restrictions have been placed on the day-to-day lives of individuals. There is a clear imperative to recover and build back better.

Jobs that have been safeguarded in the short-term must be there in the long-term, too. Businesses that are being kept barely afloat must return to providing incomes and livelihoods. However, it is right to consider that this comes at a time when we already face significant changes in how our economy relates to our natural environment. The risk, if both processes are not well managed, is that the combination of economic shift and shock may well create equally unprecedented risks.

This is also the year in which the COP26 conference will come to Glasgow, and Scotland and the wider UK’s positions on climate change will increasingly be under the spotlight.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s report is an important piece of work that requires detailed consideration. It outlines many of the issues that have to be tackled if progress is to be made on reaching the ambitious climate change target that the chamber has agreed. Sadly, progress fell short in better times. The report notes

“consistent and significant concerns that existing policies”

that are relevant in supporting a green recovery

“are not being appropriately implemented.”

We know all too well that progress against key environmental targets has been slow.

As my party’s rural spokesman, I am mindful of the role that the rural economy will have to play. Scotland’s agricultural sector is keenly aware that future progress will impact how it operates. One of the main points made by the committee was on the need for future clarity in a world beyond the common agricultural policy. That has been an area in which, across the Parliament, there has been dissatisfaction with a lack of direction and leadership from the Scottish Government.

There are commitments to align future rural support with climate commitments. That is a sound use of support funding, but how it will be achieved remains largely a mystery; that is the consequence of kicking the issue further down the road. Similar alignment should be achieved across other areas—including continued support for agri-environment schemes that promote decarbonisation. In many ways, rural Scotland risks being left behind by national change if adequate consideration is not given to its particular needs.

It is also worth considering in that light some of the sectoral issues that the report raises. The committee spoke about the needs around renewable heat, but the chamber should recognise the proportion of off-grid properties that remain in regions like the Highlands and Islands and that often operate on more polluting fuels at a greater cost to occupiers. The chamber should also recognise the levels of fuel poverty that exist in our rural communities, especially in some that I represent. By 2020, 11 per cent of non-electrical heat demand was supposed to be provided by renewables. That is not transformational, but it would have represented a positive first step had that goal been realised.

The committee properly underlined the need for active travel and public transport, but that makes little sense to communities where services are distant and local bus connections have been cut to the bone. There is little indication that the infrastructure required for the shift towards electric vehicles will match that being rolled out to more densely populated areas.

We should recognise missed opportunities in all of that. It is disappointing that renewable energy has often not benefited Scottish supply chains and that more has not been done to support green jobs in Scotland. The Scottish National Party’s talk of 28,000 green jobs by 2020 was not realised and a great deal of work went overseas. A green recovery must focus on making a positive contribution to our economy.

There is a real opportunity to rebuild more positively after the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been harm not just to our economy, in the expenditure devoted to keeping jobs and businesses available, but a cost in lives and opportunities. To ignore the vital role of the environment in our recovery will be a false economy. Unless we handle that seriously, it will set Scotland back even further.

17:00  

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I thank the committee for its report and the work that has gone into it. I am not a member of the committee and have come to the report somewhat late in the day, so I will focus on a few particular aspects.

One is transport, which members, including Sarah Boyack, have mentioned. I was particularly interested in that section of the report, not least because of my involvement in the cross-party group on rail. During the current lockdown, and in contrast to last spring, I have heard several people noting how busy the roads are. In contrast, the trains are incredibly quiet. The packed commuter trains are gone, at least for now, and people no longer pour out at Glasgow Queen Street or Edinburgh Park.

That raises a few questions in my mind. First, will we see a permanent switch to more home working and therefore less commuting as we leave the pandemic behind? Or will the social aspect of work and the opportunity for less-formal interaction with colleagues draw people back to their offices?

Secondly, people clearly feel safer from the virus in their cars than they do on public transport. Can we turn that around and get people back on to trains and buses? If so, how long will that process take? We have got into the habit of keeping our distance from other people. Will that change back, or will that habit become permanent?

Thirdly, on a related subject, what will happen to our city centres? In recent years, office workers have come in from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, then others have come into city centres for shopping and leisure in the evenings and at weekends.

I would not like to predict the answers to those questions, but they are fundamental and will guide our budgetary spending and our policies on planning and in other areas. I note that the committee suggests changes to the coming year’s budget, but I wonder whether it is too soon for major changes in direction when we are still in a period of lockdown and are uncertain about the future. Last summer, when things opened up, some people did return quickly to restaurants, the cinema and such, but others did not. It might be too early to say what the long-term changes in behaviour—if there are any—will be.

Our short-term investment decisions will need to change in the light of those long-term trends. If we want people out of petrol and diesel cars and into electric ones, we should focus on installing charging points, improving roads and using car batteries as storage for excess electricity. That would, in turn, impact on the national grid. However, if we want people out of all cars and on to public transport, we should invest more in bus development and rail infrastructure, including by reopening closed lines as we have been doing. Then again, if we want people to live and work closer to home, should we invest in transport infrastructure at all? I hasten to add that I am not arguing against investment in transport infrastructure, but it is a question that we must ask.

Those are just some of the questions that come to my mind, and I suspect that the answers will not be black and white. We will probably make compromises on most of them.

I note the references in the report to the Scottish National Investment Bank. In its response, the Government points out that the primary mission of the SNIB is the transition to net zero. I also note the committee’s desire to increase the finance that the bank has available to invest. That is a laudable aim, but Westminster’s financial transaction money has been key to the bank’s funding, and that particular source is being severely cut back in 2021-22.

The new UK shared prosperity fund was also mentioned, but the indications seem to be that Westminster wants to use it as something of an advertising tool for itself, so the chances of any investment from there being aligned with the Scottish Parliament’s desire for a green recovery are probably reduced, sadly.

I thank the committee for the report and for touching on such a wide range of issues.

17:05  

Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I thank Gillian Martin and the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for such a thorough and positive report. I wonder, though, whether Peter Chapman actually read a single page of the committee’s report. He could have done that instead of rubbishing the committee’s efforts on the report, including his own party members’ contribution to it. I am sure that they will have been delighted with that.

The report chimes with much of the work that is being done in the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, which has been taking a close look at the update to the climate change plan and, in particular, energy and local heat networks and how those can help us to advance the green economy. From climate change to Covid, we are certainly facing some difficult challenges ahead, but I hope that one of those challenges is jobs. We must think differently, if we can, about how we will do things in the future.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee agreed with the basic principles set out by the Climate Change Committee that underpin a green recovery. However, I was pleased to see the ECCLR Committee go a bit further and embed wellbeing and the need for a just transition and human rights to be at the heart of the green recovery programme in Scotland. We are not starting from scratch, because we are already well placed in Scotland to deliver the agenda, and we already lead the world in many aspects.

We aim to achieve net zero by 2045 and to be carbon neutral by 2040; and we are including a fair share of the emissions from international aviation and shipping in those targets. We want to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, and, to achieve that, we will provide electrical charging points on our motorways while doubling our investment in active travel. To help us to get there, we are looking for a 43 per cent reduction in industrial emissions by 2032, which is a tall order, as it is the difficult stuff that is still left to do. Professor Stuart Haszeldine told the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, at our meeting last week, that our beer fermentation and whisky distilling industries emit about half a million tonnes of CO2 every year, which is not captured, of course. So, not just the Government but industries have a vital role to play in the transition to net zero.

In terms of energy, by 2019 we had already generated 90 per cent of our electricity consumption from renewable sources, so good progress is being made. Financing the green recovery is fundamental to having any chance of success. The ECCLR Committee rightly focused on that, asking the Government to ensure that it aligns with all its spending plans and objectives but particularly its green recovery objectives. The budget proposals that have just been announced will see a record £1.9 billion invested in tackling the climate change emergency and creating sustainable green jobs.

Locally, in Ayrshire, we are doing our bit, too, with a number of innovative projects in the green growth deal that will help to take the green agenda forward. Our world-leading HALO project in Kilmarnock will operate on its 28-acre site powered by electricity with a net zero carbon footprint, and the national energy research and demonstration project in Cumnock is looking at storage solutions for local energy, to help that community to become energy self-sufficient. Some great work has been done, but there is still much to do, including making faster progress on carbon capture and storage.

I suggest that the green recovery group that has been called for by the ECCLR Committee should ask Governments and businesses to think seriously about where people can and will work in the future—an aspect that has been raised time and again by the many young people to whom we have spoken during our Covid deliberations. We have excellent and fast-improving digital technologies at our disposal, and one of the many lessons that we are learning from our Covid experience is that we no longer need to clog up our motorways and rush into our main cities every day to work in expensive, power-hungry buildings. Young people want to live and work in their own communities, and they expect us, as leaders, and the business community to take that seriously. What a wonderful opportunity we now have to progress that in the green recovery programme.

I commend the committee for producing a fine report.

17:10  

Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

[Inaudible.]—Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee debate today on its green recovery inquiry. I pass on my gratitude to committee members, for their work in producing the report; to all those who provided oral and written evidence; and, as always, to the clerks, who put in such hard work.

As my colleagues have said, we welcome the inquiry, and the Labour Party supports its recommendations. Now more than ever, the aim to build a more resilient, just and healthy society and environment should be supported and put at the forefront of any Government’s strategy for how we build back from the pandemic.

I will touch on the recommendations in the report, which call on the Scottish Government to

“prioritise the delivery of skills development for a green recovery in communities that lack capacity and resources, establish a development fund to facilitate this and support the mobilisation of communities with further and sustained investment.”

I have repeatedly made the case to the Scottish Government in the chamber that, if we are to focus on establishing a greener economy, we must absolutely prioritise the development of skills and jobs. We have seen a multitude of Government failures in that regard. The Government is not keeping its promises on green jobs, we are seeing work shipped overseas and it is failing to establish a green jobs economy on the scale that we have the potential for. However, in moving past those failures, there is no excuse for allowing the post-Covid recovery not to focus on those areas.

We all know that Scotland has massive potential for successful green recovery, but that recovery will need leadership, thorough planning and financial commitments from the Scottish Government. The crisis has put the inequalities in our country at the forefront, and those inequalities will become only more severe during this year. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that recovery will be difficult, but we must focus our attention on delivering a recovery that tackles the inequalities and poverty that leave so many people and communities behind.

In the report, the committee recommends that

“a green recovery route-map is needed to signpost the way”

through the challenges ahead. I agree with that approach and that

“clear timelines, clear responsibilities for delivery across all parts of the public sector and clear delivery plans for each sector”

will help to steer the direction of the recovery and ensure that there will be transparency in the Government’s strategy. That will be essential when legitimate criticism or concerns are rightly made to ensure that we work together to make the recovery work.

The recovery will need input from across civic Scotland, from the Government, from Opposition parties, from those with public and private sector expertise, and from the communities that are, or that will be, impacted. By taking a collaborative approach, we can pool our resources to ensure that the recovery is the most effective one that we can deliver.

Friends of the Earth has called for a scaling up of energy efficiency programmes, which is desperately needed, given the fuel poverty that we have in Scotland. It also calls for an expansion of bus travel with green buses, which we could build in Scotland. The Government can begin to put all of that into place now. I believe that there is also a need for a national housing plan that, once and for all, will tackle Scotland’s housing crisis, creating apprenticeships and tens of thousands of jobs.

It cannot be jobs against the environment; it must be jobs, jobs and jobs leading the way in addressing the environmental challenge that we face. We must move from the rhetoric of transition to the creation of new jobs across the country, otherwise we will fail to meet that challenge.

17:14  

Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

I refer members to my entry in the register of interests.

I welcome the committee’s report and thank the committee’s members, clerks and witnesses for their efforts in producing it.

Although there might be disagreement over how we can achieve a green recovery, it has been encouraging to hear in the debate that members are united in their support for that principle. Gillian Martin spoke about being bold and increasing our commitment to climate change. I agree with that whole-heartedly. Ben Macpherson spoke about having a whole-Government approach, which is a strategy that we must fulfil.

Having a green recovery is not just about meeting our net zero goals, important though those are; it is about making Scotland more resilient to future shocks. That work must start in our local communities. I am pleased to see that the committee’s report made a number of recommendations on that front, covering local decision making, procurement and skills, and childcare. Those are key components for creating a circular economy, retaining local wealth creation and generating green jobs.

Equally important to a green recovery is the recommendation to lock in low-carbon behaviours and retain the socioeconomic benefits of natural capital. Both are beneficial at community level for climate change action and individual wellbeing, but they are also vital at national level for reaching net zero and protecting jobs. That is because Scotland’s vast natural capital, which is worth an estimated £23 billion to our economy, is vital for key industries such as agriculture, food and drink, and tourism and hospitality, so protecting our natural capital will protect the thousands of jobs that those industries support.

Jamie Halcro Johnston highlighted the important role that agriculture will play. I support the creation of a protein plan to work with farmers to achieve our climate change targets. I welcome the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets for doing so. However, unfortunately, they are not being met, as my colleague Liz Smith mentioned earlier.

Ben Macpherson

Would Mr Golden acknowledge the CCC’s statement in its 2020 Scottish progress report that

“the Scottish economy has decarbonised more quickly than the rest of the UK, and faster than any G20 economy since 2008”?

It is true that there is more work to do, but great progress has been made.

Maurice Golden

I agree that progress has been made—thanks to the fact that the UK Government’s electricity market has allowed the expansion of renewables here, in Scotland. That is wonderful, but let us not forget that, according to the climate emergency response group, more than two thirds of key climate policies are not on track.

Ben Macpherson

Will Mr Golden take another intervention?

Maurice Golden

I would like to make some progress in what is a relatively short speech.

The committee’s report mentions “consistent and significant concerns” over policy implementation, and Friends of the Earth goes so far as to say that the SNP’s climate change plan “doesn’t add up”. To put it simply, there have been significant failures on numerous environmental targets and promises. I do not doubt the good intentions of ministers but—to borrow a phrase—the facts are the facts. Just look at the list of targets that the SNP has missed—it has failed to meet the targets on emissions, household recycling, fuel poverty, renewable heat and creating 28,000 green jobs.

However, that record gets worse because, in many areas, progress is not happening and things are going backwards. Source emissions increased between 2017 and 2018, the recycling rate is worse now than it was in 2016, and the SNP is turning Scotland into the ashtray of Europe in that our incineration capacity is up by almost 400 per cent. That final statistic suggests that the SNP has abandoned the use of biostabilisation of waste. Numerous studies show that biostabilisation before landfilling is the lowest-carbon option for residual waste.

Ben Macpherson

Will Mr Golden take an intervention on that point?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The member is in his last minute, minister.

Maurice Golden

I welcome Zero Waste Scotland’s report on the subject, and I hope that the SNP will take on board its findings, incorporating the modelling changes that I raised.

There is willingness across the chamber to help ministers to turn the situation around, but only if they reflect on the committee’s report, focus on delivering results, not rhetoric, and get this green recovery started.

17:20  

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture (Fiona Hyslop)

I would like to thank all the MSPs for their perspectives—although perhaps not that latter one, which completely missed the tone and tenor of the rest of the debate, which was positive and constructive—and the perspectives that we have heard from everybody in relation to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s report. I thank the committee members for their work and their report. The report is a valuable contribution that will continue to inform Scotland’s green recovery plans.

Many people are currently in highly challenging circumstances due to the pandemic; while we continue to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, we must keep working to ensure a strong recovery from the pandemic—one that responds to the urgency of the climate emergency while building a greener, fairer future for Scotland and capturing the economic and wider opportunities for our transition to net zero.

The Scottish economy has much to gain from leading the transition to a low-carbon economy and our economic recovery implementation plan aims to capitalise on those opportunities. Investment at the scale that is needed to meet our net zero emissions target can deliver long-term, sustainable economic growth opportunities in domestic and global markets, from buildings and energy to products and services. That must be done—and it will be done—through a whole-Government approach. We already invest £1.8 billion of capital each year in low-carbon policies and programmes and we have committed to increasing the level of spending by an additional £2 billion over the next five years. Those commitments are outlined in the climate change plan update.

Furthermore, our infrastructure investment plan, which was announced on Thursday, supports a green recovery by setting out a clear vision for our future infrastructure to support and enable an inclusive net zero emissions economy. Mobilising private finance into Scotland’s transition, as referred to by Liz Smith, is crucial if Scotland is to achieve its emissions targets. We will create the correct conditions for inward investment, removing barriers and driving innovative private investment solutions. That is exemplified by our green investment portfolio, which I launched in the summer. It sets out £3 billion-worth of net zero investments to global investors and there is the establishment of the Scottish National Investment Bank, as referred to by Stewart Stevenson, and its capitalisation of £2 billion of public money over the next 10 years, which will be central to driving market growth that fits with the net zero target.

On the issue of conditionality, as mentioned by Claudia Beamish, we will work with our enterprise agencies in partnership with businesses to best align support with our long-term climate, environmental, economic and social goals.

On communities, we need a place-based approach. Our programme for government talks about the 20-minute neighbourhoods and we will deliver on those as a clear way forward. Mark Ruskell talked about resilience and the reconnection to nature and active travel, and the importance of a stimulus for action to reflect on gross domestic product; our leadership of the wellbeing Governments, now joined by Finland, is important in relation to that. Sarah Boyack talked about community wealth building and I agree. We are supporting more community wealth building programmes and procurement.

On skills, our climate emergency skills action plan, which was published alongside the climate change plan update, will support people to access green jobs through advice, retraining and aligning the skills system and growing demand for green jobs, as mentioned by the committee convener.

The Scottish Government is also working with Skills Development Scotland and partners to design the green jobs academies, which Joan McAlpine referred to. That is a national, long-term programme to support the retraining and upskilling that is needed for transition to net zero.

Support for jobs and skills in the 2021-22 budget totals £1.1 billion, demonstrating our commitment to providing good green jobs, including the £100 million green jobs fund. We know that Scotland is a clean electricity powerhouse. In 2019, 86.4 per cent of the electricity that was generated in Scotland came from renewable or low-carbon sources. Looking ahead, as we further decarbonise energy, we have huge opportunities in the development of carbon capture and storage and the use of hydrogen to replace the fossil fuels. The scale of the challenge is enormous.

Angus MacDonald was right to point to the work of Falkirk Council and the industry challenges in that area. As the Climate Change Committee has highlighted, Scotland has the potential to deliver negative emissions through our substantial carbon storage capacity in the North Sea. We have the £180 million emerging technologies fund, which will support the development of negative emissions technologies. We are also committed to better understanding blue carbon and how it can help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We have committed funding to our blue carbon research programme.

It is beyond belief for Peter Chapman of the Conservatives to talk about sustainability of the fishing industry when the Conservatives are currently destroying it on a day-by-day basis. What is not beyond belief is that he did not read the committee’s report and is not aware of our marine plans or the blue economy work. I say to Maurice Golden that it is the UK Government that is currently opening the first deep coal mine in 30 years.

As was recommended by the advisory group on economic recovery in its June report, we will use a circular economy approach to build a stronger and more resilient economy. Many members have referred to natural capital. Nature-based solutions are vital, which is why there is a substantial investment in planting 18,000 hectares of new woodland every year and why we will restore at least 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030. We will also ensure that all our actions align with legislative commitments to a just transition to net zero.

A green recovery has to work as a spine through all our action in a holistic and cross-Government way. I look forward to further discussion as we work with the committee and others to set the path and to build and deliver a green recovery. The committee’s report is an important milestone on the journey, but it is also a clear signpost that points the way forward.

17:26  

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

As the deputy convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, I am pleased to close the debate. As Gillian Martin stated, it is about an ECCLR Committee report, but many contributors to that report identified actions that are required across most of the Parliament’s committees, which highlights the need for an integrated plan for a green recovery.

Behaviour change does not normally happen overnight but, with lockdown, rapid behaviour change has been forced on us. The committee heard from communities across Scotland about how central a sense of community has been during lockdown and how important it will be to build on that as we recover. For almost a year, people have been working locally and from home. They have been travelling less, buying locally, supporting local producers, shops and suppliers and using local services. Many people have also been walking, cycling, getting out and connecting with nature more, which has had positive impacts on our climate and on our mental and physical health. However, we urgently need to capture and lock in those positive behaviours, so the Government needs to get moving on that.

The Committee on Climate Change noted:

“There is an opportunity to embed new social norms, especially for travel, that benefit well-being, improve productivity, and reduce emissions.”

We heard that it is essential that co-working spaces and local public sector hubs are developed to support remote working, improve rural connectivity and strengthen community spirit. We must improve how we build local capacity and decision making in our communities and provide greater fiscal autonomy to do so in order to build a more resilient, just and healthy society and environment and to put in place the foundations on which we can build a more sustainable economy.

As many members said, the Government needs to deal with the issue of policy incoherence. Currently, Government and the wider public sector are in some cases failing to work collaboratively or in a joined-up fashion. The recovery should take an integrated approach that transcends sectoral boundaries and builds on recognised social indicators to deliver national outcomes, particularly on the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

The general principles on which to build a green recovery are clear, but there is a lack of clarity about how the Government will make progress on delivering those national outcomes and where the responsibility to deliver sits in the various sectors. One issue that was raised constantly was doubt about the adequacy of the rate of change and the action that is being taken. Almost universally, the witnesses suggested that we are still some way off achieving the genuine transformational change that is needed.

An example of where that is the case is the agriculture and land use sector. Of real concern is the CCC’s recent progress report, which states that new funding for agriculture and land use in Scotland

“is not enough to drive a structural realignment of rural funding in Scotland that properly incentivises carbon reduction and sequestration, nor climate adaptation”.

Chris Stark from the CCC once again repeated that he does not

“see a plan to modernise agriculture and bring us to the point at which it has a role in the net zero economy”,

and suggested that Scotland is

“clinging to the old model of agricultural support.”—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 15 September 2020; c 11.]

That point was echoed by Professor Reay, who noted that, although the programme for government mentioned the land use strategy and plans for agriculture and for aligning post-common agricultural policy support with the net zero emissions target, there was still no detail about when pilot schemes would commence,

“what a new rural support regime might look like and how it might align with net zero and the green recovery”.—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 8 September 2020; c 38.]

That lack of clarity must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The committee also recognised that the pandemic has brought about changes in food practices, including the development of direct and positive relationships between food producers and consumers—for example, in the form of local milk and egg deliveries—and has emphasised the importance of local food provision in increasing community resilience. The Government must set out its plans to lock in those positive changes.

The committee recommended that the Government should set out new policies and support mechanisms for agriculture, forestry and other land use; that the role of land use in a green recovery should be embedded in the policies and proposals of the third land use strategy; that regional land use partnerships should be funded; and that regional land use frameworks should be developed into regional delivery mechanisms for new land use policies.

I welcome many of the Government’s commitments, but the minister must recognise that the vision for and delivery of a green recovery must go beyond the climate change plan update, which is only part of the picture. A wellbeing economy and a green recovery need to be at the very heart of the national performance framework, policy development and delivery, and the Scottish budget. We need a clear green recovery route map to signpost the way, with clear timetables and clear responsibilities for delivery across all parts of the public sector. Liz Smith touched on how important that is; indeed, it is vital for public sector investors.

Almost everyone who took part in the debate stressed the need for Government to take urgent action to maximise the green recovery. If we are to get close to what we all recognise are ambitious climate change targets—targets that Chris Stark described as being on “the fringes of credibility”—the Scottish Government cannot ignore those concerns. If the minister truly believes that the targets are achievable, he should set out a route map to enable us to have a shared understanding of where we want to be and a clear, evidence-based vision for us all to get behind.