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Environment and Climate Change (European Union Referendum)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October 2016.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Not at the moment, Mr Findlay.

I turn to the broader debate. The Scottish Government is anxious for us to focus entirely on the consequences of Brexit. I certainly do not diminish them—I whole-heartedly agree with what the cabinet secretary said about the importance of the EU to research on the environment and how the UK Government’s treatment of non-UK EU nationals as a pawn in a game has had a damaging effect and been utterly self-defeating—but it would be a missed opportunity if we were not to shine a light on how we are doing as an EU member state now or to consider what our ambitions should be, whatever the future holds.

The Scottish Parliament passed world-leading climate change legislation and I pay tribute to the part that Stewart Stevenson played in that. He was right to say that the legislation was passed collectively and unanimously, but I think that he would accept that that was the easy part. Since then, we have met our emissions targets only once in five years. The UK Committee on Climate Change concluded that only two out of 28 Scottish Government adaptation priorities had

“plans in place, actions being delivered and progress being made”.

It also said that two thirds of the Government’s policies and proposals had no timescale for delivery, so there is a great deal of work to be done.

As I highlighted in my opening speech, two areas in which we need a step change are heat and transport. WWF has said that a tenfold increase is needed in the heat that is generated from renewables, from which only 4 per cent of Scotland’s heat is currently generated. The warm homes bill offers an excellent opportunity, but we need a commitment to rapid growth in district heating and renewable heat. We must translate energy efficiency from a national strategic priority into delivery on the ground, and the necessary investment must be provided for that. As an aside, there is a need for catch-up zones to target resources at the areas that top the league table on fuel poverty.

Action is also needed on transport. The take-up of electric vehicles is higher in Orkney than anywhere else, but the figures for Scotland as a whole are behind those for the rest of the UK.

As I said earlier, those goals will not be achieved through the £250 million tax cut for the airline industry or the Scottish Government’s support for Heathrow expansion. The expansion of Heathrow is likely to mean that, if we are to meet our emissions targets, ministers will have to cut airport capacity in regional airports or other sectors of the economy.