Green Recovery Inquiry

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

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Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I would like to thank all the MSPs for their perspectives—although perhaps not that latter one, which completely missed the tone and tenor of the rest of the debate, which was positive and constructive—and the perspectives that we have heard from everybody in relation to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s report.

I thank the committee members for their work and their report. The report is a valuable contribution that will continue to inform Scotland’s green recovery plans.

Many people are currently in highly challenging circumstances due to the pandemic; while we continue to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, we must keep working to ensure a strong recovery from the pandemic—one that responds to the urgency of the climate emergency while building a greener, fairer future for Scotland and capturing the economic and wider opportunities for our transition to net zero.

The Scottish economy has much to gain from leading the transition to a low-carbon economy and our economic recovery implementation plan aims to capitalise on those opportunities. Investment at the scale that is needed to meet our net zero emissions target can deliver long-term, sustainable economic growth opportunities in domestic and global markets, from buildings and energy to products and services. That must be done—and it will be done—through a whole-Government approach. We already invest £1.8 billion of capital each year in low-carbon policies and programmes and we have committed to increasing the level of spending by an additional £2 billion over the next five years. Those commitments are outlined in the climate change plan update.

Furthermore, our infrastructure investment plan, which was announced on Thursday, supports a green recovery by setting out a clear vision for our future infrastructure to support and enable an inclusive net zero emissions economy. Mobilising private finance into Scotland’s transition, as referred to by Liz Smith, is crucial if Scotland is to achieve its emissions targets. We will create the correct conditions for inward investment, removing barriers and driving innovative private investment solutions. That is exemplified by our green investment portfolio, which I launched in the summer. It sets out £3 billion-worth of net zero investments to global investors and there is the establishment of the Scottish National Investment Bank, as referred to by Stewart Stevenson, and its capitalisation of £2 billion of public money over the next 10 years, which will be central to driving market growth that fits with the net zero target.

On the issue of conditionality, as mentioned by Claudia Beamish, we will work with our enterprise agencies in partnership with businesses to best align support with our long-term climate, environmental, economic and social goals.

On communities, we need a place-based approach. Our programme for government talks about the 20-minute neighbourhoods and we will deliver on those as a clear way forward. Mark Ruskell talked about resilience and the reconnection to nature and active travel, and the importance of a stimulus for action to reflect on gross domestic product; our leadership of the wellbeing Governments, now joined by Finland, is important in relation to that. Sarah Boyack talked about community wealth building and I agree. We are supporting more community wealth building programmes and procurement.

On skills, our climate emergency skills action plan, which was published alongside the climate change plan update, will support people to access green jobs through advice, retraining and aligning the skills system and growing demand for green jobs, as mentioned by the committee convener.

The Scottish Government is also working with Skills Development Scotland and partners to design the green jobs academies, which Joan McAlpine referred to. That is a national, long-term programme to support the retraining and upskilling that is needed for transition to net zero.

Support for jobs and skills in the 2021-22 budget totals £1.1 billion, demonstrating our commitment to providing good green jobs, including the £100 million green jobs fund. We know that Scotland is a clean electricity powerhouse. In 2019, 86.4 per cent of the electricity that was generated in Scotland came from renewable or low-carbon sources. Looking ahead, as we further decarbonise energy, we have huge opportunities in the development of carbon capture and storage and the use of hydrogen to replace the fossil fuels. The scale of the challenge is enormous.

Angus MacDonald was right to point to the work of Falkirk Council and the industry challenges in that area. As the Climate Change Committee has highlighted, Scotland has the potential to deliver negative emissions through our substantial carbon storage capacity in the North Sea. We have the £180 million emerging technologies fund, which will support the development of negative emissions technologies. We are also committed to better understanding blue carbon and how it can help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We have committed funding to our blue carbon research programme.

It is beyond belief for Peter Chapman of the Conservatives to talk about sustainability of the fishing industry when the Conservatives are currently destroying it on a day-by-day basis. What is not beyond belief is that he did not read the committee’s report and is not aware of our marine plans or the blue economy work. I say to Maurice Golden that it is the UK Government that is currently opening the first deep coal mine in 30 years.

As was recommended by the advisory group on economic recovery in its June report, we will use a circular economy approach to build a stronger and more resilient economy. Many members have referred to natural capital. Nature-based solutions are vital, which is why there is a substantial investment in planting 18,000 hectares of new woodland every year and why we will restore at least 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030. We will also ensure that all our actions align with legislative commitments to a just transition to net zero.

A green recovery has to work as a spine through all our action in a holistic and cross-Government way. I look forward to further discussion as we work with the committee and others to set the path and to build and deliver a green recovery. The committee’s report is an important milestone on the journey, but it is also a clear signpost that points the way forward.