Scottish Labour will stand for environmental justice

sarah-boyack-msp-scottish-labour-leadership-campaign-launch-in-edinburgh-november-7-2014Sarah Boyack MSP, Scottish Labour Spokesperson on Environmental Justice, looks forward to a weekend of debate and plans to put environmental justice at the heart of Scottish Labour’s agenda.


As our party and new leadership teams meet in Perth for conference, we can expect a weekend of debate and conversation about the direction of our party, not just for the elections in May, but for our country’s future.

One of our party’s proudest achievement since we were in government was the role we played in the ground breaking 2009 Scottish Climate Change Act.  We supported radical legislation because we believe in climate justice for every community, rural and urban, at home and abroad.

All life on earth depends on the ability of our environment to provide us with clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, food to eat and energy for our homes; if we want social justice and economic prosperity, environmental justice is key to Scottish Labour’s ambition.  Where you live should never impact negatively on your wellbeing and quality of life.  And if we want to live up to our international solidarity values we must play our full part in addressing the climate challenge.

Scotland’s Climate Act was the culmination of years of campaigning to put in place legislation that would set us on a transition to a low carbon society.

Because we had a minority SNP Government and a strong broad-based Stop Climate Chaos Campaign, Scottish Labour had the chance to play a key part in in strengthening the initial legislation.

As our Shadow Cabinet Member for Climate Change, where I could achieve agreement with other opposition parties we had a majority both in Committee and in the Scottish Parliament – and we got results.  We focused on our vision of Scotland’s place in the world, our image overseas, and our wellbeing and economic future at home being linked to the quality of our environment.

And look at the results of Labour pressure: a 42% carbon reduction target for 2020; annual targets; a requirement for public duty reporting; the requirement to involve and consult employers and trades unions on adaptation policies and a public engagement strategy; and we provided our support for the requirement for an annual Report on Policies and Proposals to be presented to the Parliament; a Land Use strategy; an Energy Efficiency Plan; and Council Tax and Business Rates reductions where energy efficiency measures had been installed.

Building standards were improved to reduce energy consumption, while use of renewables in new buildings increased, and permitted development rights for existing domestic and business buildings became a reality.

It’s now the fifth year of a majority SNP Government. There’s nothing to hold them back on implementation.   But in the years since the Act none of the annual targets have been met, to the great embarrassment of the Scottish Government.

Although the SNP talk a good game on climate change and are very keen to set an example to the rest of the world, there’s a clear failure to make the changes we need to transition to a low carbon society.

What’s missing is carbon reduction in the crucial areas of housing, business, and the public sector.  Where there have been reductions in 2013 in transport and agriculture and forestry, the numbers were low.   Of course there has been progress in the energy sector, but we’re simply not getting big gains in the residential sector or in transport.

Cross-party support for renewables has seen big growth.  As Environment Minister in 2000 I set a radical target of 18% of our electricity to be delivered by renewables by 2010.  In 2011 the SNP set a target set of 100% by 2020.  With 5 years to go we’re at 45%.  Renewables growth has largely been delivered by onshore wind with little offshore and marine renewables to date, and just this week Aquamarine announced it had called in administrators.

The lack of Scottish Government ambition on renewable heat is striking.   The 2016 target to eradicate the fuel poverty that scars the lives of 1/3 of Scotland’s households is unlikely to be met.  Energy efficiency initiatives have been too modest and have not delivered on hard-to-heat homes; and then there’s the abject failure of leadership from the SNP government to encourage householders to benefit from discounts on their council tax if they installed energy efficiency measures.   In 2012 the government admitted take-up by 579 homes wasn’t good enough, but fast forward to 2014 and it was two.  Two houses in the whole of Scotland.

And when you look at the lack of progress on renewable heat, when Scottish technology is deployed in Norway but not at home, surely we must ask why there is such a staggering lack of ambition.

The railway expansion projects kicked off by the Scottish Labour-led government have now opened, but we’re not seeing nearly enough action to tempt car users onto rail both for short and longer commuting journeys and Scotland’s predominantly private bus network fails to be sufficiently attractive or reliable.  On active travel, the most significant progress is being made by Scottish Labour councils, with Edinburgh leading the way with its 8% cycling budget.

While farmers have taken the opportunity to develop renewables, the chaos of the Single Farm Payment system, price volatility for farm produce, the lack of control in supply chains and the poor design of agricultural support has meant that the greening agenda has made little headway in Scotland.  Organic production is a long way from becoming mainstream.

As we move nearer to the Paris climate talks the lesson from Scotland has been that strong targets need to be matched by decisive action.  And we need sustained investment: the UK Tory government is making the transition to a low carbon economy harder through its lack of support for renewables.

Scottish Labour’s Environmental Justice team is focused on the action we need to make real progress on climate change, at home in Scotland and abroad.

Why? Because we’re democratic socialists. Our job is to stand up for fairness and to fight against injustice; to stand with those communities who need us to protect their environment.  It’s our job to secure the equitable distribution of the benefits that flow from the environment, making sure that companies and businesses at home and abroad play fair with local people and protect our environment for generations to come.   We need a just transition.

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5 thoughts on “Scottish Labour will stand for environmental justice

  1. Sarah,

    Just to remind you that Labour MPs in your head office abstained in a vote to kill off wind subsidies on the 21/01/2015 and supported the Tories see the link for the full article at bottom of page so as usual it’s a case of the Branch Office saying one thing and Head Office doing another. The SNP and the Greens have this policy area covered with good policies and work constructively all I can hear from you is the same old same old SNP bad bad bad.

    “MPs in the House of Commons have this afternoon narrowly passed a non-binding bill calling for the abolition of subsidies for onshore wind farms.
    The ten minute rule bill, put forward Conservative Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, was passed by 59 votes to 57.
    Many Tories and both current UK Independence Party MPs voted in favour while some Labour MPs abstained.”

    1. This is a prime example if the sort of half truth that is poisoning political debate.

      A Ten Minute Rule bill is non-binding, and they tend to be read at times when MPs have business elsewhere, so few attend. The idea that an abstention from such a vote reflects party policy is dishonest.

      I wonder if you checked whether the SNP even attended the debate?

      1. When is a truth not a truth when it’s a half truth nice try Duncan but sorry to say no cigar Labour MPs whether it is binding or non-binding abstained and did not vote against the bill and the perception is that by doing so they supported the Tories. As for the SNP they always attend debates to be a strong voice for Scotland. See below and the link for the full wonderful article is at the bottom of the page.

        “The speaker of the House of Commons has praised SNP MPs for being ‘very good parliamentarians. They turn up in large numbers, they turn up very regularly, they turn up to support each other and a lot of them are already proving to be very good parliamentarians.”

  2. A serious lack of specifics here.
    What precisely, do you advocate?
    What budget will it require, immediately and on-going,and where will you get you money from?

    Will it, for example, fill in the huge holes left by Brian Wilson’s Scottish Coal Company( he was a director for many years ), the environmental damage wreaked by that company’s opencast mining , and the lack of funding for the Industrywide Mineworkers Pension scheme?

  3. Under the new deal between Scottish Labour and English Labour (I’m not using the term British Labour because I’m assuming Welsh Labour will also devolve,but this hasn’t been confirmed,so I feel it would be wrong to use the term English and Welsh Labour) it will be possible for Scottish Labour to have a different policy that most fits in with Scottish needs.This is an area where it could really work well.There will,of course,have to be mechanisms in place to allow for funding a different policy in Scotland,which could take some time to thresh out,but it’s important to get it right from the outset.Far too much attention is being paid to “problems” over differences on Trident.There are lots of policy areas where there will be differences,but this will only be a problem if the mechanisms for dealing with these differences aren’t thought out carefully and set out for all to see in advance.Honesty and openness are key to winning back voters.

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