“Get rid of all that green crap”

Monday February 14th 2022


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes her monthly column for Midlothian View.

“Get rid of all that green crap.” That’s what the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, is reported to have said to his senior team when scrapping a number of climate policies and initiatives in 2013.

Analysis from Climate Brief shows that this decision has added £2.5 billion to total UK energy bills. The recklessness of the decision was underlined by Chancellor’s announcement that gas bills will be increasing by a staggering 54% from April.

It could not be happening at a worse time. The choice between heating and eating is already a real and horrific one for far too many families. One in five households in Midlothian is already experiencing fuel poverty, and this will only make that worse.

It is people on low incomes who will be hit the hardest. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that low-income single-adult households could soon be forced to spend up to 54% of their income on gas and electricity.

In the Scottish Government we are taking steps to mitigate the spiralling cost of living. Last week the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes, announced a £150 council tax rebate for 1.85 million households.

From April we will be doubling the Scottish child payment, which will be worth £500 per year for every eligible child. Last month saw the introduction of free bus travel for everyone under 21, which will be a big boost for young people and their families.

These changes will help many of those who are hardest hit, but, when it comes to reversing years of austerity and cuts and tackling rising prices, the heaviest lifting has to be done by the Prime Minister and his colleagues.

We can’t lower our fuel bills without far reaching structural changes. We need to end our dependence on gas and break the link between gas prices and fuel bills. But that cannot happen without proper investment and support.

It’s an investment we are making in Scotland. Over the next eight years we will more than double our onshore wind capacity while ensuring record funding for marine energy.

We need to see the same shift in priorities in Downing Street. Under the current devolution settlement, it is only the UK government that has the powers and resources to address the obscene increase.

In the build-up to last November’s COP climate conference, Boris Johnson said that we are at “one minute to midnight.” But he has to start acting like it. This is a time when he should be fundamentally re-evaluating energy policy.

This week it was reported that the UK Government is preparing to approve six new oil and gas fields by the end of the year. These are not the actions of a government that is taking the crisis seriously.

The need to act will only become more urgent. Our current energy mix is not just unsustainable. It doesn’t need to be this way. We have more than enough renewable energy in Scotland to meet all our energy needs. We need to transition to it as quickly as we can so we can ensure clean, affordable energy for everyone.

A lot of the things we need to invest in are known technologies like rail, buses, bikes, home insulation, heat pumps, wind turbines, tidal turbines. It may not all be glamorous, but if governments do it now it can have a real practical impact.

We are often told that there is a choice between doing what’s best for the environment, or what is best for household budgets. This month’s announcement exposes how wrong that framing is. The longer we stick to burning fossil fuels the more expensive it will be for our bills.

If warm words were enough to save our environment then Boris Johnson and his colleagues would be leading the world. But they are not, and they never will be. It’s time to turn those words into actions and build the fairer, greener future that our world needs.

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