Partnership Agreement required for a smart, sustainable Scotland, Greens
have said. Instead the gulf between rhetoric and reality is increasing and
short-term gains are being pursued instead of properly greening the economy,
As Jim Wallace and Jack McConnell today set out what they claim to have
achieved in the year since A Partnership for a Better Scotland was launched,
Greens point out contradictions and lack of delivery on key pledges.
Robin Harper, Green parliamentary leader, said: 'The executive needs to
embrace a vision of a sustainable Scotland - but the way it is heading,
Scotland faces a future with more motorways and traffic congestion, more
nuclear power stations, incinerators and a landscape of GM crops. The
difference between warm words and real action is at times, quite staggering.
'The farce over adding GM maize to the UK seed list, the pressing ahead with
the M74 motorway instead of tackling traffic growth and the shame of yet
another dump at Greengairs say it all.'
The Greens welcome some changes such as a new Nature Conservation Bill, but
say that these are small moves in the right direction compared to the
overall picture of failure. (1)
Robin Harper also pointed to recent independent reports on the economy,
education and sustainable development which showed the executive falling
behind the rest of the UK. (2)
'We will continue to monitor the executive's progress on their limited
pledges on sustainable development and the environment - to act as the
conscience of the Parliament - and publicly put pressure on the government
until tokenism and sticking plaster solutions are replaced with genuine
efforts to forge a smart, sustainable Scotland,' concluded Harper.
(1) Failures and contradictions
The Partnership agreement makes a commitment to reach a target of 40% of
electricity generation to be from renewable sources by 2020 in order to
address climate change - yet the executive has dedicated up to£1bn to
build five miles of the M74 denying resources to public transport and
increasing traffic and climate emissions. Despite a pledge to invest 70%
transport cash into public transport by 2006, road spending still makes up
more than 50% of the budget.
The residents of Greengairs have experienced Jack McConnell's stinging lack
of sincerity when it comes to environmental justice. Two years ago, he
launched his 'environmental justice' policy there - but ministers recently
approved a plan for a gigantic new waste dump, bringing the number of
landfill sites and open cast mines surrounding the community to nine. The
villages of Greengairs and Wattston are already home to Europe's biggest
landfill and Scotland's biggest opencast coal mine. Greens advocate a policy
of zero waste to drastically reduce the volume of waste going to landfills
Mr Harper said: 'In five years the executive has achieved an increase of 3%
in recycling household waste - their own target demands that they add
another 16% in the next two years. Under-funded, years late and still to be
implemented, the waste strategy is a deep embarrassment to the government
that is big on promises and short on commitment.'
Food and Health
The executive's recent cave-in on GM maize highlights the lack of political
will to safeguard public health and Scottish agriculture.
We have commitments to local markets, organics and healthy eating, yet GM
would contaminate and threaten these positive commitments. The Greens' GM
Liability Bill - making biotech companies directly liable for contamination
of conventional crops - would in effect make Scotland GM-free as cultivation
would be commercial ly unviable. The executive's vague proposals on a
voluntary ban and insurance schemes are very poor responses.
(2) Lagging behind on education and the economy
A Sustainable Development Commission report earlier this month (see LGCnet)
said that far more effort needs to be made to differentiate between sustainable
growth that generates wealth and social benefits without damaging the
environment and unsustainable growth that damages people's real quality of life.
The report made 20 recommendations for improvements with over half within the
remit of the Scottish Executive.
Robin Harper has also placed a motion in the parliament on this report.
S2M-1162 Robin Harper: Sustainable Development Commission Report - That the
Parliament welcomes the report by the UK Sustainable Development Commission,
Shows promise - But must try harder; agrees with the commission's criticism
of government's fundamental belief that economic growth should be the
driving force behind all policy decisions; agrees that far more effort needs
to be made to differentiate between sustainable growth that generates wealth
and social benefits without damaging the environment and unsustainable
growth that damages people's real quality of life; notes that, of the twenty
specific challenges for government laid down by the Commission, more than
half fall within the power of the Scottish Executive; notes that challenge 9
of the report calls specifically on devolved administrations to 'turn the
initial strategies for sustainability that they have formulated into central
and effective drivers for change over the next five years', and calls on the
Executive to take up that challenge and for the Sub-Committee on a
Sustainable Scotland to publish a response that addresses the other
challenges that fall within its powers.
Education for Sustainable Development
The Pa rtnership Agreement obliged the government to 'put environmental
concerns at the heart of public policy' and to 'emphasise citizenship,
community involvement and environmental education throughoutthe school
Arrested Development, a WWF Scotland report released earlier this month,
emphasised a marked lack of direction and planning from the executive.
No-one has been allocated the task of co-ordinating and leading on ESD,
indeed, sustainability barely features in any aspect of schooling.
More information is available here.