Environmental campaigners have welcomed a range of commitments in today’s Programme for Government but emphasised that is does not go nearly far enough to truly tackle the climate crisis.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said:

“This package includes some very welcome commitments but is not nearly enough to address the desperate climate emergency the world is facing. The obvious contradiction at the heart of this Programme is its commitment to some new measures in transport, heating and agriculture while continuing to back the offshore oil and gas industry to keep on drilling and destroying our climate.

“The Climate Emergency should signal a radical change of direction, especially when it comes to planning the end of oil and gas extraction from the North Sea. Instead we heard of an increased focus on Carbon Capture and Storage and hydrogen, both dangerous distractions, which risk prolonging that industry and taking the focus away from real, sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

“There are welcome new targets on electrifying our railways, banning gas heating in new buildings and making flights carbon free, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough to reduce polluting car traffic or seriously phase out fossil fuels.”

Welcome measures in the Programme for Government

*Fossil fuel central heating ban for new buildings from 2024
*Review of banning fossil fuel cars in city centres by 2030
*More investment in cleaner buses, and a commitment to raise bus usage
*Trials of electric aircraft in 2021 and all internal flights to be electric by 2040
*Decarbonising all our railways by 2035
*Commitment to create a Circular Economy Bill

Unwelcome measures in the Programme for Government

*Continued support for extracting every last drop of oil in the North Sea
*Support for Carbon Capture and Storage, which will prolong the life of the oil industry
*Plan to waste the Scottish National Investment Bank’s time and money on Carbon Capture and Storage
*Pursuing a programme to develop hydrogen technologies, which will continue use of fossil fuels
*Being distracted by bioenergy, which has serious land use implications
In general, lots of headline long term commitments but an overall failure to deliver radical emissions cuts in the short term

Commenting on specific announcements, Dr Dixon said:

“Road traffic is our single biggest contributor to climate change with cars responsible for around 10% of Scotland’s annual emissions, and air pollution is linked to the early deaths of 2,500 people a year in Scotland. There is a welcome announcement to look at removing all fossil fueled vehicles from city centres but no commitment to actually doing this. There are good commitments on rail and aviation electrification but too little on reducing car traffic as a priority. In addition, investment in walking and cycling has stagnated rather than receiving the massive boost necessary.”

Bus fund
“Buses are a key part of the solution for improving air quality and reducing the climate pollution from road traffic. The support to introduce newer, cleaner, buses is a welcome step towards changing how we travel, making bus travel more attractive and reducing the number of cars and dirty vehicles on our streets. However, with councils set to be given the power to run their own buses, we need to be sure that councils who want to run bus services can access this cash.

Support for North Sea oil industry
“Despite the announcement of a Climate Emergency there is no change to the Scottish Government’s policy of Maximising Economic Recovery from North Sea oil and gas in today’s announcement. Ministers cannot on the one hand say we’re serious about reducing Scotland’s impact on the planet, while also supporting continued exploration for every last drop of oil and gas just off our coastline.

“Focusing on oil industry efficiency is a distraction – emissions from extraction are a drop in the ocean compared to those from burning that oil and gas. If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis the Scottish Government has to get serious about a managed phase out of extraction and implementing a just transition for those workers and communities currently reliant on this sector.”

Keep renewable jobs in Scotland
“Supporting skills development is welcome, however we have to be sure that the jobs exist for these skills to be used in. The various investment streams, including the SNIB are an important element of delivering a just transition, but what’s missing are measures to ensure that they create decent green jobs in Scotland.

“Lessons must be learned from cases like BiFab, where huge numbers of renewable jobs have been sent overseas, costing jobs in Scotland and generating emissions as products are shipped halfway across the world. As we see a growth in the green jobs market, this must be met by a more interventionist approach from the Government, using all levers at its disposal to create green jobs in Scotland.”

Home heating
“By announcing measures to make our homes more efficient and heated in cleaner, modern, ways, we can make a significant cut to climate emissions whilst also tackling the shockingly high levels of fuel poverty in Scotland. The roll out of heat pumps and the commitments to improve home efficiency have the potential to create a huge number of quality jobs in the green sector across the country. We would have liked to see the ban on fossil fueled heating in 2024 apply to replacing existing systems, not just heating in new buildings.”

Scottish National Investment Bank
“The Scottish Government has said the primary mission of the Scottish National Investment Bank will be to ensure the transition to a net zero economy, but this is not reflected in its founding legislation, and no such commitment was forthcoming today. The Scottish Government must support amendments to the Bank Bill that will make sure that this climate change goal is at its heart. It is shocking that, as it stands, there is no prohibition on the Bank lending to fossil fuel companies or those whose activities will explicitly worsen the climate emergency.”

“We are hugely concerned that Carbon Capture and Storage has been highlighted as an initial focus for the Bank.”

Circular Economy Bill
“It is great that the Circular Economy Bill is finally confirmed but parliamentary time is short and the Programme focuses on traditional waste issues rather than fundamental change in how we use resources. This needs to change, with a strong target for reducing overall resource use.”

Carbon Capture and Storage support
“Carbon Capture and Storage is a dangerous distraction from the critical task of ending our use of fossil fuels. The false solution of CCS gives oil and gas companies the excuse they need to keep on drilling, fracking and burning, claiming this silver bullet technology is just around the corner.”

“The Climate Emergency means we have no time to waste with the pipe dreams of having a sustainable oil industry just by adding on some CCS.”

“Building an entire new hydrogen network in Scotland would support continuing fossil fuel use. The Scottish Government should focus on improving accessible, affordable public transport networks and domestic heating powered by renewable electricity – not by new fuels made from fossil fuels.”


Scotland’s 2019/2020 Programme for Government https://www.gov.scot/publications/protecting-scotlands-future-governments-programme-scotland-2019-20/

Friends of the Earth Scotland produced a suite of policy ideas to bring down climate emissions in the next decade ahead of today’s Programme for Government https://foe.scot/press-release/campaigners-call-radical-climate-programme-scottish-government/

Norway has a target for all flights under 1.5 hours to be made by electric aircraft by 2040 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/18/norway-aims-for-all-short-haul-flights-to-be-100-electric-by-2040

Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.