Leaders: Green policy goalposts shouldn’t be moved

The Scottish Government have missed their own ambitious targets. Picture: Getty

The Scottish Government have missed their own ambitious targets. Picture: Getty

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FOR the fourth year in a row the Scottish Government has missed its climate change targets, coming under strong attack from critics who accuse the SNP of talking a good game but failing to match grand promises with effective action.

The targets originally set by the SNP for emission reductions were ambitious, and they could be looked upon as a rod for the government’s own back. The fall-out from a missed target will always be greater than criticism over the target not being a big enough challenge.

Just how badly the Scottish Government has fared is up for debate. The Conservatives said that the government now faces an “impossible challenge” to get back on track but pressure group Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said that the figures published yesterday “show that the target was within reach”. Labour’s environment spokeswoman Sarah Boyack was probably closest to the mark with her assessment, acknowledging that while there has been progress in the area of energy supply, there have been failures in key sectors such as transport and agriculture.

Ms Boyack was also correct to address – and reject – the suggestion that targets could be adjusted downwards. If ambitious targets are not set, then the government is not doing enough to make the changes that can help make the necessary difference on climate change. Instead, she argues, decisive action should be taken to close the gap.

It is in areas such as transport that greater gains could be sought, with flights and shipping contributing to a sector which is responsible for 24.4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. But how does this sit with SNP policy to cut air passenger duty? Not easily.

And while it was encouraging to hear environment minister Aileen McLeod say yesterday that the government will establish a second future transport fund in a bid to help reduce emissions in the transport industry, the accompanying intention to encourage people to be more active and to look at the problem of the “school run” both sounded less convincing. It is going to take more than that.

More significant, in terms of potential outcome, was talk of a new energy efficiency programme for all properties in Scotland, both residential and commercial. “It will provide an offer of support for all buildings in Scotland to help them achieve a good energy efficiency rating over a 15 to 20-year period,” said Ms McLeod.

The difficulty for the government is that its main target is set for just five years from now, in 2020, when emissions have to be cut by 42 per cent.

We are a long way from what could be considered a crisis, but the SNP has been loud and clear on its environmental ambitions. To live up to those stated aims, the Scottish Government has to start pushing harder to deliver on its pledge.

Standing up for the ordinary fans

AT first glance the decision to allow the reintroduction of a standing area at a top-flight Scottish football club might appear to be a backwards step, and one that forgets the terrible lessons learned in football the 1980s when the Hillsborough disaster saw all-seater stadiums become compulsory in England.

In the interests of safety and comfort, all-seater stadiums were also made a criteria of membership of the Scottish Premier League at its formation in 1998. It has to be said that this policy achieved exactly what was intended, but it also contributed to what could be a sterile atmosphere inside these stadiums at times, and was never universally popular with supporters. Many still wanted to stand, and some have insisted on doing so – a defiant practice which in itself makes the seated area unsafe, because there are no barriers in place to prevent the risk of supporters toppling over.

Safe standing areas have been in use in Europe for some time, and Glasgow City Council’s decision to permit Celtic to introduce this facility for up to 2,600 fans is to be welcomed. In a stadium with a capacity of 60,000, the standing area – designed with appropriate barriers in place – is a modest size and should not present significant risk. Whether it is big enough to accommodate all those who wish to stand remains to be seen, but it is a start, and other clubs are likely to follow.

The move listens to the voice of those who often have cause to complain that they are being taken for granted – the supporters. Credit goes to Celtic and Glasgow City Council, after standing up for those who don’t want to sit down.

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