Scottish Green New Deal

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

3. These are extraordinary times, but the climate emergency cannot wait. I commend the Scottish Government for the small steps forward that it is taking in its programme for government, but it has to do much more, and it has to do much more now.

Last week, we launched our proposals for a Scottish green new deal—a transformative programme of change that contrasts with the Scottish Government’s lack of ambition. For example, we propose that the hundreds of millions of pounds that are being spent on new roads be redirected into public transport, cycling and walking. An independent review of the Scottish Government’s clean air strategy that was published last week supports that. Will the First Minister be bold and take funds out of new, big road projects and invest them in public transport instead?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Yes, we will be bold. We are bold in the programme for government, and I said that that is not the sum total of our actions. A number of pieces of work will come forward over the next 12 months, all of which will form our comprehensive response to the climate emergency.

I simply quote WWF Scotland’s comments about the programme for government:

“This ... shows real leadership on the climate emergency ... these commitments will slash emissions and deliver benefits to people and the Scottish environment now and for years to come.”

Lord Deben, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said:

“Scotland has led the UK in reducing its emissions and has ambitions to lead the world in tackling climate change ... that vision is alive and well ... Scotland is serious about its commitment.”

Those were comments about the programme for government.

It is right that the Government and all governments are challenged to do more and to do it faster, and we are up for that challenge, but I do not think that it does the cause, which both she and I are committed to, any real justice to try to downplay the significance of what was announced in the programme for government. Instead, let us get behind it and work together to see how we can do more and do it even faster.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

I certainly cannot get behind a Government that freezes investment in cycling and walking in the face of a climate emergency.

However, it is not all about transport. Reforesting Scotland is a critical component of the Scottish green new deal but, even under the Scottish Government’s new plans, which were released this week, it will reach its modest target of 21 per cent of Scotland being forested eight years late. It would not reach the Scottish Greens’ target of 40 per cent, which is the European average, for 150 years. There is no shortage of opportunity. Almost a fifth of Scotland is a grouse moor—burnt, degraded and managed so that a few people can enjoy blood sports. Will the First Minister be bold, carry out an urgent review and adopt plans to really reforest Scotland to tackle the climate emergency?

The First Minister:

First, on grouse moors, we have the Werritty report coming in a few weeks’ time, and in the programme for government we set out proposals around regional land use partnerships to look at how we use our land in a way that meets our climate ambitions.

On forestry, I am absolutely committed to increasing our ambitions and the delivery of those ambitions, but let us take a moment to reflect on the fact that, last year, Scotland was responsible for 84 per cent—I think that I am getting that figure right—of all trees that were planted across the United Kingdom. We exceeded the target that we set last year. That is why we have increased it from 10,000 hectares to 12,000 hectares, with an additional £5 million. There is no lack of ambition here.

On active travel, we doubled the active travel budget, so, whereas the member talked about freezing it, we are maintaining it at doubled levels. I see the benefits of that in my constituency, and I would be happy to talk to Alison Johnstone more about the Glasgow south city way, which is revolutionising active travel in my constituency. Patrick Harvie should be well aware of that. There are currently about 11 of these projects across the country.

We have set out bold plans and we will continue to do that. Even if the Greens cannot quite bring themselves to admit this, all international experts—in fact, many experts in the UK and in Scotland—recognise that Scotland is actually leading the world.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

We have some more supplementary questions. The first is from Christine Grahame.