Climate change: Scottish government cannot turn global warming into just another source of grievance politics – Scotsman comment

The SNP has a clear strategy to create a sense of political difference between Scotland and England.

COP26 president Alok Sharma, a Conservative MP, and Nicola Sturgeon share a platform at the climate summit in Glasgow in November (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
COP26 president Alok Sharma, a Conservative MP, and Nicola Sturgeon share a platform at the climate summit in Glasgow in November (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Where England is right-wing and fated to elect politicians like Boris Johnson forevermore, Scotland is left-wing, progressive and more ‘Scandinavian’ than ‘British’ in its attitudes, or so nationalists would like people to think. Scotland is anti-nuclear, England pro-nuclear; Scotland is a “world leader” on climate change, while England lags behind… and so on.

However, the rhetoric designed to convince the public that these countries are so different that they must go their separate ways is not always borne out by reality.

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There is at least a suspicion that ‘greenwashing’ – normally associated with companies seeking to avoid real action – is being deployed in Scotland to win over converts to the independence cause.

However, whatever the explanation for it, people have been noticing the gap between fine words on climate change and deeds.

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Scottish government must drop ‘can't do’ attitude towards climate change – Scot...

In an article published today by The Scotsman, Scotland’s Climate Assembly speaks of the need for the SNP-Green coalition to act with a greater degree of urgency and to “think less about what it can't do and instead demonstrate a positive attitude”.

The body, set up by the Scottish Parliament, expresses its dissatisfaction over the frequency with which the phrase “we don’t have the powers” is used to defend a lack of action and argues that, in its view, ministers could do more with their existing powers. It is a complaint that will be shared by others concerned about a number of different issues in Scotland.

The Scottish government’s offer to “consider” and “explore” some of the assembly’s suggestions was another source of disappointment – but at least they weren’t told ministers would “sit tight and assess”, to quote the satirical Netflix film Don’t Look Up.

Climate change is far too important an issue to be co-opted and subsumed into a relatively petty and parochial dispute on these islands. It is much, much more than a potential source of grievance politics.

So the Climate Assembly is wise to call for regular, rigorous and independent assessment of Scotland’s progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

We, the people, need to hold our elected leaders to account on this issue like no other. If they talk the talk, we must see them walk the walk.

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