Craig Hoy’s thoughts on COP26 and what we need to do next

Tuesday November 9th 2021

Craig-Hoy-MSP-South-Scotland

Craig Hoy MSP, South of Scotland, writes his monthly column for Midlothian View.

It is fantastic that Scotland is hosting COP26 and I am pleased that the event has gone according to plan.

The road to this summit has not been easy, but I hope it will be a historic success and that an agreement can be reached by the close of the conference.

The UN event, held in conjunction with the UK Government, has given us the opportunity to showcase Scottish and UK wide achievements on the environment.

Politicians from across the world have a responsibility to put our planet first.

South Scotland, the area I represent, leads the way in many respects.

For example, I recently met with SSE Renewables and Alexander Dennis to discuss opportunities for young people in renewables.

In rural areas of Midlothian wind farms are a visible sign of our commitment to renewable energy, although I recognise community concerns about a density of wind turbines in some areas.

We also need to confront the issue of the population growth and the amount of development in Midlothian. This is damaging our environment. Midlothian is a beautiful part of Scotland, with stunning rural areas, rolling hills and lovely river walks.

But this is at risk.

I welcome Midlothian Council and Vattenfall’s commitment to a new district heating network at Shawfair which is expected to save over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is the equivalent of taking 1,200 cars off the road. The project comes with £20 million investment.

The Borders railway was another step forward in our effort to get people out of their cars, although capacity issues remain on the line and it would be good to see more carriages added at peak times.

Such projects are welcome developments and will help our local communities move towards net zero.

But we also have to balance some of this with the need for critical infrastructure, for example at the Sheriffhall roundabout.

This is urgently needed given the recent growth in the population of Midlothian, many of whom continue to work in Edinburgh.

Commuters face six more years of misery at the roundabout, despite the clear need for a flyover at the notorious junction.

After pressure by environmental campaigners, a further public inquiry into the development is required. Green councillors on Edinburgh City Council questioned whether the flyover should go ahead at all. I doubt they have ever tried to navigate the junction at peak times.

The failure to address the junction means that over the next five years, congestion will build, motorists will get snarled up in congestion which causes pollution and our economic development and competitiveness is undermined.

We all want to work together towards a greener and better future and I will always champion this on your behalf. But doing this will, at times, involve balancing act. It will require us to be bold and, at the same time, invest in much needed infrastructure for our communities too.

That’s the concept of a “just transition” in action.

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