Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

A Green Industrial Revolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 15th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 5:10 pm, 15th January 2020

I could not agree more. I am seeking a meeting with the new Minister—the previous Minister involved was the then Member for Devizes—to see how the assistance of BEIS has actually helped with the Green Deal Finance Company, because from our viewpoint it does not seem to have helped a whole lot.

For a decade now, the Scottish Government have been pursuing a long-term vision of what Scotland’s economy and society should look like in the decades to come. It is a vision that sees all our electricity needs coming from renewable sources, and the transport system becoming carbon neutral. It is a vision that sees the potential of the natural resources that we have all around us, waiting to be harnessed and used to benefit us all. It is a vision that puts the reindustrialisation of our country at the heart of the strategy, arm in arm with the investment and renewal that has come to the fore over the decade.

My constituency is seeing the fruits of that long-term vision right now. For more than 50 years Renfrew—the largest town in my constituency and my home town—has been without a fixed rail link, and it is the biggest settlement in Scotland that is entirely reliant on buses for public transport. That calamitous mistake from the 1960s is about to be rectified with the beginnings of the Glasgow city region metro, which will start in my constituency at Paisley Gilmour Street, and finally provide the airport with a connection to the rail network.

That project is part of a green industrial revolution, and just as the original industrial revolution had the most expansive rail network in the world at its heart, so must the 21st-century version have transport and connectivity running through it like letters through a stick of rock. Hundreds of people will be employed directly in building the project, and hundreds more will be involved in the supply chains—an economic impact that will go way beyond my constituency and those of my neighbours. Using clean, green, renewable electricity, the new metro will be part of a public transport network that is rapidly being modernised.

Since devolution we have seen the reopening of the Borders railway, and routes from Hamilton to Larkhall, Stirling to Alloa and Airdrie to Bathgate, with only the former line not electrified. Virtually the whole central belt network now runs on electric lines, which contrasts with years of stagnation and neglect. That programme continues, with preparatory work beginning for the entire west of Scotland network to run under the wires, and longer-term goals of electrification north of Perth and the complete decarbonisation of Scotland’s railways within the next 15 years.

Along the A9, the spine of Scotland, work on the first electric highway is under way. Charging points are being installed at a rate of knots, providing the security of energy supply that is vital for the transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electric ones. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun alluded to, in Norway, which has a strong Government plan and the will to make transformational changes, sales of electric vehicles have grown exponentially. Petrol and diesel cars are on their way out—some going for an oil-rich country—and a confident, independent, self-governing country is taking big decisions on the big issues facing our planet. I hope that Scotland will soon join our Nordic friends as part of that club, whatever obstacles the Prime Minister and his Secretary of State think they are putting in our way.

In contrast, the UK Government cannot decide whether they want to make existing fuels cleaner and less polluting, with a decision on E10 petrol still lying in the long grass where it was kicked. Over recent years, those on the Treasury Benches and their Departments have been in a state of complete paralysis. Electrification projects are cancelled on a rolling basis, including in Windermere, on the Nottingham to Sheffield line and in Hull, south-west Wales and Coventry. Towns and cities have yet again been left behind, and jobs and economic growth directly connected to decarbonisation have been lost. Meanwhile, Crossrail spirals out of control and over budget and Crossrail 2 is in the pipeline as if its predecessor never happened. Billions are spent on extension after extension to London’s underground and overground. Why concentrate yet more spending, infrastructure, economic output, resources, and ultimately people in a single city, when we know that a fairer allocation of economic power will result in a better environmental outcome and a less unequal society?

If the UK Government were serious about boosting the economies of the north and south-west England, they would look to Scotland for ideas. Instead, they are presiding over delay and decay. In Tyne and Wear, 40-year-old metro carriages have had their lifespan extended to 2025, while the system awaits new trains, more than a decade after the current ones exceeded their life expectancy. Even when the UK Government finally coughed up for trains that brought to mind modernity and not Methuselah, the then Chancellor handed over only 60% of the costs requested.

In conclusion, if the UK Government want to be serious about a green industrial revolution, the short termism and insular—