Green Recovery Inquiry

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

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Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

On the far side of these challenging Covid times, there is a real opportunity to shape the future together, with a new, fairer way forward for the people of Scotland in the context of the climate and nature emergency. In that context, I am heartened by the wide engagement that the committee undertook, which led to our green recovery report and its robust, unanimous recommendations. I identify with the remarks of our convener, Gillian Martin.

Many of our findings and recommendations chime with those of other valuable reports and proposals, including those of the just transition commission, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the UK Climate Change Committee and more, and they chime with many of the Scottish Government’s recommendations.

I want to start with our exploration of the green recovery landscape in Scotland. What do we mean by that? Is it flat, hilly or mountainous? Are there barriers to climb over? It is a tough and, some would say, a pretty rocky track. With the right strides, however, I believe that we can do this together.

Zero Waste Scotland very helpfully included a compendium of 270-plus green recovery recommendations made by more than 20 organisations in Scotland. Some might argue that that makes for a cluttered landscape—with respect, they would be incorrect. The compendium demonstrates the synergy between a wide range of respected organisations that are signposting our way to the future.

The committee stresses the importance of policy coherence, as we have heard from other members today, and cross-cutting action in the climate change plan update, the national performance framework, policy development and the Scottish budget. For a number of years, I have been part of a round table on the national performance framework. Many years back, that group grasped the significance of having cross-cutting and clear indicators. The committee’s report recommends that

“the Scottish Government provide reassurance that the National Performance Framework adequately embeds wellbeing and green recovery principles.”

Although all aspects of policy and what underpins it must support the rapid shift to net zero, I want to single out two. We took strong evidence on the land use strategy—we heard from Liz Smith on that—and I have long argued that it is vital that the pilot schemes are rolled out across Scotland quickly, are inclusive and have adequate funding. Understanding and buy-in will be essential, and it is vital that all land uses are evaluated and taken forward holistically. Marine policies must not be overlooked and must include something that I and others, including Paul Wheelhouse, have long advocated for, which is the real action that we need on blue carbon. That must start with salt marshes, on which we took evidence in a session on the climate change plan update.

The committee is robust about the opportunities that are presented by the climate change plan update. We “expect to see” net zero policies with clear pathways as the climate change plan is developed. However, those are not yet evident in many policy areas. For instance, it is disappointing that the Scottish Government has, in my view, failed to address fuel poverty robustly enough at this stage in the climate emergency. Scottish Labour is calling for radical action now, including the doubling of investment to at least £244 million for the coming year, in order to see a step change that really tackles fuel poverty, brings local, skilled jobs, prevents rising long-term costs and tangibly improves the lives of our rural and urban communities. Paragraph 32 of the committee’s report stresses:

“A just transition must be at the heart of the green recovery, prioritising the most vulnerable and those whose paid employment is likely to be adversely affected by the transition.”

I and other members cannot emphasise enough our recommendation on the circular economy. The report states that that approach to procurement and to the future

“will help increase local jobs through repair, remanufacturing, reuse and leasing opportunities.”

We will hear more about that from Sarah Boyack.

Finally, I want to reinforce our recommendations on finance by highlighting the importance of conditionality and the Scottish Investment Bank. Private investment will be vital as well.

I call on all MSPs, particularly members of fellow committees, councillors, policy makers, businesses, trade unions and educators, and everyone in civic society—in fact, everyone—to read and reflect on the committee’s report, which is important in leading us to collective action for a green recovery.