Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘green window dressing’ as Scottish Government reveals programme

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Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “green window dressing” as she prepares to today unveil the SNP’s Government’s “most ambitious ever” investment in schools, hospitals and roads.

The First Minister will unveil her Programme for Government for the coming year at Holyrood as the Scottish Parliament returns from its summer recess.

Ms Sturgeon is facing a growing rift with her key-budget allies. Picture: John Devlin

Ms Sturgeon is facing a growing rift with her key-budget allies. Picture: John Devlin

But Ms Sturgeon is facing a growing rift with her key-budget allies, the pro-independence Greens, who derided a £17 million fund announced yesterday aimed at helping shift Scots to adopt electric travel and place the country at the “forefront of low carbon travel”.

The money will go towards 100 green buses and 1,500 electric charging points for vehicles. It comes on top of £20m for the transition to electric vehicles and a £4.8m for 500 new ultra low-emission vehicles for the public sector fleet.

Talks are also advanced for fire stations to host charging points for electric cars under the drive. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is “actively looking” at allowing the public to use points across their 356 sites.

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Last year’s Programme for Government was widely seen as the Scottish Government’s “greenest ever”, with ambitions plans to phase out petrol cars with electric vehicles by 2032.

But Green MSP John Finnie warned commuters would care little for boasts that 100 new buses, out of a fleet of thousands, will “significantly increase” the overall green bus fleet.

“A little bit of green window dressing won’t impress the thousands of Scots who rely on buses every day,” he said. “What they want to see is a more reliable and less expensive service within an industry that is properly regulated.

“If the government is serious about improving buses, they’ll make the necessary changes to toughen up the Transport Bill. While any investment aimed at reducing carbon emissions is welcome, including this small sum from the government, a hundred new buses out of a fleet of thousands makes a mockery of the First Minister’s claim that the investment places Scotland at the ‘forefront of low carbon travel’.

“Furthermore, the claim really is laughable considering Norway will phase out petrol-powered cars seven years ahead of Scotland and that hybrid cars will be permitted to be sold here beyond the 2032 target.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon also called for a “strengthened commitment” to tackling climate change in today’s Government programme, as well as new policies to tackle waste and pollution. “The draft Climate Bill contains targets that are nowhere near good enough for Scotland to do its fair share on tackling the climate crisis,” Dr Dixon said.

“We’ll be looking for commitment from Nicola Sturgeon to aim higher, especially in the next decade, to reclaim Scotland’s place as an international climate leader. Any infrastructure announcements need to be low-carbon infrastructure, not new roads, bridges or runways. Any support for the North Sea oil industry should only be directed towards helping businesses and workers transition from high-carbon to low-carbon industries.”

Ms Sturgeon insists today’s programme would “go further still” after last year’s flagship green pledges.

She said: “Through the package of support we’re announcing in this year’s Programme for Government, as well as our continued investment of £1 billion a year in low carbon and public transport, more people will be able to play their part in putting Scotland at the forefront of low carbon travel.”

The First Minister said her 2018/19 programme would also contain “major announcements” related to health, the economy and social security.

She said: “In this programme for government I am committing to the most ambitious long-term level of infrastructure spend that Scotland has ever seen .That is investment in schools, hospitals and transport, and in digital connectivity and clean energy.

“This Programme for Government continues the major reforms that are underway in our health, education and justice systems and it builds on the progress we have made in tackling inequalities.”

She added: “Of course we cannot ignore the fact that Brexit puts all of our progress at risk, with uncertainty being made worse by the Tories’ blundering and the prospect of a no-deal outcome. But equally, we must not let Brexit define us, curtail our ambitions or halt Scotland’s progress.

“As we look to the future, however, one thing is certain; our commitment – my commitment – to making sure that all of Scotland flourishes and that we remain outward looking and confident.”

Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw has accused Ms Sturgeon of “getting her excuses in early over her Brexit claims”.

Labour has published a list of key areas where it wants to see change, including an end to Primary 1 testing, an NHS safe staffing bill and a radical anti-austerity budget.

Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Scotland needs real change, not more of the same, in the Programme for Government this week.

“The dividing line in Scotland now rests between investment and growth with Labour, or cuts and division with the Tories and the SNP.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for action on teacher recruitment and mental health.

“Under this government our health service is crippled and education is slipping,” he said.

“This year we need to see big moves from the SNP to improve teacher recruitment and retention.”