FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon challenged over 'hypocritical' transport complaints

A plan to build new roads in Scotland was heavily criticised in Holyrood as the First Minister was forced to defend her government’s environmental credentials after being asked if she was following Boris Johnson’s “planet-wrecking” policies.

Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone accused Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson of adding to Scotland’s emissions after he revealed a roads expansion plan earlier this week.

At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Johnstone said Scottish Government complaints about Mr Johnson’s Union Connectivity Review, which proposes cutting air passenger duty (APD) on internal flights and expanding roads in Scotland, were hypocritical when the SNP was doing similar.

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Calling Mr Johnson’s plan “deeply irresponsible” because “it undermines this Parliament and flies in the face of the climate emergency”, Ms Johnstone demanded that Ms Sturgeon restate the government’s commitment not to cut APD.

Air passenger duty on domestic flights could be cut under plans to improve connectivity within the UK set out by the Prime Minister.
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The First Minister said there were “no plans” to cut APD. She said: “Right now we’re focused on trying to work out the best way of recovering the economy from the catastrophe of Covid in a way that is consistent with our moral obligations to meet our net-zero targets and to live up to the responsibilities – up to and long after the COP26 summit late this year.

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“If you look at our budget and policy priorities, you will see a strong commitment to a green, sustainable recovery, which is right for job creation and the future of the planet as well.”

However, Ms Johnstone said that on the same day Mr Johnson had unveiled his “planet-wrecking plan”, the “Scottish transport secretary confirmed his plan to expand roads – a policy we know increases emissions and congestion. Is the transport secretary delivering your agenda or Boris Johnson’s?”

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Ms Sturgeon dismissed the remark as not serious. She said: “We have a balanced transport policy. All our policies have to be assessed against our 2045 net-zero target and the interim milestones, which are even more stretching because they’re closer and the ambition that we need to deliver to meet them kicks in now.

“We are extremely serious about using COP26 as a catalyst, as a pressure point on governments … because of the urgency, of the need to take steps, COP26 may be the best chance we have of getting the whole world behind that agenda.”

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