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

Heathrow Expansion Plans

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

4. The memorandum of understanding between Heathrow airport and the Scottish Government supports 40 new long-haul flights, the growth of domestic flights and a £10 discount for every domestic passenger for 20 years.

It is a plan for the expansion of the airline industry, and it is fully endorsed by this Scottish Government. Last May, the First Minister promised me that she would review the Scottish Government’s support for Heathrow’s expansion following the recommendations of the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change. What was the outcome of that review?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Across the Government, we are still reviewing policies as part of the process of updating the climate change action plan. The cabinet discussed the progress that we are making towards that plan just this week. When we set out our plan across aviation and a range of the Government’s responsibilities, we will set out what we need to do differently. I remind Willie Rennie that when Heathrow last came to a vote in the House of Commons, Scottish National Party MPs did not vote for it. As a Scottish Government, we are not in control of the decision about a third runway at Heathrow, but if it is going ahead, then Scotland should seek to maximise the economic impact and benefit of it.

The climate emergency, the updated advice from the Committee on Climate Change, our responsibilities to not just meet, but exceed, the obligations in the Paris agreement, mean that we need to review all that. That is exactly what the Government is doing with a rigorously and vigorously open mind. Some of what comes out of that process will be challenging, and I would bet my life that some members in this chamber—hopefully not Willie Rennie, based on the tenor of his question—will oppose some of what we have to do to meet our climate change obligations. We are absolutely determined that, having set those world-leading targets, we have to take the action now to ensure that we can meet them and lead the world by example.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you. We have some further supplementary questions—[Interruption.] Apologies, Mr Rennie. [Interruption.] That was my fault, not Mr Rennie’s.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The SNP does not want to hear the question, Presiding Officer, and we know why.

This is months on, First Minister. Is the Scottish Government still reviewing the case for support for Heathrow expansion? This is urgent—it is a crisis right now. If her MPs have not supported it at Westminster, why is the First Minister still supporting Heathrow expansion here in Scotland?

Climate change has brought Zambia to the brink of famine. Australia has been burning since September. The ice caps continue to melt. Yet the First Minister continues to support Heathrow expansion. When COP26 delegates come to Glasgow, will the First Minister be able to look them in the eye and say that she is doing everything that she can on climate change?

The First Minister:

Yes. Let me go back to a really important point. Unless I am remembering this incorrectly—I do not think that I am—the Liberal Democrats voted for the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill a matter of weeks ago. The 2019 act puts a responsibility on the Scottish Government to introduce an updated draft climate change plan within six months of the act receiving royal assent—which is by the end of April. We are going through that process right now to ensure that we come forward with a comprehensive plan of action to meet the targets in the 2019 act. That is the right and responsible way for a Government that is determined to tackle climate change to behave.

When we propose the plan, I hope that Willie Rennie will have the courage of his convictions. Before he reminds me, I know that this is First Minister’s question time, and he is rightly posing questions to me, but, equally, I could ask him why, in the light of the climate change crisis that we face, his party still opposes policies such as the workplace parking levy, which is a way of trying to get people out of their cars. All of us across the chamber and across society have big questions to ask of ourselves and to answer, and this Government will not be found wanting. I am not sure that the same can be said of Opposition parties when it comes to the detail of this debate.