Green Recovery Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th February 2021.

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Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

I congratulate the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee on its inquiry and report, which I see was published last November and which has already begun to help to shape our agenda in the green draft budget.

We were already planning our green future before Covid-19 came along, and, given the choice, that is where we would all have preferred to stay. Unfortunately, the virus did not give us a choice, so we must now plan the green recovery in that context. That is why I welcome the immediate and urgent action taken by Kate Forbes in the draft budget, which invests a record £1.9 billion in tackling climate change and creating good, green jobs.

It is particularly heartening that green jobs have been prioritised despite the significant financial challenges of Covid and delays to the UK budget and UK Government spending review, which have worsened our capital position. For example, one of the conclusions in the committee’s report notes that the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets sets price controls and influences investment and profit levels across the gas and electricity markets. The committee wants Ofgem to invest in and enable the swift development of infrastructure and the energy network to effectively deliver a low-carbon transition, but Ofgem works within a policy framework that is set by the UK Government and answers to UK ministers. I welcome the committee’s acknowledgement of that fact.

The committee heard that energy transition in relation to heat and transport poses one of the biggest challenges faced by the Scottish economy as reliance on oil and gas shifts to renewable electricity and hydrogen technologies. I agree with the committee’s report that, to achieve a just transition, new skills, technology and infrastructure will be required on a bold scale. I therefore welcome the launch of the climate emergency skills action plan, along with the climate change plan update, which will ensure that the skills system supports people to access those jobs through advice, skills and retraining. I note that the plan includes establishing a green jobs workforce academy.

I also welcome the new £180 million emerging energy technologies fund and look forward to some of that investment coming to the area of Scotland that I represent, which has already established itself as a leader in green technology. Last summer, for example, I was honoured to help open a new £1.8 million green energy hub at Dumfries and Galloway College thanks to funding from the SP Energy Networks green economy fund with support from the Scottish Funding Council.

The hub will promote sustainable economic growth, increased air quality and other aspects of environmental forward planning and allow access to a significant range of practical solutions to the challenges of heating, power and water supply. Flagship education programmes such as that one help to power the next generation of sustainability experts and create the workforce of the future.

I draw attention to the work of the Crichton Carbon Centre in Dumfries and Galloway, whose expertise includes advising on peatland restoration. I very much welcome the fact that the Government’s climate change plan is committed to delivering an ambitious 10-year, £250 million peatland restoration plan by 2025. Restoring degraded peatland makes an essential contribution to sequestering carbon and to protecting biodiversity. It can also catalyse the creation and development of land-based jobs and skills in rural and remote communities across Scotland. The Crichton Carbon Centre provides free condition assessments, site surveys and planning and it can help with all aspects of funding applications and project support through the Government’s peatland action programme.

I welcome the committee’s report and congratulate the members again on their work. I also welcome the Government’s action to ensure that a green recovery is at the heart of the 2020-21 programme for government and the climate change plan update. I look forward to all areas of Scotland, including my area of South Scotland, benefiting from the green recovery.