The Scottish Government has been accused of failing to deliver a fair and green transition to a net-zero economy by an advisory group and opposition parties. The Just Transition Commission, which was set up in 2019 to provide independent advice on how to achieve a just transition, published its final report in March 2023. The report made 24 recommendations on how to ensure that no one is left behind as Scotland moves away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.
Just Transition Plan lacks detail and ambition
One of the main recommendations of the report was for the Scottish Government to produce a Just Transition Plan for every sector and region of the economy, outlining the actions, investments, and support needed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. The Scottish Government published its draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan in September 2023, ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. However, the plan was criticised by the Just Transition Commission and other stakeholders for being vague, incomplete, and lacking in ambition.
The Commission said that the plan did not provide enough detail on how the transition would be funded, monitored, and evaluated, and how the costs and benefits would be distributed across society. It also said that the plan did not address the specific challenges and opportunities faced by different sectors and regions, such as the oil and gas industry in the north-east, the agriculture and forestry sector in the rural areas, and the transport and buildings sector in the urban areas. The Commission urged the Scottish Government to revise the plan and provide more clarity and specificity on its objectives, targets, and timelines.
The plan was also slammed by the opposition parties, who accused the Scottish Government of being too slow and timid in its approach to the transition. The Scottish Conservatives said that the plan lacked a science and evidence-based approach, and that it failed to address the global dimension of the climate crisis. They also said that the plan did not recognise the importance of collaboration with the UK Government and other devolved nations, and that it did not support the circular economy and the deposit return scheme. The Scottish Labour said that the plan did not reflect the urgency and scale of the challenge, and that it did not provide enough support and protection for workers, communities, and businesses affected by the transition. They also said that the plan did not tackle the issues of poverty, inequality, and social justice, and that it did not involve enough engagement and participation from the stakeholders.
Scottish Government defends its vision and commitment
The Scottish Government defended its draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, saying that it was an initial response to the Just Transition Commission’s report, and that it would be revised and updated based on feedback and consultation. The Scottish Government said that the plan set out a long-term vision and a framework for a just transition, and that it demonstrated its global leadership and ambition in tackling the climate crisis. The Scottish Government also said that the plan recognised the diverse and complex nature of the transition, and that it aimed to maximise the economic and social opportunities of the net-zero economy.
The Scottish Government highlighted some of the actions and investments that it had already taken or planned to take to support the transition, such as:
- Providing £500 million for the North East Transition Fund, to help the oil and gas sector and its supply chain diversify and decarbonise.
- Establishing a National Transition Training Fund, to help workers in carbon-intensive sectors access skills training and education for green jobs.
- Investing £1.6 billion in energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation, to help reduce fuel poverty and emissions from buildings.
- Supporting the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies, such as offshore wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage.
- Enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity, through initiatives such as the Scottish Forestry Strategy, the Peatland Action Programme, and the Blue Economy Action Plan.
- Improving the transport and infrastructure system, through measures such as the Active Travel Programme, the Bus Partnership Fund, and the Low Emission Zones.
The Scottish Government also said that it was committed to co-designing and co-delivering the transition with the stakeholders, including workers, trade unions, businesses, communities, and civil society. It said that it would establish a second Just Transition Commission, to provide ongoing scrutiny and advice on the implementation and monitoring of the transition. It also said that it would produce sectoral and regional Just Transition Plans, to address the specific needs and opportunities of different parts of the economy and society.
The way forward for a fairer, greener Scotland
The transition to a net-zero economy is a complex and challenging process, that requires vision, leadership, and collaboration from all levels of government and society. It also requires a just and fair approach, that ensures that no one is left behind, and that the costs and benefits are shared equitably. The Scottish Government has set out its draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, as a first step towards achieving this goal. However, the plan has been met with criticism and scepticism from the Just Transition Commission and the opposition parties, who have called for more detail, ambition, and action. The Scottish Government has said that it will revise and improve the plan, based on feedback and consultation. The next steps for the Scottish Government are to:
- Finalise and publish the revised Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, with clear and specific objectives, targets, and timelines.
- Establish the second Just Transition Commission, and appoint its members and chair.
- Produce and publish the sectoral and regional Just Transition Plans, in collaboration with the stakeholders.
- Implement and monitor the actions and investments outlined in the plans, and report on the progress and outcomes.
- Engage and communicate with the public and the media, to raise awareness and support for the transition.
The transition to a net-zero economy is an opportunity for Scotland to create a fairer, greener, and more prosperous future for all. However, it also requires a collective effort and responsibility from all sectors and segments of society. The Scottish Government has a key role to play in leading and facilitating the transition, but it cannot do it alone. It needs the cooperation and contribution of the UK Government, the other devolved nations, the local authorities, the businesses, the workers, the trade unions, the communities, the civil society, and the individuals. Together, they can make Scotland a net-zero nation that is fair for all.