Climate change: SNP challenged on failure to test limit of their powers by Climate Assembly

Nicola Sturgeon’s Government must demonstrate a more positive attitude and test the powers it does hold, rather than claiming it does not have the power to make meaningful change on climate, Scotland’s Climate Assembly has said.

The assembly, set up by the SNP Government in 2019, made a list of recommendations on how best to tackle climate change and reach net zero when its report was published in the summer of last year.

However, writing for The Scotsman today, the assembly criticised the Scottish Government’s response to its report, accusing it of failing to be ambitious enough and of not taking advantage of “quick wins”.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (centre) meets climate activists Greta Thunberg (left) and Vanessa Nakate (right) during the Cop26 summit. Her government has been criticised by the Scottish Climate Assembly

In her Government’s response to the report, Ms Sturgeon said the assembly had “set an example that we, as a nation, must follow”. She had urged her Government to “act urgently and decisively”.

Among the assembly’s recommendations were suggestions such as an Oyster card for Scotland, reducing ferry emissions and introducing ‘carbon labelling’ on food, as well as a host of building standard and business policies aimed at reducing Scotland’s overall emissions and climate impact.

Members have complained, however, the urgency around the recommendations was ignored by the Government.

They wrote: “The Scottish Government must act with a sense of urgency. It needs to think less about what it can't do and instead demonstrate a positive attitude, thinking hard about enabling change.

“Members overall are disappointed the Government’s response fails to recognise the urgency of our report. There are many pledges to ‘consider’ and ‘explore’."

The article adds “quick wins” were rejected and criticised the lack of ambition within government.

It states: “The assembly is not content with the frequent comment ‘we don't have the powers'. We believe the Scottish Government has failed to test how far existing powers could deliver change.”

Opposition parties said the response from the assembly showed the SNP/Green government was “all talk, but little action”, labelling the criticisms “damning”.

Net zero spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives, Liam Kerr, said the Government’s approach to the assembly’s report was a repeat of the “usual tired grievances”.

He said: “This is a very accurate critique of the SNP-Green Government. They’re all talk, but little action on climate change, and then they try to blame the UK Government for that inaction.

“The Nationalist coalition are forever complaining about the powers they don’t have, rather than using the ones they do have.

Nicola Sturgeon was desperate to pose for selfies at COP26, but the Government she leads are failing Scotland with their insincere pledges and missed targets.

“Instead of trotting out their usual tired grievances, they need to work with the UK Government to help Scotland achieve net zero.”

Colin Smyth, the net zero spokesperson for Scottish Labour, said it was the “SNP blame game in full force”.

He said: “The Scottish Government have the power to act, but they are cowering away from doing so.

“These comments are damning and embody the frustrations that so many people feel about the SNP/Green Government’s failure to act over net zero issues, cost-of-living issues and the energy crisis.

“They won’t agree every recommendation, but if the Government are serious about stopping the climate crisis becoming a climate catastrophe they need to stop ducking their responsibilities and start showing the same level of ambition as Assembly members.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are clear on the urgency of the climate emergency and started delivering on many of the assembly’s recommendations even before our official response was published. The assembly has also led to us increasing our ambition in other areas.

“We recognise that some members will be disappointed that we have not been able to progress all of their recommendations in full. Achieving some of the ambitions of the assembly will require changes at UK level or, in some cases, multinational agreement.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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