“On a green new deal, we must continue to emphasise that it is not businesses and private finance, but state intervention and public investment that will achieve a sustainable future.”
By Mercedes Villalba MSP, Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Environment and Biodiversity
Everybody seems to agree that the COP26 talks taking place in Glasgow this month are the most important in history. The relentless efforts of climate activists and researchers all over the globe in recent years has made climate denialism a fringe view. But now we face another threat: climate inaction.
With both the UK and Scottish Governments green washing their record, and with the eyes of the world on Glasgow, it’s never been more important for the Labour Party to call out climate inaction and push for the socialist policies we need.
With leaders from Biden to Johnson, to Sturgeon co-opting the language of environmentalism, Scottish Labour and trade unions are playing a key role in shaping what is meant by a “just transition” and a “green new deal”.
For a just transition, it’s clear we need massive changes throughout our economy that don’t leave workers behind.
That’s why I took oil and gas workers’ call for an Offshore Training Passport to the Scottish Parliament in my first Members’ Business Debate on Thursday 28th. This simple idea that would support workers to transition towards jobs in the renewable energy industry by reducing the costs associated with retraining, could help make a just transition a reality. Sadly, Scottish Ministers appear reluctant.
On a green new deal, we must continue to emphasise that it is not businesses and private finance, but state intervention and public investment that will achieve a sustainable future.
In the last six months, we’ve seen the SNP/Green government in Edinburgh drop promises to establish a publicly-owned, green energy company. At a time when our highly marketized system has been shown to fail, they are abandoning a policy that could not only reduce emissions but also alleviate fuel poverty. I, and my Labour colleagues, will continue to hold them to account for this appalling lack of vision.
We should also be tackling emissions through a sustainable public transport system that embraces public ownership and puts the needs of workers and passengers before profit.
At present, Scotland’s railways are facing cuts to services below even pre-pandemic levels and our bus network is in decline with entire communities left without reliable services. As a representative for the North East of Scotland, I’m dismayed at the Scottish Government’s lack of ambition for rail. My priority is to see routes extended all the way to Peterhead and Fraserburgh to get our fishing ports back on track.
Policies like these represent common-sense solutions, rooted in socialist principles, which should be the bread and butter of any government claiming to have green credentials. But we have to look deeper, towards more structural problems, to build a truly sustainable future.
As Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Environment and Biodiversity, I won’t shy away from issues of ownership and power during COP26.
We need to break up the big land-owning monopolies to give small-scale farmers the chance to produce sustainably grown food for local markets. We need to protect our inshore waters from harmful dredging, so that smaller fisheries can flourish and a wealth of life can return to our coasts. Our communities need to be empowered to reclaim land and create a network of biodiverse public green spaces for all.
Sadly, our UK and Scottish Governments talk the talk, but they are not walking the walk.
With each passing day we hear of more workers struggling for a fair deal at work: Cleaners in Dundee are demanding dignity in retirement; Lecturers in Aberdeen are calling for fair pay; Cleansing workers in Glasgow are fighting back; And rail workers across the country had to take months of industrial action to be heard by those in power. All of these workers are crucial if we are to build a sustainable future.
It is these workers Scottish Labour will continue to stand with while the COP26 negotiations go on behind closed doors. As those delegations move from denial to inaction, we will continue to demand real action.
- Mercedes Villalba MSP is Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Environment and Biodiversity, you can follow her on Facebook and twitter.