Net Zero Targets (Small and Medium-sized Businesses)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 2021.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions the net zero secretary has had with ministerial colleagues regarding action to support small and medium-sized businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, as part of wider efforts to reach net zero targets. (S6O-00075)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I regularly meet ministerial colleagues to discuss the collective action that is being taken across the Scottish Government to support our net zero ambitions.

In advance of the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—we have made targeted commitments to drive opportunities for Scottish businesses and supply chains—for example, through an additional £2 billion of infrastructure investment over the current parliamentary session to stimulate demand and create jobs in the transition to net zero. As part of our climate emergency skills action plan, we will build a toolkit to help small and micro businesses develop the skills and knowledge that they need to adapt to the demands of the transition to net zero.

We are also working across the Scottish Government to finalise plans for the Scottish climate week, which will run from 13 to 19 September and will support small and medium-sized enterprises across Scotland to hold events or take forward climate action with their teams.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

The cabinet secretary may be aware of research by accountancy firm Grant Thornton UK LLP that suggests that roughly only half of businesses have a net zero strategy, despite strong recognition among the business community of the value of strong environmental performance. With such a high proportion of Scottish businesses in the SME sector, will the Scottish Government put a higher priority on supporting that kind of innovation in SMEs in relation to net zero instead of constantly targeting the few big businesses that Scotland currently has?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Everyone has a collective responsibility to play their part in helping to achieve Scotland becoming a net zero nation by 2045, whether that be at an individual, community or business level, as an SME or a major corporation. They all have a part to play in helping to support us in achieving that target, and we are already taking a range of actions. I have mentioned the net zero nation campaign, which is presently being rolled out in order to inform individuals, communities and businesses about the actions and opportunities that they can take forward in achieving net zero.

Those are all part of the on-going plan, but it is equally important that we help businesses to seize the opportunities that will arise as we become a net zero nation through the new technologies that will have to be developed and the deployment of those new technologies across domestic and non-domestic premises. All of that will provide opportunities for SMEs across the country to play their part in the range of work that we are taking forward, such as the skills academy and in other areas around green skills.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

According to research that Citizens Advice Scotland published earlier this year, Scottish businesses were less likely than businesses across the United Kingdom to have introduced decarbonisation measures. Will the Government adopt all the recommendations in that report? Can the cabinet secretary say how much funding is available for the toolkit that he mentioned?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Monica Lennon’s question relates to the answer that I just gave to Brian Whittle. It is important that all parts of our community, including businesses, play their part in helping us to meet our net zero nation aim. That is why the on-going communication plan covers engagement with business organisations, helping to support them to inform their members about the work that they can take forward in order to become net zero businesses.

The reality, from my engagement with businesses at both the SME and corporate levels, is that they recognise that becoming net zero will be a key part of their business and that people want to see businesses playing their part in achieving net zero. That is why we have funding streams through a number of programmes that can support businesses to get loans and grants to assist them in decarbonising their operations. A big part of that will be about making sure that we build on that work as we progress.

I do not have a specific figure for the toolkit, but it is an important part of what the business community has asked us for in order to assist and support those businesses that do not have plans in place just now to take the necessary action.