Draft Budget 2014-15

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th December 2013.

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Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I would like to concentrate on the climate change targets that are mentioned in the Finance Committee’s report on the draft budget. One of the 16 national outcomes in the national performance framework is that

“We reduce the local and global environmental impact of our consumption and production.”

Related to that outcome is the Government’s two purpose targets, which are

“To reduce emissions over the period to 2011” and

“To reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050”.

Both those targets are shown as improving on the Scotland performs website. That is welcomed by the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee. However, the committee notes that the statutory climate change targets for 2010 and 2011 have both been missed.

In that light, my committee asked other committees in the Parliament to consider the climate impacts of the budget from their perspective. Ahead of their considerations, I wrote to all the relevant committees with a set of questions that would allow them to interrogate their own report. The first question was

“how the draft budget delivers proposals and policies that relate to their portfolio as set out in the RPP”.

The second question was

“how the draft budget supports measures aimed at making up the shortfall in emission reductions” because of missed targets. The third question was

“how funding for those public bodies covered by their portfolio will help integrate action to tackle climate change in their business and service delivery functions”.

In addition to the questions that we asked generally, SPICe provided some detailed questions for the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, the Health and Sport Committee, the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, the Equal Opportunities Committee and the European and External Relations Committee. Some of those questions seem to have been picked up, but others were not. Therefore, we had to assess exactly what the result was in terms of the climate balance in the budget discussion.

The Health and Sport Committee, the Justice Committee, the Local Government and Regeneration Committee and the Education and Culture Committee did not mention anything about the carbon content in the budget. I will give examples of the questions that were suggested for the Education and Culture Committee. We asked it:

“to what extent does funding for Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme support delivery of Scotland’s emission reduction targets; to what extent does the skills and training budget support the opportunities associated with realising a low carbon Scotland; and what progress are Historic Scotland making in integrating action to tackle climate change in its operation and service delivery functions and fulfil that duty under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act to contribute to Scotland’s emission reduction targets.”

We would expect each committee to use the questions that we provided to interrogate its own contributions, but the committees that I have just mentioned did not do so. I am delighted to say that the Finance Committee noted these issues and that the European and External Relations Committee, the Equal Opportunities Committee, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee and the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee all made substantive comments. However, when five other committees did not pursue any of the suggested issues, we in this Parliament need to ask whether each of its committees is taking seriously the role of climate change mitigation in all its responsibilities and whether the Parliament as a whole is meeting the aims and targets in the national performance framework. This is a serious issue. Before we get the Government’s response, we need some means of measuring how some of these matters might affect our approach.

Another example relates to the Finance Committee’s responsibility for scrutinising the Scottish Public Pensions Agency and its investments. How many of the investments in its portfolio boost the development of a low-carbon economy and how many have been invested in less environmentally friendly ways? We need to know that information and find some means of getting a response to such questions in future.

In its report, the Finance Committee states that it

“would welcome further details on the acknowledgement by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change that a ‘renewed effort’ is required to meet the statutory climate change targets”,

which we missed in 2010 and 2011, and that it

“supports the view of the RACCE Committee”— my committee—

“that ‘funding information for climate change mitigation measures should be published alongside publication of the draft budget’.”

I would also add that it is essential that each committee makes its own input to ensure that we meet the aim, shared by the whole Parliament, of tackling climate change.