Climate Change and Just Transition

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-08626, in the name of Màiri McAllan, on delivering climate change and the just transition. I invite members who wish to participate in the debate to press their request-to-speak button.

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

I am delighted to open the debate in my new role as Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition. Those matters coming together, side by side at Cabinet level for the first time, is instructive. For me, net zero is about acknowledging the unavoidable truths that we face a global climate and nature emergency, and that we must be prepared to take action that is commensurate with the scale of that challenge.

Putting that side by side with the just transition at the top of government makes clear the Government’s commitment to taking that action and to doing so in a way that is carefully managed, fair, learns the mistakes of the past and leaves no one and no community behind. Let me be clear: the Scottish National Party-led Government will never allow to happen to Scotland’s oil and gas workers what was done to our steel and coalmining communities under Thatcher, when unplanned change left families and communities devastated.

The First Minister and I visited Aberdeen earlier this month and saw some of what the Government’s £500m just transition fund is supporting. Our commitment to the north-east is in stark contrast to the United Kingdom Government, which has repeatedly refused, again as recently as last week, to match our investment, despite the hundreds of billions of pounds that have flowed from the North Sea into the UK Treasury since the 1970s. All the while, it continues to refuse to match our investment in the Scottish Cluster.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I presume that the cabinet secretary will acknowledge that the UK Government’s £16 billion North Sea transition deal is 32 times the size of her Government’s just transition fund.

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

I acknowledge and welcome every bit of support that flows into our north-east because of its importance to the future of our economy and to climate targets. However, that amount is small in comparison with the figure that I quoted—the hundreds of billions of pounds that have flowed from the North Sea to the UK Treasury.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment synthesis report—“Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report”— which has been called a “survival guide for humanity”, could not have been clearer that the window of opportunity for the deep and urgent emissions reductions that the world needs is rapidly closing. For me, that summarises the urgency of net zero. Equally, a couple of experiences that I have had this week have summed up to me the importance of a just transition.

First, on Monday, in my role as MSP for Clydesdale, which is a constituency that is steeped in industrial history, I was invited by the excellent Douglasdale REAL Group to visit woodlands that it has recently acquired on behalf of its community. As we headed through the quiet wooded area, its members explained to me how, on the land where we walked, as wild as it was, once stood the busy mining town of Douglas West—a town that was complete with rows and rows of houses, a school, a train station and, I was told, the first mining pit baths in Scotland. Naturally, I had 101 questions for the members of the Douglasdale REAL Group. I am grateful to them for answering them and for sharing their memories of spending time in Douglas West. I thank them and pay tribute to all the people and workers of the lost mining town of Douglas West.

That story speaks to the need for a just transition. So, too, does the day that I spent yesterday at Grangemouth with Ineos, union representatives and Forth Ports. The Grangemouth complex epitomises the need for a just transition, because it is so critical to our everyday life and so central to our economy and to many workers and families. At the same time, it is responsible for significant industrial emissions that have to be rapidly driven down. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to visit the complex and to hear about its net zero plans and just transition strategies.

I have spent a bit of time setting the context—it is important to do that when we come into post— which is what the Government has done this week in its prospectus “Equality, Opportunity, Community: New leadership—A fresh start”, but having set out my mission in this portfolio as I see it, I would like to spend the rest of my time identifying some of the ways that we will fulfil the task, and I will draw on our prospectus to do so.

Before I do that, I want to make it clear that we remain in the grip of another crisis as many Scots struggle with the increased cost of living as the cost of energy, food and basic goods are at extraordinary levels and the UK is an outlier. We have to take every opportunity that we can take to help to alleviate that burden.

One of the first acts of the First Minister was to build on our commitment to double the fuel insecurity fund. His commitment is now to triple it to £30 million this year, which will help people who are at risk of self-rationing, or of self-disconnecting from, their energy. That is so important, and it is another example of why fairness has to be at the heart of everything that we do.

Our 2020 “Update to the Climate Change Plan 2018-2032” contains more than 200 policies and proposals to drive down emissions. Since then, our focus has been on delivering them at pace. We are now developing our next full plan, with a draft being due in Parliament by the end of this year, covering the period to 2040. The goal is to have driven emissions down by 90 per cent from the 1999 baseline by then. There is no denying that achieving that target, and all our annual targets up to that point, will be extremely challenging. The targets that the Parliament sets are—rightly—ambitious, so we will have to collaborate if we are to meet them.

However, amid the challenge there is undoubtedly social and economic opportunity. Our next climate change plan will fully embrace the opportunity to transform our country for the better. For example, we will enhance our energy security and economic resilience by investing in renewable energy; we will insulate our homes to reduce energy consumption; we will tackle fuel poverty and create jobs across the country; and we will make public and active transport more accessible in order to reduce car use and improve air quality, with all of the benefits that that, in particular, brings to public health.

I look forward to updating Parliament as we develop those policies, and to working with members across Government and the Parliament. I will do that as part of the climate change plan action group that I chair, which has on it representatives of every party in the Parliament.

As a former environment minister, I intimately understand the critical role that our environment must play in the transition to net zero. The twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change are intrinsically linked, and our forthcoming land use and agriculture just transition plan will help to ensure that we make the changes that are needed while providing assurance for workers and communities that will be touched by the transition in the sector.

To achieve a nature-positive net zero Scotland, we know that on our land and in our sea we will need to balance competing demands. On land, farmers and land managers must be empowered to lead the change to sustainable and regenerative practices. We also need to increase tree cover and to restore habitats, including through the quarter of a billion pounds that we have committed to investing in restoring 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030. We have made significant commitments to protect and restore biodiversity, and through our new Scottish biodiversity strategy we will act to reverse biodiversity loss by 2045 and will begin the process of introducing at least one new national park over this Parliamentary session.

At sea, we will develop our new national marine plan to manage resources and enhance the marine environment, and I will take the opportunity to build just transition principles into that. We will continue to implement our future fisheries management strategy and we will use our forthcoming aquaculture vision to support marine sectors to transition to net zero. I will work with coastal and island communities and our fishing sector as we develop marine protection.

We understand—how could we not?—that those changes will not be easy to achieve However, I believe that developing them with communities can result in a better quality of life, in fair work, in resilient rural, coastal and island communities and in a better natural environment for future generations.

I mentioned our land and agriculture just transition plan. In the next year, we will publish four draft sectoral just transition plans: for land use and agriculture, buildings and construction, and transport, alongside the finalised energy strategy and just transition plan, which was published in draft in January. We are also committed to developing a just transition plan for the Grangemouth energy cluster in 2024 to provide clarity and support to workers and the community during this period of transformation.

Our plans will be informed by the just transition commission, businesses, communities and workers and their trade unions across Scotland, as well as—crucially—by the people who are most impacted, including those who have experience of discrimination, poverty and wider inequalities.

On the draft energy strategy, one of the key areas that I will be focusing on for the final draft is skills and the setting out of a clear pathway to secure the skilled labour that is required to drive forward our transition. There is no doubt that our education and skills system must adapt to meet the transformation that we are facing, as a country.

Likewise, in buildings and construction, the transition will change the way that we approach planning and design, the choices that we make about construction materials and methods, operation, on-going maintenance, and the way that we use and repurpose buildings and the places that they have occupied. Our plan will help to maximise the opportunities for the people of Scotland to live and work in buildings that are cheaper to run and warmer, and have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.

In transport, we have key opportunities to reset the existing inequalities in our current system, including in relation to safe access to sustainable modes of transport. We have committed to reducing car kilometres driven by 20 per cent by 2030, and we are building to deliver that commitment fairly by designing a future transport system that is accessible for people with differing needs and circumstances. While we do that, we are working to ensure that a higher proportion of vehicles on our roads will be zero-emissions vehicles, and that the private sector plays its part in investing in the charging and refuelling infrastructure that our communities will need.

Participation is critical to the just transition. That is why we have supported the Scottish Trades Union Congress with £100,000 of funding so that our unions, and the workers whom they represent, have capacity to fully engage in the process. Our approach to delivering a just transition puts co-design at the core of planning and calls on a diverse range of perspectives to develop solutions that are fair and sustainable. I truly believe that, when we reach 2045, if we have got there via a just transition, the solutions will be more sustainable.

During the development of the energy strategy and just transition plan, we engaged with around 1,500 people at events across Scotland, stretching from Dumfries to Thurso, and we engaged through online engagement. We will continue to draw on that engagement.

I have tried to touch on a number of the aspects that constitute the wide range of challenges that I will be working on with colleagues. Before I conclude, I welcome my colleague Gillian Martin to her role as the Minister for Energy. I know that she as a committed north-east MSP, will bring significant experience to that role. I am sure that she will want to reflect on energy, in particular, as she participates in today’s debate. For my part, on energy, I see a nation with rich natural energy assets that others would dearly love to have, in onshore and offshore wind, in hydrogen, in wave and tidal power, and in carbon capture, utilisation and storage. All those will be key and will have to be seized as we move to tackle climate change.

As we fairly transition from our natural wealth in oil and gas to our wealth in a green economy of the future, the question for the people of Scotland is about who they want to lead that change. In whose hands do they want our energy powers to rest? Do they want them to be left in the hands of successive UK Governments that have squandered our oil wealth, or do they want to be an independent nation, with those powers being in the hands of the people of Scotland, through the Governments that they elect?

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the scale and the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for Scotland to show continued global leadership in a Just Transition to net zero; further recognises that the draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan sets out a just and fair pathway to maximise the opportunities of that transition; acknowledges that a highly-skilled workforce will be required to deliver the opportunities of a net zero economy, including Scotland’s existing oil and gas and construction workforces, and that upskilling, reskilling and attracting new talent should be a key just transition priority of the Scottish Government; celebrates the significant contribution of those who manage land and marine areas, including those working in farming and fishing, to food security, the economy and the environment; agrees that Scotland’s economic potential as a net zero nation is vast, including world-leading clean energy sectors and supply chains, its nature-based sectors and food and drink, through innovative green technology and services, including finance, and by maximising Scotland’s strengths and potential in the decarbonisation of transport and the built environment; endorses that Scotland’s sectoral Just Transition Plans must be co-designed by those most impacted by the transition, including workers and trades unions, and anticipates the contribution that Scotland’s next Climate Change Plan, and both site and sectoral Just Transition Plans, will make on the journey to a fairer, greener Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Liam Kerr to speak to and move amendment S6M-08626.2, for around eight minutes.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I welcome the cabinet secretary to her new role. We, too, recognise the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. That is why the UK’s success in nearly halving carbon emissions and cutting carbon emissions from electricity generation by 73 per cent between 1990 and 2021 is so welcome. We also agree on the need to get to net zero through a transition that is just—not only for the workforce but for communities in Scotland, the UK and around the world.

When it comes to the workforce transition, the Government has to recognise that when its energy strategy promises 77,000 low-carbon jobs by 2050, people are sceptical.

In 2010, the Scottish Government pledged to create 130,000 green jobs by 2020; in fact, it delivered marginally over 20,000. We also heard that it remains unsure of its definition of “green jobs”—gaming the definitions, presumably, to hit the targets. It is just that sort of magical thinking, which lacks evidential, data-driven and scientific analysis, that permeates the energy strategy and makes people, particularly in the north-east, dubious about this Government’s ability to deliver a just transition.

Professor Skea of the just transition commission said of the strategy that he was

“deeply concerned about the lack of evidence of adequate policy actions to deliver a just transition for the Energy sector”.

That is writ large, in that we know that demand for electricity is expected to nearly treble by 2050. We know from Scottish Government figures that oil and gas made up nearly 80 per cent of Scottish energy consumption and more than 90 per cent of Scotland’s heat demand in 2020. We know from this Government’s own figures that the decline in Scottish oil and gas is steeper than the decline required globally to keep temperature rises below 1.5°C, and we know that natural gas from the North Sea

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

In two seconds, please.

We know that natural gas from the North Sea emits less than half as much greenhouse gas as liquefied natural gas imported from countries such as the USA, Qatar and Russia. Finally, we know that, in 2021, Scotland generated 30 per cent of electricity from nuclear.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

I am keen to work with north-east MSPs on all this, and I am hopeful that we will have a constructive relationship.

Does Liam Kerr agree that part of the issue is that we need new systems to take the amount of electricity that we could potentially generate in Scotland, and that there needs to be a total upgrade and a real resetting of the contract for difference process so that we can get Scottish green electricity to market?

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am grateful for the intervention. I very much look forward to working with Gillian Martin, whom I have previously worked with productively. I genuinely look forward to that engagement.

The Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee has been looking into exactly that issue—how we generate our power, how we get it to market and what the grid will look like. That is on-going work that we are doing very productively in the committee, which I have no doubt that the minister will be interested in, as it is on exactly that point.

However, the problem is that even against all the facts that we have given, and even against the minister’s intervention about how we get the power generated, the draft energy strategy states:

“In order to support the fastest possible and most effective just transition, there should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas.”

It goes on to say:

“We do not support the building of new nuclear power plants”.

To fail to set out how baseload will be replaced; to fail to set out how jobs will be transitioned and to what; and to fail to state what will replace a zero-emission source such as nuclear, when the answer will likely have to be imported fossil fuels, is negligence on an industrial scale. It completely ignores that the best way to a just transition is to work with our successful North Sea businesses, not against them.

The energy strategy ignores that BP is providing £18 billion to invest in projects such as wind, electric vehicle charging and hydrogen; Shell is providing up to £25 billion for low and zero-carbon projects and its girls in energy scheme; Technip is investing in an independent company generating marine power; and Equinor is not only producing oil and gas but powering UK homes with wind and helping to build a hydrogen economy. We cannot achieve a just transition without the North Sea, so shutting it down to appease a cabal of ideologically driven Green Party MSPs is as short-sighted as it is ignorant.

What needs to happen was set out by Lord Deben. He said:

“There needs to be a very clear programme ... step by step ... how Scotland is going to achieve the targets that it has put forward”.—[

Official Report, Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee,

20 December 2022; c 10.]

In my view, that means an assessment of what might be restricting entrepreneurialism in Scotland and whether, for example, having a regime of higher taxes than elsewhere in the UK is restricting talent. It means reviewing whether Skills Development Scotland and the enterprise agencies are doing their jobs properly and have sufficient resources to do what we ask them to do. It means the creation of a genuine energy strategy that asks: what will demand be, and how much energy do we need to generate to service it? From there, we can define the totality of the technologies that will be required to satisfy that demand. An industry is not created on a single project; businesses and investors need a pipeline.

From there, we can answer precisely what professions and skills we will need to satisfy those projects. That will allow us to answer questions about where we intend to train those people and, thus, what courses we need the colleges and universities to run. That will ensure that those colleges can be properly funded and that places in them can be created, instead of having a situation in which colleges have had to cut over 151,000 places since the SNP Government began in 2007. That will allow us to talk meaningfully about funding those places and, given the results of the energy sector workers survey, to perhaps provide bespoke support for transferring oil and gas workers.

Having worked out what we need and who we need to do it, the Government strategy can assess and provide for a supply chain. It can begin by asking: what do we have in Scotland, what can be repurposed or restarted, what materials do we need and where can we source them? For instance, can we source the rare metals for electrical vehicle batteries from companies such as Aberdeen Minerals, instead of outsourcing our responsibilities to areas of the world and regimes with much less attractive practices? At the moment, our supply chain is not being considered in the round, nor is it being backed. The obvious example is the sourcing of two ferries from a company in Turkey, which, I discovered through a portfolio question, has contracted one—I repeat, one—Scottish company to supply it out of its 58 suppliers.

Where all that gets us to is that this Government must stop patting itself on the back for its magical thinking, stop offshoring our responsibilities, stop denigrating our world-leading North Sea energy industry and start taking a science and evidence-based approach to ensuring a just transition. It must also become much better at communicating that these are the high-value, green jobs of the future, as well as at articulating the costs to the consumer of failing to get to net zero. In short, that is what the amendment in my name calls for, and that is why I have pleasure in moving it.

I move amendment S6M-08626.2, to insert at end:

“; recommends that a science and evidence-based approach be taken to deliver on national net zero targets and ensure a just transition; emphasises the need for Scotland to act as a responsible global partner by contributing to global efforts to support mitigation, adaption, and green technology projects, and not offsetting carbon emissions to other nations; asserts that collaboration with the UK Government and other devolved nations is essential to delivering a just transition; argues that the draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan lets down the people of Scotland and fails to provide a fair and just pathway to maximise the opportunities of that transition; notes that greater efforts are required to improve circularity within the Scottish economy, and believes that a workable Deposit Return Scheme, which addresses the current flaws, must be delivered.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Sarah Boyack to speak to and move amendment S6M-08626.1.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

First, I welcome the cabinet secretary to her new role. Scottish Labour will be constructive. We will work to hold the Scottish Government to account. When we believe that more action is needed, we will be absolutely clear about what extra proposals we have to deliver on our climate targets.

I am proud of the fact that the Scottish Parliament passed world-leading climate legislation. I know that my Labour colleagues over the years have made contributions to both the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.

However, we are at a point where we need to see the heavy lifting of implementation happen now, and not in a decade. That is why I am keen to amend the motion that has been lodged by the SNP-Green Government.

We need stronger action now—the climate emergency demands it. We need to see action on the recommendations from the UK Climate Change Committee’s recent report and from Audit Scotland’s analysis of where we need more action.

The UKCCC’s report from last year highlighted significant failures in meeting our climate targets. Key areas were identified: making our homes and buildings fit for the future, decarbonising our transport, and action on land management, in particular getting reforestation right and restoring our peatlands. Given last week’s worrying report on the loss of biodiversity, we need action that is joined up so that it tackles not only the climate emergency but the nature emergency.

Audit Scotland’s briefing is also clear that we are not seeing the joined-up action across Government that the cabinet secretary talked about in her speech. There are major failings on the monitoring and co-ordination of work on climate change, and not enough of a focus on risk assessment, which I think is really important. We also need more action on adaptation, to ensure that our communities are given the investment that they need now to address the climate change that is already happening, such as in flooding.

As I said at the start of my contribution, Scottish Labour will be constructive. We will propose changes that we think need to be made, and we will talk to people with experience outwith the Parliament.

A key issue that needs to be joined up with our response to the climate crisis is tackling the cost of living crisis. Those have to be addressed at the same time. We have to make sure that the jobs and the investment deliver for all our ambitions.

On housing, for example, I congratulate Alex Rowley on persuading the Scottish Government to adopt the principles proposed in his Passivhaus member’s bill. However, we need to see a massive step up in making our existing homes energy efficient. That means urgent action right across Scotland, which is why it is so disappointing that, in the middle of a cost of living crisis, when 25 per cent of our children are living in poverty and families cannot afford to heat their homes, last year the SNP-Green Government failed to deliver the proposed £133 million of investment in energy efficiency. That would have been a classic win-win, tackling poverty, creating supply chains and skilled jobs right across our communities and reducing climate emissions.

We need practical action. We also need to see more incentives to support the use of renewables technologies in our homes and communities, such as developing heat networks and using the range of proven technologies to heat and power our homes. It is a massive transition, but we need clear plans and we also need ministerial leadership.

It also means doing heavy lifting such as thinking through how, in practice, we can help tenement and other flat owners to access the investment that will enable them to decarbonise their homes. Families could save hundreds of pounds—£500 on their energy bills—under the plans that UK Labour has been developing to deliver investment for extra insulation in our homes. That would be a commitment if Labour got into power at UK level, and it would benefit us in Scotland, too.

We also need to see a big expansion in community renewables work. Again, the opportunity is there, but we need to see leadership from the Scottish Government, sharing best practice, supporting our councils and giving them the investment that they need to make sure that we can be innovative in planning and investment. The Scottish Co-operative Party has done some fantastic work on how renewables can deliver for communities and how community renewables systems can help reinvestment in communities. Money is being made across Scotland that should be invested into our communities. That would need a lot of work, but we can learn from other countries. We just need to look at what Denmark has done over the years on community heat networks that are owned by councils and on moving to low-carbon networks.

We need a joined-up approach right across our governments—our UK Government, our Scottish Government and our councils—to deliver the just transition that we need. Our green prosperity plan would give us that clean power system right across the UK within seven years, and the new publicly owned energy-generation company would mean that the profits, jobs and benefits of our natural resources in Scotland are not offshored but practically benefit local communities.

There is so much more that we could do now. We just need to look at the ScotWind project, which is a massive missed opportunity in terms of the profits that companies will make, which is so ironic given the SNP’s ambition to learn from our Nordic neighbours. We could be doing that now, not missing the opportunity.

I want to briefly mention the decarbonisation of transport, which was also mentioned in the cabinet secretary’s speech. I was glad that it was mentioned and it is good that our trains and buses are going low carbon, but we need more reliable, affordable and accessible services. People need to be able to get to work, regardless of the time of day, with decent public transport options. However, we have actually gone into reverse because we have seen huge numbers of bus services being lost right across the country. That has been exacerbated by, but is not due to, Covid.

The lack of access to local bus services means that people cannot get to work or access services without using cars. We have to give them that opportunity. This morning, in the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, we discussed how the lack of transport services is stopping people from accessing culture and creative opportunities, particularly in our rural areas. That has to be fixed.

In the spirit of being constructive, I ask what the Scottish Government is doing to implement the amendment that Scottish Labour lodged to the bill that became the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to support municipal bus companies. We have not seen that progress or additional investment given to local authorities to let them achieve the innovation and services that our communities desperately need. A lot could be learned from what Lothian Buses does that could be rolled out across different areas in Scotland.

As we move to electric vehicles, we need to see more choices for people, such as more car share schemes so that people do not always have to buy a car to use a car. There is a lot more that this Government could be doing. Supporting local authorities is absolutely critical and a joined-up approach is fundamental.

It is not just about councils working on their own. They need support and funding from the Scottish Government so that they can do what they want to do now, not in 10 years. This is an emergency.

I am proposing a member’s bill on wellbeing and sustainable development that will enable us to do more of that joined-up thinking. I thank all those who have contributed to my consultation and I hope that ministers will look at the potential bill because it could also be a game-changer. We need to act now. The Scottish Government needs to act on the Audit Scotland recommendations. We also need to see action on the UK Climate Change Committee’s recommendations. Our coastal and island communities will be particularly vulnerable to the climate emergency, and we need action on flood prevention now.

We are approaching a tipping point and we owe it to young people to secure their future. Last week, I was shocked to read about the extent to which young people are now worrying. Their mental health is being impacted by thinking about the climate emergency. It is their future that is at risk and we as politicians have to act now. We do not have to agree on everything, but we have to try to get cross-party agreement on radical action.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You need to be winding up.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

We need leadership, investment and new jobs across Scotland. We need to use public procurement and make sure that the just transition works for people across the country, and we need to take action to make the change that our communities need. That is what we need to do. We need to work together.

I move amendment S6M-08626.1, to leave out from “further recognises” to end and insert:

“notes the damning report from the UK Climate Change Committee, which states that the Scottish Government’s targets are “in danger of becoming meaningless”, and that more action must urgently be taken; agrees that the Scottish Government’s plans are insufficient to meet Scotland’s climate change targets and believes that a stronger emphasis on adaptations to address climate risks is needed; recognises Scotland’s huge potential as a net zero nation and considers that it is well placed to realise the opportunities of a net zero economy, with its highly-skilled workforce, including in the oil and gas and energy sectors; believes that, if the Scottish Government is to deliver a just transition for these workers and communities, it must increase efforts in upskilling, reskilling and attracting new talent in these sectors; celebrates the significant contribution of those who manage land and marine areas, and is concerned that they must not be left behind in the transition to net zero, and therefore calls for greater support for community-based projects; recognises the huge benefits that could come to Scotland through the Labour Party’s proposed Green Prosperity Plan, which would create a clean power system across the UK by 2030, and supports the proposals to create a publicly-owned energy generation company so that the profits, jobs and benefits of Scotland’s natural resources are no longer offshored but benefit local people.”

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

I welcome the cabinet secretary to her new role.

Had my amendment been accepted, it would have called on the Scottish Government to address the volume of sewage overflowing into Scotland’s waterways. We know that the volume of sewage overflowing across Scotland is at least equivalent to that of more than 18,000 Olympic swimming pools—and that figure comes from only the 4 per cent of overflows that are monitored. The release of sewage into Scotland’s waterways on at least 14,000 occasions in 2022 is unacceptable. We must have the infrastructure and a monitoring regime that can keep those who use our beaches, lochs and rivers safe while safeguarding the natural environment.

We are supportive of the principles of the unamended motion, but they need to be followed up with action. Audit Scotland’s report on the Government’s delivery of climate goals indicated that there are “gaps in reports”, with

“no workforce plan for climate change since the Net Zero department was established in late 2021.”

We need to get to grips with tackling the climate emergency with a laser-like focus on the environment. We would like to see the launching of an emergency nationwide insulation programme for homes and buildings, to improve energy efficiency; the introduction of measures to boost the uptake of EVs; and the removal of barriers to the faster roll-out of solar power.

Our overarching concern is that the Scottish Government’s policy on climate change and net zero lacks sufficient detail and misses emissions reduction targets. Those gaps are holding Scotland back from achieving our climate goals.

There is so much to discuss about the topic, and it is important for the future of all life on the planet that we get it right. I will therefore focus on carbon emissions caused by transport and on securing a just transition.

Transport is currently the highest-emitting sector in Scotland. The latest figure of 26 per cent is from 2020, which encompasses the lockdown, while pre-Covid the figure was 36 per cent. All islands, including Shetland, rely on transport connectivity, whether by air, sea or vehicles. Those lifeline services are used every day for social, health and economic activities. Cars are a necessity in areas in which bus connections do not meet the realities of the geography.

Ferries are a large contributor to carbon emissions, and we welcome plans to switch to a more sustainable fleet. Plans to make the passenger vessels on the Northern Isles to Aberdeen route more sustainable must be balanced with plans for added freight capacity on the route, which is vital to Shetland’s economy as it helps us to punch above our weight in contributing to Scotland’s economy as a whole. Seafood exports are one example of that.

Inter-island ferry connections contribute additional emissions for which Scottish mainland communities do not have an equivalent. In Shetland, short tunnels connecting island communities would benefit the national and local economies. Tunnel action groups in the isles are making the economic and environmental case for the benefits of tunnels, given the carbon emissions of the ferry services on those routes.

On cars, plans to move to electric vehicles are welcome. The key thing to get right is the charging infrastructure across Scotland, especially in rural locations, which are often the most reliant on private cars. Being stranded miles from the nearest charger cannot be an option if EVs are to help us to reach our net zero targets.

Looking at the just transition for the workforce, renewable energy projects in Scotland will be vital in enabling us to reach our net zero targets. Shetland, centred geographically at the crossroads of the North Sea, is well placed to be the energy hub to support future developments. Shetland’s infrastructure and workforce across engineering and marine skills are ready to adapt. Roles in the sector are highly attractive to those at the beginning of their career as well to the current, traditional energy workforce. Oil and gas employees have a wealth of knowledge and experience, which is transferable to technologies such as green hydrogen and renewables.

Training and upskilling must continue at pace if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities to build the workforce for the future. The north-east and the Highlands and Islands made a significant contribution to Scotland by adapting to make the most of North Sea oil and gas. People in those areas are now looking for future opportunities as livelihoods and communities adapt to the emerging renewables sector, both onshore and offshore.

Workers and communities cannot be left on the scrapheap, as happened in previous decades. We must ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to gain skills for the future, as well as the support and retraining that they need in order to thrive. That skilled workforce is vital to a just transition.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, there is so much to discuss. I am a member of the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, and all our work considers in some way how we will ensure future sustainability. That will be especially important when we consider the proposed agriculture bill and how we will ensure sustainable farming and food security. We were reminded yesterday in the committee that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report fears that we are close to not meeting the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Time is running out.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to the open debate.

Photo of Kaukab Stewart Kaukab Stewart Scottish National Party

I welcome this timely debate on the urgency to deliver on tackling climate change and to ensure a just transition. We have to reimagine behavioural and cultural change. Change can be uncomfortable but we have to accept some discomfort, because the alternative is much worse.

Across the SNP and Green seats, we talk about setting high ambitions for Scotland to tackle the causes of climate change—we are the most ambitious nation in the UK. Younger generations and generations yet to come are relying on us to deliver on that vision. We need to act on that ambition.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

How does what the member has just said square with Audit Scotland saying that the Government has no clear plan for reaching net zero?

Photo of Kaukab Stewart Kaukab Stewart Scottish National Party

I will come on to speak about some of the actions. The cabinet secretary has already mentioned those plans.

Last year saw the hottest temperatures that Scotland has ever recorded. It was a staggering 35.1°C in Kelso. Unfortunately, as Beatrice Wishart mentioned, it is now looking extremely likely that we will pass the 1.5°C marker in the early 2030s. However, knowing that we are likely to pass the marker does not mean that we should give up. We must be wary of an “It’s going to happen anyway, so there’s nothing I can do” attitude. Many people will adopt that pessimistic way of thinking, because it is the easiest approach in the short term, but doing so would continue to condemn everything we know. As Sir David Attenborough put it,

“What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet.”

If we reach 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the risk to human life is much higher. Diseases such as malaria will spread much more quickly, food security will be volatile at best, and economies across the world will suffer greatly, pushing yet more people into poverty.

My constituency was home to the 26th UN climate change conference of the parties—COP26. Nations from across the world met and agreed on statements around reducing carbon to net zero, achieving a just transition to greener energy and protecting nature. No one nation can do it alone, but we can do our bit here, at home.

Glasgow City Council agreed that 2030 should be the target for bringing the city to net zero carbon emissions. That is no mean feat, because our nation’s largest city is home to many great and varied industries, and hundreds of thousands of people commute into Glasgow on any given working day. Most arrive by car—recent figures show that nearly 70 per cent of people travel to work by car or van, as either the driver or a passenger.

Glasgow City Council has done and is doing much work to change people’s attitudes and behaviour when it comes to moving around the city. We hear a lot about modal shift, whether that be moving people on to public forms of transport, such as our rail, bus and subway networks, or encouraging people to take a more active travel path by walking or cycling to work.

As of June, Glasgow City Council will be enforcing a low-emission zone throughout much of the city, the chief aim of which is to reduce extremely dangerous levels of air pollution. Unfortunately, two of the highest recorded levels have been in my constituency of Glasgow Kelvin. I have no doubt that the LEZ will encourage some to consider taking other modes of transport into the city, thereby helping us to reduce our commuter carbon footprint.

However—I say this as an ardent supporter of any measures to tackle the human impact of climate change—we must accept that, for many people, a car will remain the most appropriate mode of transport for getting to work. Those people include people with mobility issues and people who live in rural areas.

Cars are and will remain a major presence on our road networks for some time to come, and we need to get even more creative about how we manage and reduce the impact that they have on our environment. A move to electric vehicles is an obvious answer but, currently, they are too pricey for many people. Incentivising car-sharing schemes might alleviate the need for multiple cars to make the same or similar journeys. That is part of the answer to Glasgow reaching net zero by 2030, but it is only part of the answer. Home energy retrofitting, district heating, decarbonising industry, moving to hydrogen or electric transport and protecting and growing natural solutions for carbon sequestration all have a major part to play in Glasgow’s journey to net zero.

I put on record my thanks to and appreciation of our hard-working councillors in Glasgow—particularly Councillor Angus Millar, who chairs the climate, Glasgow green deal, transport and city centre recovery committee. Councillor Millar and his colleagues are very much alive to the challenges that we have before us as we seek to meet the 2030 target, but they have shown a determination to get the work done. However, that work comes with a very high financial burden. To date, central Government has put its money where its mouth is, but much more will be needed if we are to reach our 2030 targets.

As I understand it, there are opportunities to tap into alternative finance options but there are not the appropriate structures in place to enable local government to procure what it needs, at a fast pace, in order to meet timescale demands. I would be grateful if the minister, in summing up the debate, could say more about what work the Government is doing to free up councils to work more flexibly with external partners to reach their climate goals.

It is a no-brainer. Last year, parts of the UK were literally on fire. Let us not weather this storm; let us beat it.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to such an important debate.

I will start by quoting a commitment by the Scottish Government. It says:

“as we reduce our emissions and respond to a changing climate, our journey is fair and creates a better future for everyone—regardless of where they live, what they do, and who they are.”

Those are warm words about admirable targets—we are constantly told that the Government’s targets are world leading—but that is exactly what they are: warm words and targets. They come without outcomes or a route map to those outcomes.

As I have said many times before in the chamber, hitting those targets is absolutely crucial, because not doing so will mean that Scotland’s contribution to keeping 1.5o

C alive will fall short.

If making self-congratulatory statements about world-leading targets was a carbon-negative activity, the Scottish Government would already have single-handedly decarbonised most of the developed world.

Let us look at the Scottish Government’s commitment to a better future for everyone, regardless of where they live, what they do and who they are. That is not the case for those who live in rural Scotland, where transport links continue to crumble, running an EV is incredibly problematic and there is a dearth of EV charging points, rail links and bus routes.

I want to highlight the role of the blue economy in the route to a just transition. It is the lesser-known cousin of the green economy but it has more carbon contained within it and more ability to sequester carbon than the green economy. Marine ecosystems worldwide store and recycle an estimated 93 per cent of the earth’s CO2

, and the sequestration of carbon by seagrass is 35 times faster than that by rainforests. The blue economy also provides a fantastic renewable food source, which must be properly managed if we are to maintain food security.

However, the poor launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation into highly protected marine areas has highlighted the need to look in more detail at a just transition for our blue economy. We needed direct consultation that would allow local communities a say. It is obvious that coastal communities and Scottish industries within the blue economy feel left behind and that the Scottish Government is not delivering on its promise of a just transition for them. It is disappointing that the Scottish Government did not take a more direct approach to consulting communities on a policy that will directly impact their livelihoods and viability. It is easy to see that an online consultation with online workshops was a poor choice as a means of engagement.

As our blue economy grows and new technology becomes available, Scotland’s seas are under pressure for space. We need space for renewable energy, to minimise gear conflicts in fisheries and for aquaculture, including finfish, shellfish and the growing seaweed industry. With 90 per cent of the world’s goods traded on maritime routes, we need space for shipping lanes and transportation, as well as space for tourism and for conservation.

Industries including tourism, fishing and aquaculture, along with non-governmental organisations and community groups, have all called for better spatial management plans that take advantage of local and historical knowledge and that can better balance the needs of industry with the need for conservation and nature-based solutions. Many of those stakeholders cite inadequate funding, unclear objectives and a lack of data as key barriers to the proper implementation of marine spatial planning.

Much of the Scottish Government’s current marine policy is driven by the ideology of the Scottish Green party and by the use of misleading international comparators rather than by science-based evidence. The Scottish Government has admitted as much in response to portfolio questions, saying that it does not have the data to validate its policy choices but, instead, has policies that are based on

“how we can develop policy in the absence of science and data.”—[

Official Report

, 23 January 2023; c 4.]

Similarly, Scotland’s marine assessment 2020 explicitly stated:

“There are insufficient data to allow detailed assessment”.

That is no way to approach important legislation that could have a significant and potentially detrimental impact on communities that rely on a robust and sustainable blue economy. They are being offered Scottish Government guesswork. Developing HPMAs with very little evidence of their impact on temperate waters is not just ridiculous, it is hugely irresponsible. It is tempting to say that the SNP Government is all at sea on the issue, but that would require it to successfully build a boat.

The Scottish Government’s warm words increasingly look like hot air, and it is time that it stopped talking the dream and began living the reality. Only then can Scotland make a meaningful contribution to keeping 1.5o

C alive.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I welcome the cabinet secretary to her role and want her to succeed, but, to do so, she will have to work very closely with the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy. Màiri McAllan seems to lead on energy demand, while Neil Gray seems to lead on energy supply. I am genuinely interested to see how she will deliver a just transition without direct responsibility for budget and policy regarding energy production, jobs, supply chain support, skills and the enterprise companies.

Climate change and the biodiversity crisis are global crises. Biodiversity and climate change programmes can and must support each other. A just transition matters to both those global crises and must be responsive and fair to local communities.

On 14 March, as a member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, I raised the concerns that fishers in the Western Isles have about highly protected marine areas. Scotland’s existing network of general marine protected areas already covers 37 per cent of our seas. The new global target from the 15th United Nations biodiversity conference of the parties—COP15—is for 30 per cent of seas to be in effective management by 2030.

A just transition is not just for energy and it is not just for the north-east, which is why the Parliament’s Economy and Fair Work Committee is carrying out an inquiry into what is needed for the Grangemouth just transition plan.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am listening very carefully to what the member is saying. I wonder whether she can explain the logic of splitting out energy from the net zero portfolio, because I do not think that it quite makes sense.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I have given my view on the logic, but I am sure that the Government can explain that itself.

The member is also taking part in the inquiry into a just transition for the Grangemouth area. It is clear that the community, local businesses and workers need to be part of that just transition and that there needs to be place-based planning. I hope that the cabinet secretary will find our recommendations, when they are finalised, helpful.

The Grangemouth transition requires the approval of and funding for the Acorn CCUS project but, despite every indication that they might be announced on the UK Government’s green day, we are yet to hear about them. The clock is ticking and not only Scotland but the UK need the project in order to meet their net zero targets.

Communities must be involved in the just transition. I welcome the fact that Blackburn, in my constituency, was selected as one of the Scottish Government’s seven climate action towns. The Blackburn community consultation showed that jobs and skills is the main issue. I hope that wholesale early heat pump installation will be a priority, as it will develop skills and jobs. I urge the cabinet secretary to drive momentum, energy and resource into the climate action towns so that community empowerment results in action. We need to start delivering at scale now, transforming heat in buildings, and we need construction skills and recognised qualified electrical engineers and electricians. Surely, at the very least, we should be starting with our climate towns now.

On transport, bus services in semi-rural areas are reeling from patronage numbers that are lower than before Covid and a worsening shortage of drivers. I have villages in my constituency that will, in effect, be cut off from May due to changes in bus services, and we are yet to see West Lothian Council’s local priority routes for subsidy. The growing village of Winchburgh has two new secondary schools and a newly-opened road junction on to the M9, but it currently offers no way of getting to work other than by car. If we are to be serious about net zero, we need buses and a rail station in Winchburgh in order to meet commuters’ needs so that they do not resort to car use. As the cabinet secretary has overall responsibility for transport, I say to her that we need an effective bus and rail network if we want to reduce car use in commuting constituencies such as mine.

Innovation is also needed to tackle climate change. Energy powers and funding are mainly reserved to Westminster, and I was pleased to learn that Invinity Energy Systems, which is based in Bathgate in my constituency and which manufactures utility-grade energy storage systems, was recently awarded an £11 million grant from the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. That money will be invested to deploy a 30MWh vanadium flow battery. Invinity already supports energy storage from hydrogen in Orkney and it is featured in the Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy, which was published earlier this year.

The Climate Change Committee has said that there is a need for more new storage solutions, beyond the simple use of batteries. Most critical is the use of surplus generation to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, or green hydrogen, which provides long-term storage so that it can be used later to generate electricity. Scotland is extremely well placed in that regard, but we must harness ourselves to hydrogen decisively and soon in order to do that. Exporting hydrogen will also help other countries to reach secure net zero, but it is not a UK Government priority.

The Climate Change Committee has stated that, in order to support the UK Government’s target of up to 50GW of offshore wind power by 2030, it will have to install in the next seven years more than five times the amount of transmission infrastructure that has been built in England and Wales in the past 30 years. Grid transmission for power that is generated is key, which is why the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee is currently examining our infrastructure needs. Our inquiry has heard concerns about how the grid can meet the requirements for Scottish renewable energy production. Scotland has the energy. We just need the power, and that power is independence to make Scotland a powerhouse for its people with available, affordable renewable energy.

The IPCC report makes it clear that all Governments must make major changes. The UK Government was forced to publish its “Powering Up Britain” strategy after the High Court judged in July last year that its current plan was not detailed enough to deliver. Further, the Scottish Government’s revised climate change plan, which is due later this year, must have deliverables, as the Auditor General for Scotland’s report set out this week, not just targets and aspirations, or it will also lay itself open to challenge.

I trust that I have set out my priorities clearly for the cabinet secretary. I look forward to her response and to working with her.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests.

The Scottish Government’s just transition commission is a rather measured, moderate group of people, but even they felt compelled to write to the minister responsible for just transition just a few weeks ago. In their letter, they pulled no punches. They said that addressing inequalities should be a core strategic objective of just transition and that there should be an audit of who benefits, of who pays and of which groups in society will pay more and which groups will pay less. They called for co-design and meaningful engagement and a stable and settled workforce, which they said demands a step-change in skills, credible road maps and an investment prospectus and plan.

We can hear their growing impatience and rising exasperation that, four years on from the Government declaring a climate emergency, they are still having to ask

“how existing constraints to financing, skills and workforce capacity can be addressed.”

No wonder their patience is running out, and that is the case not only in relation to the just transition commission, because the same is true of the Audit Commission. The Auditor General’s new report, published just today, is scathing about the SNP-Green Government. He says:

“The Scottish Government does not routinely carry out carbon assessments or capture the impact of spending decisions on its carbon footprint in the long term ... The Scottish Government does not assess how far the policies outlined in the Climate Change Plan Update will contribute to net zero ... The Scottish Government does not know how much the policies proposed in the current Climate Change Plan Update will cost”.

However, what everyone in the country knows is that there are choices to be made, and they know that these are not technological choices but political ones, because the path that we must follow is not about technocratic fixes and scientific solutions; it is about what type of society we live in. It is about how we live and how we might live, and it is about how we overturn the deep divisions of class that hold us back. It involves a choice about whether we help the weak or the strong; whether we plan our economy or rely on the market; and whether we simply deal with the effects of the economic system or set about changing the current economic system. Those are the choices that the Government must make.

On Tuesday, the new First Minister arrived in Parliament with a document under his arm entitled, “Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership—A fresh start”. He spoke of trade unions and of fair work, declaring:

“We will take the workers of the northeast ... with us on our just transition journey.”—[

Official Report

, 18 April 2023; c 14.]

Further, as we heard on Wednesday, the new Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition visited Ineos in the morning and Forth Ports in the afternoon to meet “key stakeholders”. The cabinet secretary met senior managers from Ineos—Ratcliffe’s people—and the trade union representatives there, but she did not meet the trade union representatives at Forth Ports. This afternoon, I warn the cabinet secretary not to pander to the Jim Ratcliffes of this world—Jim Ratcliffe who, as well as still wanting to frack across the central belt of Scotland, now wants to build a nuclear reactor right in the middle of Grangemouth. I also warn her that a just transition that really is just means that we do not pander to those vested interests—those whose only interest is in making money and a quick profit—but, instead, take them on.

A just transition that really is just means that we will tilt the balance of power in the economy in a new and better direction. There will need to be a whole-system change, a decisive shift, a new kind of economy that includes public ownership, not least in energy. It will need to be bold—bolder than we imagine—because, in truth, we will be accused by future generations not of going too fast or of taking people by surprise but of going too slowly, nibbling away at the problem and not being decisive enough.

In “A Dream of John Ball”, William Morris wrote:

“Hard it is for the Old World to see the New”.

We want an earthly paradise—why not? We should draw on the great unused reservoir of human talent and potential—why not? We are world citizens, with an obligation as well as a right to speak out, because our common humanity should unite us—why not? We can change the fundamental relations of power in the economy and in production through radical and rational reform—why not?

However, all of that not only requires vision but demands leadership. It cries out for urgent Government action. In the end, it must be based on an understanding that those things will not happen spontaneously or evolve naturally—certainly not under the logic of capitalism. We will have to plan for them. It also requires an understanding that this is not just an economic, environmental, ecological, social and political imperative but a moral imperative.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

As a member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, I am pleased to speak in the debate, and I take the opportunity to welcome the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition and the Minister for Energy to their roles.

The SNP Scottish Government has demonstrated that it is committed to tackling climate change and to delivering a just transition. That is crucial in the face of the global climate and nature emergencies.

In the Scottish Government’s policy prospectus, the cabinet secretary, working with her Cabinet colleagues, has made a commitment that, by 2026, the Scottish Government will have

“Driven down Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions further – our new Climate Change Plan will clearly set the pathway to achieving Scotland’s world leading commitment to be net zero by 2045.”

In addition, it will set out its plan

“for building resilience to the impacts that climate change is having and will increasingly have on communities and businesses, in our Adaptation Programme” and

“Co-developed a series of just transition plans in support of, and together with, sectors and communities most affected by the net zero transformation, and delivered direct support though our £500 million Just Transition Fund. We will also have consulted on net zero conditionality for significant public sector investment, including proposals to support businesses”.

Those are important steps, and I will focus my contribution on the just transition, not least because of the need to have a fair and just transition away from complete reliance on North Sea oil and gas.

Scotland is taking lasting action to secure a net zero and climate-resilient future in a way that is fair and just for everyone. The latest emissions data for 2020 show that Scotland’s emissions are down by well over 50 per cent since the 1990 baseline, which is more than halfway to net zero. Action that is being taking now will deliver significant reductions in emissions in years to come.

The transition will require a truly national effort from all sectors of the economy, including significant private sector investment in net zero and climate resilience to ensure the long-term strength and competitiveness of our economy.

The Scottish Government has been clear that a just transition is an opportunity to go beyond delivering our very necessary climate goals, to bring a nationwide, cross-industry transformation to build a greener and more equal Scotland. The national just transition planning framework sets out how the Scottish Government will work with others to manage the economic and social impacts.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to developing just transition plans across sectors and regions—beginning with the Scottish Government’s “Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan”, which was published in January 2023.

The first £20 million of the Scottish Government’s just transition fund for the north-east and Moray was identified as part of the 2022-23 budget. Although that is welcome, I request further information from the cabinet secretary on how that fund will address employment transition in the north-east, including for my constituents in Aberdeen Donside.

It is interesting to note that the UK Government’s green jobs task force recommended that that Government sets out how it will match support that is available through the European Union’s just transition fund. That has still not been acted on. The UK Government has refused to match the Scottish Government’s £500 million just transition fund, despite the £300 billion that has gone to the Treasury from North Sea oil since the 1970s. That is shocking. I call on the UK Government to match the funding and take action in the face of the global climate emergency.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I will not make the same point again about the £16 billion North Sea transition deal, but does Jackie Dunbar welcome the fact that the UK Government has awarded £27 million to Aberdeen’s energy transition zone to support the development of green energy?

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.

I am just fair forfochen—I am sorry; that is a good old-fashioned Doric word for being exhausted—haein tae explain tae Liam Kerr that money is money. I am an Aberdonian, and I will appreciate any money that we can get, but I ask him to ask his UK Government colleagues whether we can get some of the £300 billion back. That would be exceedingly helpful, too.

I am sorry about the shocked look that you just had on your face until I explained what my Doric word meant, Deputy Presiding Officer.

We are transitioning to a net zero emissions Scotland for the benefit of our environment, our people and our prosperity. We also need to adapt and build resilience to the impacts of climate change alongside our actions to reduce emissions.

The Scottish Government is committed to ending its contribution to climate change in a way that is fair and leaves nobody behind. The actions that are needed to become net zero by 2045 will transform all sectors of our economy and society, and they will require rapid structural change.

In Scotland, we have seen how unplanned structural changes in the past have left intergenerational scarring and deprivation—most notably in our former coal mining communities. Our transition to net zero must be managed differently. If we plan ahead and act, ending our contribution to climate change presents a unique opportunity to improve the collective wellbeing of our nation. Everyone—including those who work in oil and gas—must be engaged with and brought on board.

The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 embeds the principles of a just transition. That means that, as we reduce our emissions and respond to a changing climate, our journey is fair and creates a better future for everybody, regardless of where they live, what they do and who they are.

I again welcome this debate, and I welcome the steps that are being taken in Scotland’s just transition. If we all work together, we will reach our net zero goals.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I warmly welcome the cabinet secretary and the minister to their new roles, and I look forward to our joint work ahead, particularly on the forthcoming climate plan.

It is clear that no Government anywhere in the world has responded to the climate emergency with the scale or the speed that is needed to keep to the 1.5°C promise. Our current climate plan in Scotland is not on course to meet the 2030 targets, so the next plan must bring in fresh thinking, especially on delivery.

As a former convener of the Environment and Rural Development Committee, Sarah Boyack will remember the conclusions of the Parliament’s first-ever climate change inquiry back in 2005. The committee recommended in its report that

“a radical response on a huge, almost unprecedented, scale must start” to be entrenched in policy now.

It also recommended actions that included a call on ministers to develop and introduce road user charging by 2015 at the very latest. There was unanimous cross-party support. Some members of the committee went on to join the Government; others were spokespeople for their parties in the years that followed. However, the Parliament’s inability to lead a consensus on necessary measures such as road user charging really saddens me.

As soon as even moderate measures such as workplace parking levies—or a deposit return scheme—are proposed, they are kicked around as political footballs. Where did that cross-party desire go for a radical response on a huge, almost unprecedented scale? It always gets lost in the short-term gain of political calculus. Opposition from any quarter is seen as creating an insurmountable crisis; calls are then made for policies to be abandoned or watered down, and then ministers have to be moved on. That then chills the political ambition for the new, progressive ideas that are desperately needed to tackle this crisis.

This Parliament—the Parliament that brought in the smoking ban, the plastic bag tax and even the abolition of section 2A of the Local Government Act 1988—is in danger of becoming cautious and kowtowing. As Edwin Morgan said at the opening of this very building, a “nest of fearties” is not what the people want; nor do they want a “symposium of procrastinators”.

I am saddened, because if Governments in Scotland and the UK had acted together with the scale of ambition that was outlined in that 2005 report, we would be in a very different position today. Instead, in 2023, we must pick up the pace dramatically to make up for nearly two decades of lost ground. Step changes are needed, which means breaking with policies that were damaging the climate in 2005 and have continued to do so in the years that have followed.

If we prioritise road-building projects and increase vehicle mileage, it will break our climate targets while emptying our transport budgets; if we allow air miles to increase, it will wipe out the climate gains that are being made by reducing the cost of public transport or by increasing cycling; if farming upland management and fishing are not radically reformed, we will continue to release thousands of tons of carbon from our soil and sea beds every year; and if we push on with maximum economic recovery of oil and gas, it will delay the just transition and result in a dangerous and unmanaged collapse of jobs in the years ahead.

However, I think that the pathways to energy transition are getting clearer by the day. Commissioned as a result of the Bute house agreement, the independent just transition review of the Scottish energy sector is a genuinely groundbreaking and extensive study by world-leading experts. It informs the energy strategy and is a rare example of an oil and gas-rich nation recognising both the challenges and the opportunities of transition rather than pretending that business as usual is a viable option.

I recommend that members look at that study because it examines in depth how North Sea oil and gas production will decline regardless of Government policy and how undeveloped reserves will become increasingly hard to exploit. There is simply no return to the oil and gas boom, no matter how hard some members may wish for it.

The study shows us that there is a viable route to meeting our Paris commitment and to protecting jobs. However, that will not happen by itself. It requires brave, bold and early investment and policy intervention to power the transition. Perhaps it on that point that I sense from all the contributions that there is a consensus in the Parliament on the need to get that specificity and to get those investment plans ready.

This is about harnessing the opportunities that we have in Scotland in wind, renewable hydrogen and supply chains for electrification, creating jobs that are lasting, secure and fulfilling for generations to come. This is about a green transition that is also rooted in justice—trade unions and workers need to be at the heart of discussions about a just transition—and we need to aspire to have better conditions for all, not just for more of the same. This is, rightly, about bringing communities with us, so although I am optimistic that the new energy strategy can set the right level of ambition, what is needed on the back of it are those detailed, grounded plans for transition that are rooted in communities.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

If I have got time, I will.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I can give you the time back.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I very much appreciate Mark Ruskell taking my intervention.

I totally agree with the member that we know that community energy schemes work, but we need support for local authorities and the leadership to make those schemes happen. Does he think that we should be pushing harder on that?

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Absolutely, and I think that the starting point of local heat and energy efficiency strategies that councils are working on right now will create opportunities for communities to own their energy as well, and to create an energy generation revolution that will be in our communities and owned by them—that is the prize. However, it cannot happen without Government intervention; it cannot happen without that drive and that leadership. Mr Harvie is listening and nodding away just behind me.

We need those site-specific just transition plans for sites such as Mossmorran, too. The work to develop a site-specific plan for Grangemouth is great, but we need to go further and faster: we cannot leave any communities behind.

Back in 2005, we promised to meet the challenge of the climate crisis by standing together as a Parliament and taking bold action. I still believe that that greener, fairer future is possible, but we have a responsibility in the Parliament to work together to achieve that. That is the challenge that brought the Greens into Government. We look forward to working with all MSPs who share that spirit.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

The plans and strategies that the Government has laid out are certainly ambitious for Scotland, as they should, and must, be if we are to achieve our ambitions for 2030 and 2045. Running alongside those plans are the views and recommendations of the Climate Change Committee, which are robust and challenging, as well as those of Audit Scotland, which released a report this morning. Let us not forget that, no matter what we all do, we cannot do any of it without taking our communities along with us on the journey—which Mark Ruskell made a point about a second ago.

We are talking about making major changes to the way that people live their lives, how and where they work and, crucially, how they move around this wonderful country to go about their business. That journey is well under way, and the credit is due to the efforts of many in Government, industry and at home, too. Emissions are down by more than 50 per cent from the 1990 baseline, and we are over halfway to net zero. However, it has to be said that the Climate Change Committee tells us that the pace of change must accelerate and that, currently, we are not on track to make the kind of systemic changes that are required for the next half of the journey.

It might be hard to believe but, having run a couple of marathons, I know that the first half is comfortable enough, but the last miles take the most effort and make the most difference. The Climate Change Committee’s opening comments in its report are encouraging. It states that the 2020 interim targets have been met, but it is also quick to point out that the travel restrictions during Covid probably helped us over that particular line. Surely, it is also fair to say that Covid hampered progress in some of the key areas that we wanted to achieve. A recurring message in the CCC’s report is that we need quantified delivery plans that set out the details of how we are to achieve the various targets that we are setting—a point that has been repeated by Audit Scotland and is recognised and accepted by the Scottish Government.

On the issue of reducing car kilometre miles by 20 per cent by 2030, I had a look at the draft route map. It looked detailed enough to me, with 50 pages or so backed up by more analysis and a number of ingredients that I recognise are already in place or are on the way, such as extending free bus travel, establishing low-emission zones in our cities, investment in the rail network and—our latest announcement—removing peak rail fares from October. All those measure are helping, and will help even more to coax people away from their cars and on to buses and trains.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

On the issue of bus services, I agree that transport emissions went down during Covid as so many of us stayed at home. However, we now have an issue that there are fewer bus services for people to use. Do we not need to make that a real political priority across the country so that people have a choice and that they have decent bus services that they can use?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will give Mr Coffey the time back for that intervention.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I totally agree. It will take time to get back to anything like the normal levels of bus usage, but I agree that we need to do everything that we can to encourage it.

I am no expert, though, so I will go back to the CCC’s view of the road map and what is still required. If it is to quantify the impact of the measures as we go along, then fair enough. Perhaps the cabinet secretary might say a wee bit more about that when she sums up.

In looking at the process of hastening the transition to electric cars from diesel and petrol, I can see contradictions that could be confusing to the public. On the one hand, we want people to transition to electric cars but, on the other, we want them not to use cars and to switch to bus and rail services instead. Which option is the Government asking the public to embrace?

A significant event took place in Ireland during the past few weeks: sales of electric cars have now exceeded sales of diesel cars for the first time ever. The Irish Government still offers £5,000 on new EV car purchases, and that kind of intervention has been significant in achieving that change. The number of electric cars that I saw in Dublin last week was huge, and it far exceeded what I have seen in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Government intervention can mirror that impact at this most difficult phase of our net zero journey.

I reserve my last observation for the railways and their part in helping us to tackle the effects of climate change. How can we expect to deliver a rail service that is fit for people in the 21st century on a rail track network that still looks much the same as it did in the 19th century?

It takes far too long for people in my constituency to get to places in Glasgow in reasonable time and comfort. The current train journey takes longer than the steam train did in the 1940s. As for travelling to Edinburgh, the network makes that an almost impossible task, as people need to change trains and stations to get there. It still takes more than two hours to travel 60 miles. That is not good enough, and it will ultimately hamper our progress to net zero if we do not solve those problems to meet the needs and expectations of the modern traveller.

Let us see whether we can build on all the plans, take onboard recommendations from all colleagues who want to achieve the same end and fully meet the needs of the local people that we serve. If we do that, we can look forward to the successful transition to net zero that Scotland and the rest of our planet so badly need.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Maurice Golden, who is the final speaker in the open debate, after which we will move to closing speeches, when everybody who has participated in the debate will be expected to be in the chamber.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Just last month, the IPCC delivered the final part of its sixth assessment report calling for urgent action to avoid “irrevocable damage” to our environment. As the UN secretary general put it,

“Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once”.

That certainly rings true in Scotland, where we are sadly behind in taking the action that is needed. The latest circularity gap report shows that the UK economy is 7.2 per cent circular, which is above the global average. However, Scotland is trailing far behind, with a circular economy score of just 1.3 per cent. In other words, 98.7 per cent of the resources that we use are from virgin sources. That statistic should deeply concern the SNP, given that it has had 16 years to build a circular economy. In all sincerity, I say to the new cabinet secretary and the new First Minister: let us do better.

A good start would be to introduce circular economic buying standards for the public sector. Match that up with promoting better product design to bake in reuse from the start, and we can drive forward a market for reusable, repairable and refurbished goods.

If members want to know what that looks like in practice, they should look no further than Advanced Clothing Solutions in North Lanarkshire. It is at the forefront of renting, repairing and reusing clothes, all while providing high-quality jobs to new entrants to the workforce, those who are reskilling and those who are looking for another chance in life. In other words, it is an example of the just transition that we want to see across Scotland.

Textiles are a particularly important issue. Zero Waste Scotland reports that they make up 4 per cent of household waste, but they account for almost one third of household waste emissions, yet the Scottish Government’s response has been to abolish the textiles programme, reinstate it, abolish it again then launch a textiles fund, which at the time was not available for anyone to apply for.

We can go even further by supporting farmers to grow native fibres for our textile industry. That is an area in which the Scottish Government has not shown enough interest; it does not even know how much Scottish wool is used in textile manufacturing. Support must be ramped up behind the textiles innovation fund to create a thriving closed-loop industry—one that has a sustainable environmental footprint that helps secure rural economies. That last point is especially important in securing a just transition for communities beyond the central belt.

There is an opportunity for plastic, too. Just 2 per cent of plastic waste is recycled in Scotland, so let us get a new facility in place to improve our recycling capability, keep valuable resources within Scotland and even attract recycling businesses from elsewhere.

We should also consider system design. For example, the development of streaming platforms made materials associated with DVD players and DVDs redundant. Sadly, the Scottish Government has done nothing in that space, despite my call to link education, academia and business in exploring circular economy design principles.

The ability of environmental policies to generate jobs and wealth offers a huge opportunity, but we must be careful that we do not miss out on it. For example, in relation to renewables, not every community can host a project, which is why I have championed renewable energy bonds to allow Scots to invest in and reap the rewards of our £5.6 billion renewables sector, regardless of where they live.

Earlier this week, the First Minister said that, on climate change, the SNP

“not only talk the talk”.—[

Official Report

, 18 April 2023; c 21.]

He claimed that the party is also walking the walk, but the evidence says otherwise. The SNP has failed on seven out of 11 emissions targets. Waste incineration has more than tripled since 2011. The SNP has failed to deliver its renewable heat target. It promised 30,000 green jobs by 2020, but then delivered marginally more than 20,000. There is also the 2013 household recycling target that has still not been met a decade later.

This is not point scoring—others have raised concerns, too. The Fraser of Allander Institute points out that, despite the Scottish Government’s declaring a climate emergency,

“there are no clear signs of this emergency affecting internal Government processes in any serious way.”

That point is reinforced by today’s report from Audit Scotland, “How the Scottish Government is set up to deliver climate change goals”, which states:

“key elements of good governance are missing from the Scottish Government’s climate change governance arrangements or are used irregularly and inconsistently”.

The same report also makes it clear that

The Scottish Government cannot achieve net zero targets and adaptation outcomes alone”.

I therefore say to the new cabinet secretary: let us work constructively to avoid more failures and to deliver the just transition to net zero that we all want.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

The Scottish Government motion that we have been debating asks us to recognise that

“the draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan sets out a just and fair pathway to maximise the opportunities of that transition”.

However, the consultation for that draft plan has not yet closed and the Scottish Government has already come under sustained criticism for the inadequacy of its plans. As was highlighted by my colleague Richard Leonard in today’s debate, the Government’s own just transition commission is frustrated with the pace and detail of the Scottish Government’s plans. Labour therefore cannot support today’s motion; instead, we urge members across the chamber to support our amendment.

In opening today’s debate, the cabinet secretary acknowledged the importance of avoiding another betrayal of workers of the scale that was seen during Thatcher’s attack on miners, but recent independent analysis of the Scottish Government’s own energy system transition plans raised major concerns about the need for rapid development of domestic jobs to ensure that communities are not devastated by an unjust transition—not least in my constituency, North East Scotland, which has 98 per cent of direct oil and gas jobs.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

I would like to make some progress.

Although Scotland has a significant share of Europe’s onshore and offshore wind capacity, we are manufacturing hardly any of the infrastructure for it here in Scotland. Consecutive reports and analyses make it clear that Scotland must develop domestic supply chains or our communities’ wealth will be piped abroad, just as our oil is.

The risk to communities such as those in the north-east is huge, yet the Government repeatedly leaves those workers and communities out of its plans, despite claiming in its motion today to include them. The reality is that it is taking environmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth Scotland to draw up transition demands through its “Our Power: Offshore Workers’ Demands for a Just Energy Transition” consultation. Workers have told us that they want public investment in energy companies, safety, security and fair pay across the industry to enable them to move from oil and gas into renewables. Therefore, the Scottish Government must commit to working with the workers in those industries, who make up the communities that are most at risk in this time of change, and it must be led by their needs.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

It is not true to say that only environmental organisations have been engaging with workers. When I was a back bencher, I had a survey out, as did the Scottish Government, which had a tremendous response. A great deal of work has been going on to engage with workers and unions.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

Let us see those consultations turned into action for workers.

In addition to the lack of urgency around protecting communities from economic collapse, the Government is consistently overpromising and underdelivering on climate change and biodiversity improvement measures. My colleague Sarah Boyack highlighted the UK Climate Change Committee’s concerns about Scotland failing to meet targets, especially in peatland restoration and protection, which the Government does not mention in its motion. Peatlands are an essential carbon sink, as well as sites of biodiversity, so I welcomed the First Minister’s promise on Tuesday to deliver 110,000 hectares of restored peatland. However, that is less than half of what the Government promised only two years ago, when it pledged a quarter of a billion pounds to restore 250,000 hectares by 2030.

That downgrading of the promise on peatlands has come after we found out in January that the Government had achieved in 2021-22 only 28 per cent of its annual goal of restoring 20,000 hectares. It also came after the Government inflated its own figures by 40 per cent, thereby underestimating its own shortcomings, until NatureScot corrected it. Peatlands should be offering substantial carbon capture, improved habitats for our native wildlife, resilience to extreme weather and vital green jobs; yet, according to the Government’s own figures, 80 per cent of our peatlands are damaged.

NatureScot has also shown that many of our native species still struggle as they face the combined effects of biodiversity loss and climate change. The average abundance of our 2,803 marine and terrestrial species is still well below historical figures, and species continue to be damaged by extreme weather, habitat loss and scarcity of food.

We all know that our natural environment is a complex ecosystem with interdependent parts. That means that there are significant knock-on effects of the Government’s failure to improve our native biodiversity, our habitats including peatlands, and our air and water quality. All that must be rapidly addressed to ensure that Scotland meets its ambitious targets on the climate and the environment.

It is positive that the Government’s Scottish biodiversity strategy, which was announced last year, promises to reverse biodiversity loss by 2045. That is an ambitious target that would, if it were met, have a significant effect across Scotland. However, given the Government’s consistent inability to keep its promises, it is hard to have confidence that biodiversity targets will not go the way of the peatland target—a great dream, but far from reality.

What we now need is not more promises but action—action to address the current and future challenges that are faced by our communities, our habitats and our climate.

Labour agrees with the Government on the urgency of the climate crisis as well as on the need to make sure that the transition to a net zero future is just. We will always work constructively across parties to achieve the change that Scotland needs. However, today’s self-congratulatory motion from the Government will not help us to meet our goals. It does not give clarity about the Government’s approach and it does not instil confidence that the SNP is the party to guide the country through the challenges ahead.

I urge all members to support the Labour amendment, which would strengthen Parliament’s commitment to urgent and whole-hearted tackling of climate change in order to ensure that all the communities of Scotland are brought with us in the transition.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I am grateful for the opportunity to close the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. I will be supporting the amendment in the name of Liam Kerr.

There is no doubt that every party in Parliament views the climate emergency as having the importance that it deserves. How we achieve a truly just transition over the coming years and decades is an issue on which there is far more disagreement.

There are several areas of the Government’s net zero plans on which we still require to see more detail. When it comes to the just transition, perhaps the biggest of those areas is skills. In its December 2022 report, the Climate Change Committee stated that the ability to shape our workforce to meet the skills demands of the just transition will be one of the biggest factors in our ability to deliver net zero.

The Government’s motion is right to talk about the importance of a highly skilled workforce and of reskilling and attracting new talent to Scotland. The Government’s “Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan 2020-2025” does, at least, attempt to set out how that might be achieved. At this stage, the plan is not yet fit to tackle the huge skills challenges that are just over the horizon, some of which we have heard about in the debate.

Let us take the UK offshore energy sector workforce as an example. Around 20 per cent of that workforce is currently involved in the low-carbon energy sector. By 2030, that is projected to increase to about 65 per cent of the total offshore workforce, despite the fact that the total workforce is expected to increase from 160,000 to 200,000 over the same period. As around half of that workforce will be based in Scotland, it is clear that reskilling and retraining will need to take place on a large scale. The onus is therefore on the SNP Government to engage with the energy skills alliance as it continues to advise on what skills the sector will need in the long term.

We also know that there are thousands of jobs in sectors including construction and transport for which reskilling will be required. The construction industry has warned that it still lacks confidence and needs more time to fully invest in its workforce.

For the transport sector, the climate emergency skills action plan acknowledges that some of the required retraining will be in baseline skills and can be made available through colleges. After years of underinvestment, the college sector now requires further support to perform the key role that is being asked of it. It does not currently have the ability to do so, given the detrimental things that have happened to it in the past.

Those are just some of the outstanding issues that need to be dealt with in order for a just transition to take place.

I will talk about some of the contributions that we have heard in the debate. My colleague Liam Kerr spoke about green jobs and the ability to deliver them, but as he said, the Government must be able to set out what it will provide. We all want there to be green jobs: we see the benefit of them. We also know that we are behind the curve when it comes to producing them. Work with our oil and gas sector will be only one way of ensuring a just transition, but we need to work with that industry, because if we do not the just transition will not be achieved.

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

I absolutely welcome the focus on skills and I agree that provision of jobs for the future is essential. I will just take this opportunity to point Alexander Stewart in the direction not of Scottish Government figures, but of

EY’s independent analysis, which sets out that we could, by 2050, be looking at about 25,000 jobs in offshore wind, just under 8,000 in onshore wind, 2,000 in hydro power and nearly 2,000 in residual professions.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for the intervention.

We know that we need to have a plan and it is good to see issues coming forward, but if we do not already have the workforce and the skills, we will not achieve the targets that we expect to achieve.

Brian Whittle spoke about warm words and about the targets that have been set by the Scottish Government, but rural Scotland does not have the network that is needed for transport. That is already missing from the process. Mr Whittle also talked about the poor launch of the blue economy. Scotland’s seas are under pressure and industry wants better blue balance, but there is a lack of data, funding and priorities.

Maurice Golden spoke about our being behind in the action that is needed and said that Scotland needs to do better. I agree that Scotland needs to do better; it needs better priorities, better decisions and better ways forward. We need to be on the front foot when it comes to reskilling, not on the back foot. He touched on the industries that need action, including textiles, and on how farmers need support to ensure that the just transition happens. Work on plastics also needs to be better, and system design could be much better. Jobs and wealth are possible, but only if we achieve the targets that can make them happen.

There is much more to be done in order to ensure that Scotland achieves its climate targets and a just transition. However, warnings have already been made and are coming from all directions. The Fraser of Allander Institute has highlighted that, without significant changes within Government, progress will be “insufficient”. Audit Scotland highlighted in its report that

“key elements of good governance are missing from the Scottish Government’s climate change governance arrangements”,

and the Climate Change Committee has stated that there is “no clear delivery plan” for how the Scottish Government will achieve its net zero targets. All that is set out very clearly and talks about how we can achieve the targets and how, if we truly want to make a just transition, we cannot afford to leave people and communities behind.

In conclusion, I say that it is time for us to be bold with words and to stop talking about evidence—we need solutions. This is also about practical realities and making sure that we still invest in oil and gas. That is still required in order to ensure a just transition. Only then will the Government have a plan that the Scottish public will truly be able to come on board with.

Industry needs support. Rural communities need support. The Scottish Government has the potential—we already know that—but Scotland might lose out because the Government has not got the will and the drive to achieve it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call the minister, Gillian Martin, to wind up the debate on behalf of the Scottish Government for around nine minutes.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

The debate has made clear how much potential a just transition to net zero can unlock for Scotland’s economy and people. Members have made that clear throughout all their speeches today. We have heard criticisms, but we have also heard examples of where the just transition is already happening across Scotland.

It could have been one of a range of ministers responding to the debate, which just goes to show the Scottish Government’s approach. We could have had somebody here from transport or housing, because a range of ministers have net zero and a just transition in their portfolios, which all feed into one another. However, I am glad that it is me, and I am obviously going to concentrate on energy, as members would expect me to do in my first speech as a minister.

Scotland is a renewable energy powerhouse, and we have the potential—with our rich natural resources, highly skilled workforce and expertise—to transform our economy from one that is run on fossil fuels to one that is run on renewable energy.

It is crucial that we seize this moment. I agree with Sarah Boyack, who said that we cannot take a decade. I would say that not the next decade but the next seven years will be absolutely crucial, because we are looking not at 2045 but at 2030. That is where the most strenuous targets are and where we have to make the most inroads. To do that, we will all have to collaborate with one another within the chamber, because, although we may disagree quite a lot on how to get there, we all voted for the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, which is now an act, and we wanted that act and the targets in it to go further.

I totally agree with Mark Ruskell that targets are meaningless if there is no action behind them. When bold policies come forward, we all have to take a bit of responsibility and ask, “Is this bold decision what is required?” Sometimes, decisions that it might take a wee bit of time to get people on board with are actually going to get us to net zero. I totally agree with Mark on that, because the path to net zero will not be straightforward—nothing that is worth doing ever is.

Those challenges will come with opportunities. We have a long history of rising to meet challenges with hard work and innovation. Scotland has been an engineering nation for centuries. We have always been able to pivot, and we will pivot again and again. We are pivoting from fossil fuels to renewables, just as we pivoted from mining and shipbuilding, but this time we will do it through a just transition that does not leave communities behind.

I see that innovation and hard work every day in my constituency and its neighbouring constituency. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are at the forefront of our renewable energy revolution. We now have the opportunity to be the net zero capital of the world, and the opportunities will stretch all over Scotland.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

The minister talks about the next seven years as being crucial. Does she agree with me that those who will be the real innovators in seven years’ time are still at school and that it is important that the real battleground is where we wave the green economy into our education system, which we are yet to do?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

I totally agree, although I would not say that they are solely in our schools. They are—absolutely—in our schools, but we have innovators working right now in our existing industries and sectors. There are such people in colleges and universities, but, of course, we have those young people in our schools and the Government needs to be giving signals about the kind of jobs that those young people should be thinking about skilling up for and the opportunities that they need to take as they go into higher and further education and then into the workforce. That was a good intervention, and I completely agree with it.

Fiona Hyslop was absolutely right to say that the just transition is not only for the north-east and is not only about energy. The tentacles of the just transition will have to go throughout Scotland, and, in the past three weeks, I have been hearing about things that are happening in renewable energy outwith the north-east. It is also not only about energy but about every single area in which we have to decarbonise. Massive areas of Scotland continue to see carbon-intensive activity, such as at Grangemouth. There also has to be a just transition there—that is absolutely crucial.

I will mention some of the contributions that members have made, and I want to be positive and constructive, because that is how I mean to go on. Liam Kerr ran through a list of companies that are based in the north-east. I hope that he will not mind my saying that he couched his comments in terms of oil and gas companies that think they will no longer exist. He talked about companies being shut down, for example. However, those companies are diversifying into renewables. Let us look at how the ScotWind round attracted collaborations between small and large companies and between blue chip companies and smaller companies. For decades, their core business has been in oil and gas, but they are not oil and gas companies any more—they are energy companies that know that it makes business sense to move into renewables. They see their businesses being a potential mix of everything as we transition. They see that the North Sea basin is a declining basin—everyone sees that—and that they would be mad not to diversify. They also have a transferable workforce. They are well placed. I see that every day when I speak to those companies about how they are pivoting towards those new opportunities.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I acknowledge the point that the minister is making. She is reflecting what I was suggesting—that we are now talking about energy companies. The problem that I was getting at is that, if the Government’s energy strategy takes the position that there is to be no more exploration and production such that those companies will get no revenue and development from the core business, that business will decline and the transition might therefore decline. Does the minister not recognise that that is an issue?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

The consultation is still open, and the draft that has been put out has been researched, but it has to be a draft. We have to collaborate. I would say to absolutely everyone in the chamber that, if they have views on the consultation, they have to participate in it. That is the only way that we can go forward as a Parliament towards achieving net zero and put in place a decent energy strategy. That chance is open to all of us. Mercedes Villalba kind of dismissed the draft, but it is still a draft and we are here to improve things. We are here to work together and collaborate on ideas to make things better.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

The point is that environmental organisations have come up with very clear and tangible demands in consultation with workers. The Scottish Government likes to consult, but where is its substantive action?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

We have the just transition commission, for one thing, and we have a range of policies.

I am watching my time, as there are a lot of members I want to mention, including Kaukab Stewart

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Minister, we have a few minutes until decision time.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Excellent. I say to Kaukab Stewart that, if Glasgow could be a net zero city, that would be an absolute game changer. I really applaud the work that the council there is doing. She mentioned air pollution. This is a bit of a hangover from my previous job as the convener of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee: investment in reducing air pollution is an investment in the nation’s health, and it is preventative spend in the health portfolio area. That is an important point.

I share Fiona Hyslop’s enthusiasm for hydrogen. She will have seen that my very first visit as a minister was to the hydrogen hub in Aberdeen, and I will make lots more similar visits. We must be very aware that it is not just the production of hydrogen that we need to be heavily involved in. I agree with her that we need to look at the manufacture of electrolysers, so that we are in a position not only to export our hydrogen but to do so with our own supply chain for the manufacturing process.

I say to Richard Leonard that, in the way that he couched it, he sounded a bit “doom and gloom” on the issue of skills. We should look to our colleges. I cite the example of Forth Valley College, which, for starters, is doing great work in the communities around Grangemouth in upskilling people and developing the skills of the young workforce for Grangemouth’s future, particularly in hydrogen. The college is also working with Falkirk Council.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

I do not have time. I want to mention some more members, if that is okay.

Jackie Dunbar asked what will be done for the workers in her area, so I point her to the energy skills passport. There are an awful lot of oil and gas workers in her constituency, it being Aberdeen Donside. She will be aware of the fact that I did a lot of work as a back bencher to bring the energy skills passport to fruition. I have now seen a prototype of it. It will be a game changer for people in the high-carbon industries, who will be able to map their existing skills to new and emerging technologies.

I say to Maurice Golden that the issues that he raised around textiles are not lost on me. ACS Clothing Ltd is a terrific example, but it is one of many examples in that area. It is a growing entrepreneurial stream that we must nurture.

We estimate that there will be 77,000 jobs in the low-carbon energy sector in 2050, which is up from 19,000 jobs currently. That number can absorb the 57,000 skilled oil and gas jobs and create a lot more.

We are at a pivotal moment in Scotland’s story. This is the decade—or the seven years, as I said—and our opportunity to build the foundations for stable and sustainable employment and prosperity for generations to come, with energy and the north-east of Scotland at the heart of that, but with the tentacles spreading prosperity throughout the whole of Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes the debate on delivering climate change and the just transition.