Scottish Budget restraints should not prevent councils from tackling climate change, key minister says

Budget restraints should not prevent local authorities from tackling climate change, the minister for Net Zero has told MSPs.

Speaking at the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, cabinet secretary Michael Matheson said that financial constraints faced by local councils should not impact them trying to meet targets.

Committee convenor Dean Lockhart asked him: “Do you recognise the significant capacity resource and financial constraints at local government level? And do you share the concerns of various council leaders that budget cuts will significantly impact their ability to deliver national Net Zero targets?”

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Local authorities umbrella body Cosla has previously argued that councils need more funding to be able to meet ambitious targets.

Michael Matheson, Net Zero and Energy Secretary.
Michael Matheson, Net Zero and Energy Secretary.
Michael Matheson, Net Zero and Energy Secretary.

He said: “No, not necessarily. But I recognise the pressures that the public sector are facing, not just at a central government level, but also at a local government level, and the particular challenges that creates for our colleagues in local government As the Finance Secretary said last week, we've delivered as fair a funding package for local government as we are able to do in the challenging financial environment in which we are operating.

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"But I think it's also worth keeping in mind is that local authorities have faced financial challenges for a number of years and they've been making very good progress actually in tackling climate change and some of the reductions in the emissions that they've committed to which have been significant over recent years.

"And so I think I recognise them understand there will be challenges for them, that doesn't necessarily meet that they won’t be able to make progress on at tackling climate change."

MSP Natalie Don quizzed Mr Matheson about whether the Scottish Government was on track to meet the 70 per cent recycling target.

He said the targets were “tough targets, but rightly so”, but admitted the government needs to “do better”.

He said: “We need to do better in making sure that we are achieving them. My colleague Lorna Slater is working hard in order to help to ensure that we are taking forward the right measures to do that, which is why we have set out the commitment to developing our waste route map in order to make sure that we're very clear on the tangible progress we'll make over the next couple of years in order to get it on track.”

He said the budget for Zero Waste was eight per cent higher this financial year than it was in 2020-2021.

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