The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:36 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 10:36 am, 29th March 2007

The debate is clearly an occasion for reflection as well as for setting out a vision for a future Scotland. As we look forward to the next session of the Parliament and the future Scotland that we want, we must also consider the decisions that the politicians in the Parliament have made. After all, the decisions that have been made in the past four years will shape Scotland's immediate future, so they deserve some examination.

The Executive, the SNP and the Tories have committed themselves to more motorways and bigger airports. The Executive has approved genetically modified crops. Plans for a new generation of incinerators are under way and are being funded by the Executive. The Labour Party has joined the Tories in a chorus for new nuclear power stations, and the Liberal Democrats, although they say no to new nuclear power stations now, refuse to rule out nuclear power being part of any coalition deal.

After nearly a quarter of a century proclaiming Green thinking, I have been gratified by the way in which green issues have risen up the political agenda over the past four years. The scientific evidence of our devastating impact not only on our climate but on our natural resources is overwhelming. The Stern review was unequivocal in connecting the economy and the environment and gave stark figures on the cost to the economy of doing nothing. If only that report had been published a decade ago. We all know that time is running out and that we have a window of opportunity of between four and 10 years at most, which is not even two more sessions of the Parliament.

We need to change a lot. Doing a little is simply not good enough any more. Scottish Environment LINK has published the evidence today in an assessment of the progress that has been made since 2003. Page after page show the contradictions. For example, there have been some positive steps on renewables, but more roads and bigger airports. There have also been some good moves on consulting communities, but the ostrich award is given to the Executive for refusing to grant communities a third-party right of appeal. The melting glacier award for policy most damaging to the climate goes to the Liberal Democrat Minister for Transport's go-ahead for the M74 extension. It is a case of one step forwards and two steps back. The Executive always shies away from the tough decisions and ignores the contradictions in its approach. Ministers fly off on jaunts after proclaiming that flying is only for exceptional circumstances, but such duplicity is unacceptable when we know the challenge that faces us.

If the voters want serious action on climate change and green issues, they will first have to vote Green to get it. To have any real green credentials, the other parties should join us in scrapping plans for airport and road expansion and in planning to protect local communities and local economies by legislating for green procurement and investing properly in renewable energy. They should stop demonising young people, regulate supermarkets, abandon the private finance initiative rip-off, retain water in public ownership and massively increase energy efficiency in buildings—and those are just for starters.

Whoever is returned in May must accept that there are stark choices to be made. Reducing our addiction to oil will be hard, but with two decades at most before peak oil—some predict that the peak will be reached much sooner than that—we must start to contemplate life with ever-diminishing supplies. People must get their heads out of the sand. There is not a lot of oil left. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Moving to a low-carbon economy offers huge opportunities to reinvigorate communities, establish social enterprises and small businesses, safeguard farming and transfer skills from the oil industry to renewables work.

This is the 21st century. There are real challenges ahead, and we need vision and new politics to realise that vision. Voting for the Green party will ensure that we meet those challenges. Together we will build a better Scotland and a truly sustainable future.