COP26: 'Scottish independence referendum would be distraction from climate crisis', declares former Labour leader Ed Miliband
Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman from COP26, Labour’s shadow business secretary said a referendum was not the “right thing for the country”.
He said the climate emergency should be tackled “together”, with Scotland in the union.
Mr Miliband, who was Labour leader between 2010 and 2015 and saw the party’s contingent of Scottish MPs drop from 41 to one, also criticised the SNP’s climate record.
His comments follow a row earlier this week over adverts placed in newspapers by the SNP, which described Scotland as a “nation in waiting” and one that is “not yet” an independent country.
Opposition parties criticised the adverts for being “distracting and divisive”, with Nicola Sturgeon denying that she had launched another campaign for independence through the adverts, claiming instead they were designed to “welcome” visitors to Scotland.
Asked whether he thought indyref2 would take place soon, Mr Miliband said he did not want a vote to happen and that it was not “the right thing for the UK”.
The senior Labour figure said: “For Scotland, I just go back to this issue of the climate emergency. If it really is that urgent and it is, if it really is an emergency that we’ve got to tackle this decisive decade, we should be doing this together.
"We should not be being distracted by an independence referendum.”
Mr Miliband added: “I just think about the climate emergency, you know, we are in the decisive decade. We've got nine years till 2030, let's together tackle this because we know this is a big transition that we've got to make.
"We can do it more strongly working together across the UK and let's do this together.
“What you're seeing with the Labour party with [shadow Chancellor] Rachel Reeves and [leader Sir] Keir [Starmer] is a real sense that this green issue is at the centre, not marginal to our agenda, but at the centre of our agenda.”
Mr Miliband was damning on the SNP’s record around renewable energy industries and its wider climate policy, accusing the rival party of falling into the same trap as the Conservatives at Westminster, alleging both struggle with the fact that “promises sound good, but sometimes the delivery is lacking”.
Cambo – the controversial oilfield which the Scottish Government has said should be reassessed against net zero targets by the UK Government – is the “big symbol” of a failure of “consistency in leadership”, the MP said.
His comments come after the Scottish Greens attacked Greenpeace for what they labelled as unfair criticism of the First Minister by the campaign group due to the fact the activists are “not particularly politically active in Scotland”.
This followed criticism from the group in which they accused Ms Sturgeon of “deferring to Boris Johnson” on the issue, adding that “until she makes her own stance clear, this is just a PR exercise”.
Patrick Harvie, one of two Scottish Green MSPs given a Cabinet role following the agreement of a coalition deal between his party and the SNP, responded by saying “I don’t think they [Greenpeace] understood the significance of that [Sturgeon’s position].”
Mr Miliband also accused Ms Sturgeon of “sitting on the fence” on the issue.
“The public think ‘OK, you're asking us to do all these things, are you really gonna have a new licence for an oil field which is the equivalent of 18 coal fire powered stations for a year?’ Well you just look like you're facing both ways.
“You then have the UK Government with their cuts to air passenger duty, and all of those things. These things aren't easy.
"I don't even want to pretend these things are easy, but I think consistency of leadership is incredibly important.”
Mr Miliband also labelled the administration and failure of the BiFab yards to secure major wind farm projects as a “sorry saga” for the Scottish Government and accused the SNP for failing to match action to rhetoric.
He said: “I think the key thing for both governments is to carry through on the rhetoric in the reality in what they're actually doing.
“If we're going to have a transition and if we're going to have a just transition, we've got to show to workers in oil and gas that there are going to be alternative jobs and the failure of both governments to build the kind of offshore wind industry that we need, I think is a real bad mark on their record.”
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