Analysis: The manifestos so far
The SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have now all published their manifestos. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland are doing a manifesto comparison once the Greens manifesto is published, but what to make of the others so far? Click on the party below to skip down to Friends of the Earth Scotland’s thoughts on each of their proposals. Simply click on the party you want to look at to
see how they do on a range of issues.
The headline commitment from the SNP is a welcome target of 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand to come from renewables by 2020. Beyond this however there are question marks over how much fossil fuels will continue to be utilised and what priority is given to alternative environment solutions.
A target of 100% of our electricity demand from renewables by 2020 is exactly the type of figure we should be aiming for. Our Power of Scotland Secured study shows that we can do up to 185% by 2030. In this context, the knee-jerk reaction from certain sections of the business, political and media elements is disappointing at best, scaremongering at worst.
While the renewables target is good, an interesting aspect that perhaps hasn’t been bottomed out is to what extent the SNP’s plans for new renewables displace existing (or new) fossil fuel or nuclear generation, or to what extent they simply stack new renewables on top of existing, dirty energy. In the Q+A after the manifesto launch, Alex Salmond stated we can meet twice our energy needs by 2020. One can only hope the SNP plan isn’t 100% fossil fuels on top of 100% renewables.
There is a welcome commitment to ‘continue to oppose UK plans for new nuclear power stations’. Scotland doesn’t want or need new nuclear or new coal.
An area that is somewhat less clear is that of new coal. The SNP Government have previously been criticised for inserting a proposal for a ‘clean coal fired power station’ at Hunterston into the National Planning Framework. This decision, which is subject to a legal challenge, means that the need for that power station can’t be questioned. Since then however they have published an energy generation policy statement that makes clear Scotland doesn’t need new thermal generation plants. Thankfully the manifesto refers only to the latter stating: “the policy statement…makes clear that increased renewable generation means we now see no energy need for additional thermal generation plants.”
There are some welcome noises about increasing the proportion of the transport budget spent on ‘low-carbon, sustainable and active travel’, although no specific figures. There is also a proposal for an integrated ‘smart ticketing system’ (along the lines of London’s oyster card) and a £50 million ‘future transport fund’ for green transport measures. However the unnecessary, additional Forth road bridge takes centre stage and we see continued commitments to fund every road project going, dual the A9 and increase air travel. This doesn’t add up to a sustainable transport manifesto.
Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty
There is a proposed £50 million ‘warm homes fund’ that aims to support district heating schemes, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in those areas worst affected by fuel poverty. There is also a commitment to amalgamate the existing ‘means-tested’ and ‘universal’ home insulation schemes into a ‘single, national universal home insulation’ programme. Given the far better uptake rate of universal programmes, this is something we’ve been campaigning on for a number of years. Having said this, there aren’t any figures put next to the scheme and, given the SNP Government’s 2010-2011 budget cut fuel poverty funding by a third, one can only hope that the proposal to amalgamate the funds isn’t simply a way to cut overall funding. In other parts the manifesto talks of self-financing models that would allow Scotland to increase the annual spend on energy efficiency.
Finally, there is a commitment to continue funding the energy assistance package (a programme that aims to tackle fuel poverty) but no mention of requiring poorly insulated homes to be insulated to a certain standard when they are let or sold.
There is a welcome commitment to a ‘sustainable procurement bill’ to ‘to make clear the legislative framework for procurement decisions and support the greater use of social and environmental benefit clauses’. We’ll have to make the case for this to be as strong as it can be, but with the Lib Dems and SNP both containing sustainable procurement bills, it seems we may get something approaching a ‘green procurement bill’ in the next session of Parliament.
The waste section is mixed. There are proposals for a ban on organic waste to landfill by 2017 an ‘end goal’ for other waste with reuse and recycling potential being banned from landfill by 2020, restrictions on material that can be put in incinerators, and a new ‘zero-waste bill’ to be introduced in 2011 with measures coming into force in 2013. However the proposal to scrap the 25% cap on municipal waste that can be incinerated is bound to cause alarm bells ringing.
Food and Agriculture
The SNP food and agriculture is probably the most developed of all the parties so far and contains proposals for Scottish food labelling in supermarkets, for allotments to be able to sell their surplus, and for an organic action plan. They also intend to ‘support efforts to establish a national chain of community-based food networks’. However the rest of the section is largely about boosting food exports. A sustainable food policy should be about ‘food for people’ rather than ‘food for exports’
Mutuals and Community Renewables
There are welcome proposals for a ‘Scottish Green Equity Fund’ to support community renewables (although no specific figure is set against this) as well as words around encouraging mutualised local energy companies and proposals to explore some kind of self-financing scheme for community renewables.
There are some good words about sharing the public concerns over large scale biomass in parts of Scotland.
Climate Challenge Fund
Welcome commitment to maintain the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) over the next 5 years and, importantly, allow some projects to generate their own income. They also propose, as part of the CCF fund, a junior CCF.
Welcome commitment to review land reform and legislate within 5 years. From our point of view, while the Land Reform Act was groundbreaking at the time, there is still much work to do. Community ownership, cooperatives, charities and a land-value tax need to be fully considered as alternatives to the current system.
The SNP also state they are ‘open-minded’ about environmental courts and plan to publish an options paper to seek further views. This is a welcome development and could provide an avenue to ensure proper access to environmental justice.
The Labour Manifesto contains various sections of relevance to the environment and climate change. While there are some positive proposals there is a lack of ambition in other areas.
Much has been made over the past few weeks about Labours support for nuclear. Yet the Labour manifesto is rather ambivalent on the issue. It states: “Any application for consent to new nuclear capacity will be considered on its merits, in terms of safety, environmental impact, the local community and other planning considerations”. With events in Japan, the inherent safety issues and the unsustainable nature of nuclear, one would hope that Labour’s relatively ambivalent nuclear policy should mean that new nuclear is dismissed as a white elephant.
Labour’s policy not to consent new coal power stations unless they can demonstrate ‘effective carbon capture and storage’ is a good sign but it should have been firmer. Over the coming weeks, we hope they’ll firm up their opposition to the proposed coal power station at Hunterston which, given it proposes to capture only a quarter of its emissions, isn’t ‘effective carbon capture and storage’.
While the 80% renewables target for 2020 is decent, Labour’s more recent criticism of the SNP’s 100% target is disappointing. In addition their plans, like the SNP’s, for ever-increasing exports suggest they too want to increase non-renewable sources of energy as well as renewables. The future, clean, green electricity system for Scotland is one that maximises renewables. The debate now needs to move beyond this to phasing out dirty power stations.
Green New Deal, Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty
The Labour manifesto proposes a ‘green new deal’ to fit at least 10,000 homes with community and household renewables. Such a programme, if based on one like Birmingham City Councils, offers real opportunity to create jobs, cut fuel bills and tackle climate change. However, we will need to see the ambition significantly ramped up
to more than 10,000 households in order to achieve our climate change targets.
The commitment to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 is also welcome, although it is unclear how this will be achieved. Universal home insulation schemes and minimum energy efficiency standards that need to be met when homes are let or sold are two of the easiest ways tackle fuel poverty and cut emissions.
While there are some nice words about fairer, greener and more ethical procurement, there is a lack of detail around how this will be achieved. A Green Procurement Bill, clarifying what is expected and what can be done in relation to public procurement could ensure that this commitment is delivered.
While there are some welcome noises to increase the active travel budget, increase the green bus fund, and regulate buses, once again we see a continued commitment to major road building projects and increased air travel. Sometime, someday, a major party will realise that a sustainable transport system cannot be premised on ever increasing car capacity.
While proposals for landfill bans and improved recycling infrastructure in public places are welcome, the lack of attention given to waste reduction is concerning. Reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place is the easiest, most cost-effective way to tackle Scotland’s waste mountain.
Food and Agriculture
Some warm words about supporting local food procurement but little detail of how. Good commitments to campaign for fairness within the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and ensure support for farming considers how to deliver a range of benefits including good quality food, well maintained land and biodiversity, and climate change mitigation.
There are positive proposals to boost cooperatives, community energy schemes and community recycling projects – all models preferable to the business as usual, profit motivated models.
There are good proposals to review land management and land reform. From our point of view, while the Land Reform Act was groundbraking at the time, there is still much work to do. Community ownership, cooperatives, charities and a land-value tax need to be fully considered as alternatives to the current system. Any land management review also needs to be as wide-ranging as possible, extending to urban as well as rural areas.
The proposal for a strong climate duty with mandatory reporting recognises the important role local authorities play in the climate change agenda. However Labour’s proposals for a new economic development duty are somewhat concerning. Economic Development, if measured by GDP, counts bad activity as well as good, bundles it all together and labels it all good. This is not a sustainable approach. A more developed approach needs to be carefully tailored to ensure it priorities positive sustainable economic development – counting the good things and not the bad. In that context, Labours sustainable development proposal (see below) could be beneficial.
Sustainable Development and GDP
The commitment to look at sustainable development in the round, review the sustainable development strategy and pilot a new measure of sustainable development complimentary to GDP is a positive proposal. A more sophisticated measure of success to GDP could lead to greater scrutiny of carbon inducing projects with questionable, limited benefit and a greater appreciation of carbon saving policies that achieve multiple benefits.
Climate Challenge Fund
Welcome commitment to maintain the level of funding to the climate challenge fund.
Right…well…. you’ll see the other parties write ups are somewhat more substantial than that of the Conservatives. That’s because pretty much their only green proposal is to require public bodies to publish details of their energy consumption and commit to reduction targets. Aside from that, the Tory manifesto is largely a sop to big business, designed to increase air and road traffic, while bulldozing over the rights of ordinary people, and their local representatives, to oppose new and totally unnecessary nuclear developments on their doorstep.
There is pretty much nothing to tackle fuel poverty, improve public transport, or make sure Scotland has the necessary skills and investor confidence to deliver energy efficiency and renewable power. In sum, if we want an affordable, secure and clean green energy future, the policies set out in the Tories manifesto would take Scotland full steam in the wrong direction.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto contains various sections on climate change and the environment. While much of it is welcome, for example on coal and nuclear, other parts are contradictory.
Procurement and regulation
A good chunk of the Lib Dem manifesto focuses on better and fairer procurement. Positively they plan to ensure sustainability is one of the key principles of a new procurement bill, that the carbon impacts of products are taken into account in procurement, that the origin of food is reported, that animal welfare is specified, and that fair trade is favoured. Putting sustainability at the heart of public procurement will promote good quality local produce and local jobs and help tackle climate change.
While strong on procurement, the anti-regulatory proposals elsewhere, particularly those concerning Scotland’s environmental inspection agencies could be seriously damaging to Scotland’s important environment.
The Lib Dem propose £250 million additional funding for energy efficiency. While welcome this is still short of the £500 million (£100 million a year for 5 years) we have been calling for. Insulating Scottish homes will provide jobs, cut fuel bills, and reduce climate change. Having said this, one can’t help wonder that selling off Scottish Water, or at least ceding control of it, may be a modern day story of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Nuclear, Coal and Renewables
Its good too to see the Scottish Liberal Democrats continued opposition to Nuclear as well as the proposed new coal power station at Hunterston. Scotland doesn’t want or need new nuclear or new coal. On renewables it speaks to the political football that is our renewable energy target that the Lib Dems target for 100% of our energy consumption to come from renewables by 2025 has been outgunned by the SNP’s 100% by 2020. All parties need to understand that delivering is more important than setting targets.
There are good proposals for a comprehensive waste prevention programme to cut Scotland’s waste in half by 2020. Cutting the amount of waste we produce in the first place is the easiest, most cost-effective way to tackle Scotland’s waste problem.
Incinerators and Biomass
The manifesto states that waste incinerators and large-scale biomass plants will be subject to close scrutiny and robust regulation. While crucially important, one has to wonder how this will be achieved if the regulatory powers of environmental agencies is to be reduced.
There are some welcome noises to increase the proportion of the transport budget spent on sustainable and active travel, although they don’t specify a figure. There is also a proposal for a integrated ‘smart ticketing system’ (along the lines of London’s oyster card). Despite this we see a continued commitment to fund every road project going, dual the A9 and increase air travel. This doesn’t add up to a sustainable transport action plan.
Food and Agriculture
There are positive proposals to emphasise local food including requiring the provenance of food procured to be made public. Good commitments to campaign for fairness for farmers and crofters at a UK and European level as well as ensuring support for farming considers how to deliver a range of benefits including environmental protection.
Community Benefit from Renewables
There are positive proposals to increase community benefit from commercial renewables including allowing local communities to keep the additional business rates generated.
Climate Challenge Fund
Welcome commitment to ‘Encourage innovative behavioural change initiatives within communities by building on the work of the Climate Challenge Fund.’
Commitments to broaden access to the courts when environmental rights are breached are a strong step in the right direction. Developments are moving fast in this field and, as well as implementing the Gill reforms, the Lib Dems must look to best practice of other countries to ensure we have courts with environmental justice at their heart.