Just as COP26 begins, the Scottish Government missed a golden opportunity to show bold environmental leadership by withdrawing its deal to support Heathrow Airport in its expansion.
A motion put forward by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur invited them to do so last week. But the SNP chose to abstain; a weak response that some have observed does not to bode well for a Scottish government which likes to boast that it has set stricter climate laws than the rest of the UK.
Heathrow is not just an airport hundreds of miles away, which draws direct flights away from Scotland. It is an airport whose expansion will significantly fetter Scotland’s ability to meet its own climate targets – which require a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, and a net zero society by 2045 (and are now barely distinguishable from the UK government’s own targets of a 78 per cent reduction in emissions by 2035).
Even the Scottish Government’s own analysis confirms that Heathrow expansion would create an additional 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in Scotland by 2040, through more than 5,000 additional flights per year – or an additional 605,000 return trips between Scottish airports and Heathrow.
So, rather than calling time on its support for this emissions-busting scheme, the Scottish Government has all too conspicuously chosen to continue to support it.
The Scottish Government is not only ignoring its own analysis, it is undermining the credibility of its climate targets – and doing so at the very time that the world’s environmental movement descends on Glasgow.
Paul McGuinness, Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition, Teddington. Middlesex
Being heavily promoted through the press is the intention of the Scottish Government to pass an act which will pardon those miners convicted in court during the strike in 1984 (Scotsman, 29 October). However I trust that there will be a clause which will compensate those police officers injured by the miners and whose careers have suffered from their injuries, although I doubt that the SNP/Green coalition will tolerate such an amendment.
Those considerations now loom large as Chief Constable Iain Livingston has stated that there will be a robust response to any attempt to stop parts of the COP26 event. Hence we can assume that those arrested for obstruction, police assault, breach of the peace or even mobbing and rioting will be exonerated by SNP/Green legislation in the future.
In the short term when the trials start there could be police officers from England being brought to Glasgow to give evidence (at what cost to the public purse?) and if the accused are foreign nationals will they appear for trial? The scenario then unravels as the accused may be held in custody until the trial or at least until COP26 is over – and what compensation will the Greens then seek for their incarceration?
(Dr) Alan Naylor, Penicuik, Midlothian
Doomed to failure
The world is currently burning up through global warming, with out of control fires, drought, crop failures, melting ice, rising sea levels and flooding. All of this is being caused by the capitalist system. It seeks ever more consumption and profit, no matter the cost.
The politicians know this and always make big pledges. In 2009 in Copenhagen it was agreed that hundreds of billions would be paid from the polluting nations to those who have not yet fully industrialised to mitigate the effects of global warming: nothing has yet emerged.
All of the previous summits have produced hot air and failure which have left the world on the brink of disaster. COP26 promises to be no different. The response to the Covid-19 pandemic shows there is no will or incentive for governments to co-operate. The only thing that national governments see is a chance for geostrategic advantage and making profits.
Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee
What a brilliantly written article on front page of The Scotsman (30 October) – to the point and giving us a clear picture of what we can expect if global warming is not reduced.
My son will be 17 in 2030. I am inspired to change for him and his generation. We can all do our bit. Let's not miss our opportunity.
Alison Lindsay, East Calder, West Lothan
It’s a fair COP
The first UN Climate Change Conference (or Conference of the Parties – COP) took place in Berlin in 1995. Since then there have been 24 further COPs meeting in Geneva, Kyoto, Buenos Aires (twice), Bonn (twice), The Hague, Marrakech (twice), New Delhi, Milan, Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Doha, Warsaw, Lima, Paris, Katowice and Madrid.
Despite all the vast amounts of money, political energy and jet fuel expended since that first COP in 1995 atmospheric CO2 has continued its inexorable rise unchanged.
COP26 is taking in Glasgow. Vast amounts of money, political energy and jet fuel will be expended. Will atmospheric CO2 change? Why not ask the 30,000 people jetting to Egypt next year for COP27?
Alastair McCulloch, Dunblane, Stirling
Heads we lose
In “Now and Then” (Scotsman, 30 October), you show a photograph of German soldiers sheltering in a shell-hole during the First World War. The description tells us that it is a picture of “German soldiers…during the Battle of Ypres which began this day in 1914”. However, they are wearing the “Stahlhelm”, or “coal scuttle” helmet that is instantly recognisable as a German soldier’s headgear from the middle of the First World War and from the Second World War too.
The Stahlhelm (“Steel Helmet”) was not introduced to the German Army until early in 1916. Before that, the highly-distinctive “Pickelhaube” (pointed bonnet) – a leather helmet with a spike on top (also worn by German police officers) – was the norm.
Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh
Sincere leadership in education can reveal many individual qualities: inspiration, consideration and fairness, wisdom, integrity, and determination even to the point of self-sacrifice.
This brings me to the deafening silence of many of our leaders in state education regarding the current malaise in state education. For years now, indeed decades many of our leaders in state education (far too many) have remained silent, but why? What could possibly compel many of our leaders in state education to keep schtum on the most obvious of deficiencies and failings?
Alas, even the dogs in the street are aware that many of our leaders in state education, some headteachers, council executives and politicians amongst them, have emphasised their commitment and belief in state education, by enrolling their own children in private independent schools.
This presumably conscious decision appears to be defended under the guise of “freedom of choice”. But as actions speak much louder than words, what about professional integrity and responsibility, nevermind one’s loyalty to one’s employer, the public?
This abandonment of state education by many of its very own leaders in favour and preference of personal advantage for private education for their own, often adopting the English qualification system, is positively subversive.
KM Baird, Edinburgh
The fuss over COP26 and the First Minister’s increasingly desperate attempts to appear in some way relevant to the event is perhaps hiding a more sobering fact.
The latest opinion polls are showing a steady, month-by-month majority for keeping the UK intact. After all, she did say she would like a succession of polls showing a 60-40 majority for separating Scotland and breaking up the UK before pushing for another of the SNP’s ‘’once in a lifetime’’ plebiscites. It would seem that despite all the electoral goodies thrown at the people of this country, the pro-UK majority stubbornly refuse to shift and in fact those opposing the nationalist plans are increasing.
I think it is safe to say it is over. The dream has evaporated, destroyed by logic and economic common sense. Time for the stalwarts to head homeward and perhaps think again.
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh
I agree with Rev Dr John Cameron (Letters, 29 October) that the state pension triple-lock should have remained, at least for 2022/23 pending new legislation.
It would seem logical over a few years’ transition to align the basic “new” state pension (£9,339 currently) with both the tax-free personal allowance (£12,570) and the minimum wage for 18-year-olds (£12,792 for 40-hour week).
But as in other countries, pensioners should then be subject to National Insurance, whose rules and thresholds should of course be integrated or at least aligned with income tax. Why on earth should retired millionaires escape it?
Also, we should recognise that at present, many pensioners can end up with net disposable income little different from that in their last years of employment, as they no longer pay NIC, pension contributions or commuting costs.
With longer life-spans, such pensions could last for 25 years after 45 years’ employment. Can the UK afford such obligations ultimately payable by younger taxpayer generations in an increasingly competitive world?
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
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