Scottish Government says Rishi Sunak's green policy U-turn will have 'significant impact' on Scotland's ability to meet climate change targets
Rishi Sunak’s “unforgivable betrayal” in delaying key green policies will have a “significant impact” on Scotland’s ability to meet its own climate change targets, a minister has declared, with the ban on new petrol and diesel cars to be pushed back to 2035.
Net zero and just transition secretary Màiri McAllan said it was now unlikely she would be able to publish Scotland’s draft climate change plan this year because of the Prime Minister’s announcement.
It comes as Rishi Sunak insisted he was “absolutely not slowing down” efforts to combat climate change despite being accused of “wishful thinking” by the Government’s own climate adviser.
Mr Sunak on Wednesday eased a series of green pledges, including pushing back the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by five years to 2035, as he looks ahead to winning votes in the next general election.
These changes now put the Scottish and UK governments at odds with their climate change targets.
An urgent question was scheduled in the Scottish Parliament yesterday to try and find out just what impact this announcement would have on Scotland.
Ms McAllan said the Scottish Government was still committed to tackling the climate emergency. However, she said: “The Prime Minister’s statement was an unforgivable betrayal of current and future generations.
“It again puts the UK Government on the wrong side of history. These reckless plans have been branded ‘shocking’ and ‘hugely disappointing’ by [climate change activist] Al Gore, and a ‘colossal error’ by business groups.
“Despite the UK Government reneging on this, the Scottish Government is committed to tackling the climate crisis. But we’ve always been clear, the delivery of our climate ambitions is contingent on the actions of the UK Government, and this will have serious implications for our ambitions here in Scotland.
“We are now urgently assessing the impact and the sheer scale of the Prime Minister’s astonishing policy reversal, which could have a potentially significant impact on developments here in Scotland, not least the draft climate plan.”
This statement came hours after the SNP’s energy security and net zero spokesman Dave Doogan said some of Scotland’s climate change targets would now have to be moved.
Mr Doogan was particularly referring to Mr Sunak’s decision to delay the ban on new petrol and diesel cars. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Doogan said: “We may have to move to 2035 too because even if the Scottish Government did have the authority to intervene in that legislation, which is reserved to the UK Department for Transport, we are snared in the UK into the Internal Market Act.
“We have seen the UK Government intervene in any policy, which is undoubtedly different in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK.”
In July, the Conservatives were widely expected to suffer three heavy defeats in the English by-elections, but in a surprise turn of events managed to hang on to Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
The victory was credited to campaign efforts against Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposals to extend the UK capital’s ultra low emission zone, appealing directly to car owners in the constituency.
Mr Sunak repeated his denial that his move was about playing politics, despite being widely interpreted as an attempt to draw a clear dividing line between his Conservative Party and Labour ahead of a likely general election next year.
But shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said, saying: “All I see in this is the last desperate throw of the dice for a weak Prime Minister who is out-of-touch and out of his depth.
“This will do nothing for people’s bills, nothing for energy security, nothing for business, and nothing for skills and jobs.”
The Labour MP added: “What the Prime Minister did is say all targets are fluid and the Government can change them at any point to win some votes at the election.”
Labour net zero spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said the debate showed both the Scottish and UK governments were “asleep at the wheel on the climate crisis”, and that only Labour had a “real plan” to tackle the climate emergency.
She said: “Our plan will drive down bills, deliver energy security and create the high-skilled, well-paid jobs we need. We will make the UK a clean energy superpower and unleash Scotland’s potential as a world-leader in green technology.”
Mr Sunak shrugged off suggestions he was not listening to the climate change committee and was emulating his predecessor Liz Truss by ignoring expert advice he did not want to hear.
The climate change debate also dominated First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) yesterday, as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross took aim at Humza Yousaf’s statement that he no longer wanted to see Scotland as the oil and gas capital of Europe.
Mr Yousaf made the declaration while in New York to attend Climate Week 2023.
But addressing Deputy First Minister Shona Robison at FMQs as she stood in for Mr Yousaf, Mr Ross said: “The Deputy First Minister wants to pay tribute to oil and gas workers in the North Sea, while Humza Yousaf wants to take their jobs away.
“We need to transition sensibly and create new energy jobs, not throw away the current ones. We need to support both oil and gas, and renewables.”
Mr Ross described the First Minister as “reckless” when it comes to energy, as Robert Gordon University said the rapid decline of oil and gas would cost tens of thousands of jobs.
Ms Robison said the Prime Minister’s announcement would make it harder for Scotland to meet its net zero targets. She asked: “When will Douglas Ross grow a backbone and support our net zero targets rather than his Prime Minister?”
Scottish Conservatives’ energy spokesman Douglas Lumsden said: “The SNP provides a perfect example of why net zero targets need to be realistic, which the Prime Minister recognises.
“[The SNP] has missed its own targets in eight out of the last 12 years, and is failing to roll out enough electric vehicle charging points, or say where the £33 billion will come from to decarbonise buildings.
“When will this government start being honest on how much the journey to net zero will cost, and that not everyone can afford a swift transition?”
Ms McAllan branded Mr Lumsden’s position “incredible”.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.