Marlyn Glen MSP
Speech in the Scottish Parliament debate
12 January 2011
Report on Low Carbon Scotland: The Draft Report on Proposals and Policies
I am pleased to take part in this debate, especially as it is such an important opportunity to ensure that the Scottish Government's plans to tackle climate change are improved.
We are all rightly proud of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, but we need to ensure that Scotland is, in the language of the e-mails that we have all been getting, firmly on track to meet its annual emissions reduction targets. We cannot just assume that wider society, including the business community, has bought into the 2009 act, and we must work to ensure that, like everyone else, local authorities are brought on board.
I thought for a moment that I was in danger of agreeing totally with Jackson Carlaw's assessment of the draft RPP. As a parent and a former teacher, I believe in encouragement, but I also know the place of instruction.
Maf Smith, the Scottish director of the Sustainable Development Commission, talked to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee yesterday about the difficult choices that have to be made.
Even in the run-up to an election, it is up to members to ensure that the Government makes these difficult choices. There is no point in watering down proposals when we know what has to be done.
Constituents are asking, in particular, for a stronger commitment to greening our houses, a real alternative to allow us to reduce our reliance on the car and proactive work to tackle traffic levels.
Some of that might be controversial to some people, but it fits well with the committee's response to the draft RPP. There is also great interest in the report from bodies, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, that are lobbying for action on peatland restoration, which is one issue that we seem to be able to agree on.
The RSPB also lobbies for compulsory measures for the agriculture sector, in particular.
I welcome the very recent publication of the "Low Carbon Scotland: Public Engagement Strategy".
There is, of course, a need to consider it and its results carefully. That is especially important given that the cabinet secretary and the minister place so much emphasis on voluntary measures.
The draft RPP is part of a set of publications, which are variously referred to as a suite or a raft, and the committee considers that, in general terms, it meets its expectations in terms of structure and format.
As we have heard, the RPP is a mix of adopted policies and proposals, but the final version must set out all the proposals that are to be adopted and implemented to contribute to meeting emissions reduction targets and it must also have an indicative timetable.
The convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee picked out that point in his speech, and I repeat it because of its importance.
The RPP is described as a good first attempt and a useful starting point that meets the benchmarks of credibility, transparency and ambition, but there is a lengthy list of committee recommendations, including on its timing.
There is no time to go through all of the committee's report in this debate, but there is serious criticism of the lack of time that was available—for whatever reason—for committees to consider the RPP.
I know that it is a work in progress, but to be effective the timing is all-important.
Future RPPs must give optimum opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny.
We are always advised to follow the money to see where priorities really lie.
The committee was, of course, examining the budget at the same time as it was looking at the RPP, and I agree with Iain Smith and with Friends of the Earth Scotland's comment that there is a need to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny of the RPP helps to inform budget considerations, not the other way round. I look forward to the process being improved in the future.
We must also be clear about the costs to the public sector, the private sector and individuals.
Is everything being pushed downwards, as one witness suggested, to local authorities, which we agree already have restricted budgets as well as increasing targets?
The committee's scrutiny of the draft budget suggests that financial provision is not adequate to drive forward the initiatives on, for example, active travel or, as Charlie Gordon said, modal shift for freight.
There is a lack of financial information in the draft budget on energy efficiency packages and the home insulation scheme, so I welcome the recent clarification of the budget line on area-based home insulation schemes and the energy assistance package, because there are real difficulties that must be addressed, particularly with tenement properties and solid wall insulation.
There is also a need, with the greatest urgency, to assist people who are living in fuel poverty—something that we cannot ignore given the severe weather conditions that we have experienced this year.
Witnesses to the committee expressed serious concerns and urged clarity about the level of investment for home insulation and dealing with fuel poverty.
Estimates seem to show a decline in the programme, despite its obvious benefits of eradicating fuel poverty, creating and maintaining green jobs, and creating greater wellbeing.
Such cross-cutting work is fundamental if we are to meet targets, not only on climate change but on health and wellbeing, the environment, housing and so on.
The lack of a regulatory approach in housing, waste, transport and agriculture could cause delays in reaching targets, and I press the committee's recommendation that failure criteria for voluntary measures should be defined.
There needs to be a realistic assessment of voluntary measures, so that action is taken to introduce regulation where that is shown to be necessary.
That is much more basic than a philosophical debating point.
We need to transform Scotland into a fairer and healthier low-carbon society.
I look forward to hearing the minister's reply so that I can reassure my constituents that the Parliament will continue to be bold in meeting its obligations.