If we are to meet climate change targets we need to look at Midlothian afresh

Monday December 6th 2021

Ross Laird Lib Dems GE17

Written by Ross Laird, local coordinator for the Scottish Lib Dems in Midlothian.

The world is facing a climate emergency and we need action rather than politicking about the environment. So, what does COP26 mean to people in Midlothian and what should we do to address the climate emergency?

One thing we’ve all learnt from Covid is that working together makes a difference. Communities across Midlothian have come together and demonstrated the impact they can make by putting aside their differences and meeting the challenges, many of them logistical, to save lives. A community-led response will make a real difference in addressing climate change too.

Midlothian of course does not stand in isolation and we need the UK and Scottish Government to set stringent targets. Midlothian needs to do more than it is currently doing to help meet these national targets.

Looking at our environment, we are blessed with a rich countryside from the wonders of the North and South Esk Valleys to the Pentland and Moorfoot Hills, not to mention the great country parks and the stewardship by our farmers that often goes unheeded. Yet our countryside is at risk if not carefully managed.

Some positive action has already made a difference. The Borders Railway, commissioned by the Scottish Lib Dem-Labour Government and implemented under the SNP is a tangible example of how political consensus can deliver results. Regrettably though it is hard to find other examples of significant public transport investment in the county.

Midlothian remain very car-dependent, with plans to build more new roads, rather than increase public transport provision. For those driving electric vehicles, the rapid charging infrastructure across the county remains very limited.

Cycling around Midlothian as a commuter remains a commitment only for those brave enough to tackle dangerous roundabouts and junctions and the provision of cycle paths remains chronically low. Our buses and trains, often overcrowded in non-Covid times, are also yet to be fully decarbonised and much of our housing stock remains largely old and hard to keep insulated.

If we are to meet climate change targets – and we must – we need to look at Midlothian afresh. Midlothian could become a model for others to follow. For example, being relatively small, an integrated walking and cycling network should be easily within our grasp so we can all access the wonderful countryside around us.

Our towns are ideal for the creation of smaller neighbourhoods that encourage active travel, rather than car usage. Our reliance on Edinburgh as a centre for employment can be re-evaluated as we move away from traditional office-based environments. Where practical, we need to be encouraging renewable energy developments across the county.

We also need to challenge ourselves. Cutting pollution and addressing environmental issues are a personal as well as a collective responsibility. Coordinated collective action in each town across the county will make a difference.

Scottish Liberal Democrats care passionately about the environment. We’ve been at the helm of significant environmental policy changes, but we need a collective response to climate change and work across communities to make a change for the better.

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