Government Plan for Net Zero Emissions — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:14 am on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 10:14 am, 8th October 2019

I am delighted that we are having this debate, because the Scottish Government have been leading the way on our transition to a net zero emissions society. While UK energy policy seems fixated on nuclear power, with its massive costs and technical challenges, Scotland has charted a course for a 100% renewable society, and it is on course to achieve that.

There is action on the ground and out at sea to transition our society to net zero emissions. Such actions are required to meet the statutory targets that were set out in legislation last week by the Scottish Parliament, and to move Scotland forward to having net zero emissions by 2045, and to be carbon neutral by 2040. Our infrastructure is being renewed and repurposed as a key pillar of moving to carbon neutral and net zero emissions. Our rail network will be decarbonised by 2035, with electrification across Scotland progressing at a rate not seen in 30 years. Half a billion pounds have been invested in bus infrastructure, and the foundation of the Scottish National Investment Bank will provide a financial backbone and the capital needed to transform our nation. We are building the UK’s first electric highway along the A9—the spine of Scotland—and investing more than ever before in the installation of charging points for the growing fleet of electric cars on the roads.

Those actions, and many more, are some of the practical steps being taken right now to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and to leave a long-lasting and sustainable legacy for our zero carbon future. All that action is being taken by the Scottish Government, but although they have cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament, they have one hand tied behind their back. Scotland could go further and faster if it had the energy levers that remain reserved to this place—powers that, as we have heard, are not being used appropriately. Such actions include cutting subsidies to onshore wind, removing support for solar energy, cancelling carbon capture and storage at Peterhead, and imposing unfair electricity transmission costs that disincentivise renewable development in remote areas—hardly a record to be proud of.

I will conclude with some thoughts from a 1981 National Geographic energy special that I picked up in a charity shop in the constituency of my hon. Friend Drew Hendry. It is entitled, “Facing up to the problems, getting down to solutions”, and 40 years later, although we have come a long way, in many ways that title still resonates.

The biggest takeaway is that the environment is given nary a mention. For example, environmental concerns are mentioned as one of the last drawbacks of coal energy production. One quote that resonated with me came from an agriculturalist called Steven C Wilson:

“With our bigger-is-better disposable non-renewable energy past, I wonder if, in squandering fuel, we have not also subverted self-reliance, neighbourly concern, the active appreciation of balance and harmony. I think confronting this legacy of too much, too soon would be the proper response to the energy crisis.”

Forty years on, that still means something. It shows that we must all play a part in this, because it is not just an issue for Governments.