The Scottish Parliament has returned from its holidays and on Tuesday 3rd of September the Scottish Government announced its Programme for Government. This is a list of commitments and plans which the Scottish Government intends implementing over the coming year.
Climate change is to be the main focus of the programme.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Earlier this year, I acknowledged that Scotland – like the rest of the world – faces a climate emergency. We are now committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest – earlier than any other UK nation.
“This year’s Programme for Government is an important part of our response to the climate emergency, containing measures which will reduce emissions while supporting sustainable and inclusive growth.”
Environmental Group Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the measures but said it did not go far enough.
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of FOE said:
“This package includes some very welcome commitments but is not nearly enough to address the desperate climate emergency the world is facing. The obvious contradiction at the heart of this Programme is its commitment to some new measures in transport, heating and agriculture while continuing to back the offshore oil and gas industry to keep on drilling and destroying our climate.
“The Climate Emergency should signal a radical change of direction, especially when it comes to planning the end of oil and gas extraction from the North Sea. Instead we heard of an increased focus on Carbon Capture and Storage and hydrogen, both dangerous distractions, which risk prolonging that industry and taking the focus away from real, sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.
“There are welcome new targets on electrifying our railways, banning gas heating in new buildings and making flights carbon free, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough to reduce polluting car traffic or seriously phase out fossil fuels.”
The Scottish Greens said that the Scottish Government’s programme ‘severely lacked ambition’. Responding to the actions proposed on transport John Finnie said:
“It’s extremely disappointing that the Scottish Government has failed to address the decline in bus usage by expanding its concessionary travel scheme. The Scottish Greens advocate fully free bus services, but failing to even take a step in this direction and introduce free transport for under 26’s is pitiful.
“On air travel the First Minister’s targets are pie in the sky. Obviously the prospect of the Highlands and Islands becoming a zero emission aviation region is welcome, but the technology to introduce such flights doesn’t currently exist. “
The Government’s programme includes:
- a ‘Green New Deal’, through the Scottish National Investment Bank and creating a £3 billion package of investments to attract green finance to Scotland
- developing regulations so that new homes from 2024 must use renewable or low carbon heat
- targeting a minimum of £30 million of support for renewable heat projects
- making the first Job Start Payments in spring 2020
- putting in place a Women’s Health Plan to tackle women’s heath inequalities
- continuing to support mental health, with a 24/7 crisis support service for children and young people and their families, a community wellbeing service enabling self-referral for children and young people and a £5 million investment in a community perinatal mental health service across Scotland
- taking forward planning to mitigate the worst consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit
- £500 million to improve bus infrastructure
- plans to decarbonise Scotland’s railways by 2035
- making the Highlands and Islands the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040.
- £1 billion school investment programme
- an extra £15 million to help improve additional support for learning.
- an additional £20 million of funding to help tackle the public health emergency of drug deaths in Scotland
- bringing forward to 2020 The Child Payment, which will benefit low income families with young children by £500 each year
- a Referendums Bill and during the passage of the Bill, asking the UK Parliament for the transfer of power to hold an independence referendum within this term of Parliament.
The Conservatives in Scotland have highlighted 30 key promises ‘broken’ by the Scottish Government. Failures listed included not closing the attainment gap in Education, not introducing Air Passenger Duty (APD), failure to tackle drug driving, not introducing a Fisheries Bill and missing targets for the roll out of super fast Broadband.
Jackson Carlaw, interim leader of the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament said:
“This year, the First Minister’s new batch of promises centres on climate change. Let us talk about our Government’s climate record so far.
“It has missed a key recycling target by 12 years, it is barely half way to meeting a target on renewable heat generation and it has met just seven of 20 international biodiversity targets. Streets in Glasgow and Edinburgh are failing to meet legal standards on clean air.
“What has the First Minister been doing this summer during the climate emergency that she declared?
“Well, she opened the new Edinburgh airport terminal, and earlier this year she burned the equivalent of half a tonne of coal when she jet-setted to the United States to push independence.
“We are behind the First Minister on the need to tackle climate change, but—between book festivals—is she really going to give it a shot this time?”
The Labour Party in Scotland welcomed the commitment to tackle climate change but also attacked the Scottish Government’s record criticising failures to close the attainment gap, the rise in private rents, the increase in food banks and the slow pace of increasing mental health support for young people in schools.
Richard Leonard, Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland said:
“Last year, we welcomed the First Minister’s commitment to adopt Labour’s long-held policy to increase the provision of mental health support in communities, including schools.
“However, only one fifth of the promised investment in school counselling has been released, and community services for five to 24-year-olds are still in development.
“New figures that were published just this morning show that the Government’s pace of change is clearly not quick enough, with more than 30 % of children and young people who are referred to mental health services not being seen within the 18-week target time.”
You can watch the whole statement and following discussion here:
Reporter: Fiona Grahame