First carbon target missed

Posted on July 17, 2012

As shown in yesterday’s emissions figures, the Scottish Government has missed the first carbon target under the Scottish Climate Change Act, and Scottish Ministers’ inaction on homes is a big part of the problem.

The Greens laid out serious plans to insulate every home during budget negotiations in 2008, and yet the Scottish Government only agreed last month to finally launch a National Retrofit Programme for homes.

The Government are blaming this failure on the cold winter, but they simply can’t get away with expressing shock that Scotland has cold winters some years; this failure of Government policy can’t be pinned on bad weather when they have delayed year after year the national, street-by-street effort we need to insulate Scotland’s leaky homes. Cutting energy bills and carbon emissions at the same time should be a no-brainer.

These figures highlight our damaging reliance on coal and gas, and the need for a plan to phase out fossil fuel use alongside the growth in renewables. We need a clear timetable set for taking fossil fuels out of the system, but the SNP are still intent on extracting every last bit they can find.

Last night I debated these issues on Newsnight Scotland – here’s the clip with Gordon Brewer introducing, Stewart Stevenson defending the Government’s record, and then me responding:

Scotland’s transport emissions will grow in importance over coming years. They remain higher now than before climate change was even accepted by most political parties, and the SNP’s failure to show the slightest interest in making sustainable transport work for people is the biggest single threat to future progress toward the climate targets. It’s clear that a transformation of our transport system is needed but there is a serious lack of leadership at cabinet level. Far too often, the junior minister is dispatched to fend off frustrated bus users and cyclists while the cabinet secretary takes the stage to announce new road spending or support for aviation. The next climate change plan must mark a bold shift in transport thinking or there is little hope of meeting the targets and Scotland’s self-promoted status as a climate leader will unravel within a few years.

Buses debated at Holyrood

Posted on April 19, 2012

This morning’s debate on bus services was very heated, perhaps predictably given how close the local elections are. But there was recognition across the chamber that bus services in Scotland aren’t good enough. Labour and the SNP of course loudly blamed each other, but I tried to bring in some of the voices of bus passengers and their comments on the betterbuses website.

You can see my opening speech if you skip forward to 00:31:28.

And here are the motions and amendments:

S4M-02639 Elaine Murray: Transport—

That the Parliament notes the concerns expressed by bus service operators, passengers and the trade unions that represent bus workers regarding the impact of the Scottish Government’s changes to the Bus Service Operators Grant; notes that the Scottish Government’s decision to cut the grant by 17% in 2012-13 and to revise the formula has, along with the underfunding of the concessionary travel scheme and high fuel costs, resulted in fare increases and service reductions across the country; recognises that this has also contributed to the decision by First Scotland East to reduce dramatically its services in Lothian and Midlothian, with the potential loss of around 200 jobs; believes that the Scottish Government has failed to listen to the concerns of operators, bus service workers and passengers; urges ministers to take action to address the immediate problems of the industry, including urgently revisiting the 17% cut in the Bus Service Operators Grant, and instead begin proper negotiations with operators to ensure that the scheme is sustained at a level that does not threaten services, jobs and high fare increases, and believes that new legislation is required to enable the regulation of bus services in Scotland to ensure sustainable and reliable bus services throughout the country.

S4M-02639.3 Keith Brown: Transport—
As an amendment to motion S4M-02639 in the name of Elaine Murray (Transport), leave out from first “concerns” to end and insert:

“total funding of nearly £250 million per year provided to Scotland’s buses as part of total Scottish Government support for public transport of £1.181 billion; welcomes the Scottish Government’s continuing commitment to the national concessionary travel scheme and Bus Service Operators Grant; welcomes the inclusion in these schemes of demand-responsive transport services available to the general public, such as dial-a-bus; welcomes the Scottish Government’s additional funding of up to £40 million for Glasgow Fastlink, £6 million for low-carbon buses and up to £10 million for Halbeath Park and Ride; welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to innovative solutions such as hard-shoulder running on the M77 and the new £3 million Bus Investment Fund; welcomes its ongoing financial support for passenger-focussed organisations such as Bus Users UK, the Community Transport Association and Traveline Scotland; notes the role of local government in supporting local bus services, previously through the Bus Route Development Grant, which is now incorporated in the general funding of local government; recognises that the per capita subsidy for bus services in Scotland is significantly higher than in England; welcomes the constructive dialogue initiated in the Bus Stakeholder Group and in the Lothians over the future of bus services; notes that First Bus states that fuel prices and economic conditions over a number of years are contributing to its increased costs; notes that the price of diesel has increased by 57% over the last five years and the price of petrol by 55%; further notes that fuel duty in the UK is the highest in the EU, and therefore calls on the UK Government to ease the pressure on all forms of transport by introducing a fuel duty regulator to stabilise fuel costs for all forms of transport and to scrap plans to increase fuel duty in August.”

S4M-02639.1 Jim Hume: Transport—
As an amendment to motion S4M-02639 in the name of Elaine Murray (Transport), leave out from “has, along with the underfunding” to end and insert:

“was arrived at without any formal consultation with bus operators or users, with bus operators given inadequate time to adjust their businesses to the formula change and has, along with the underfunding of the concessionary travel scheme and high fuel costs, resulted in fare increases and service reductions across the country; recognises that this has also contributed to the decision by First Scotland East to reduce dramatically its services in Lothian and Midlothian, with the potential loss of around 200 jobs; believes that the Scottish Government has failed to listen to the concerns of operators, bus service workers and passengers, and urges ministers to take action to address the immediate problems of the industry, undertake proper consultation with operators and users and use extra money available to Scotland, following the UK Budget, to prioritise and safeguard bus services and guard against high fare increases.”

S4M-02639.4 Patrick Harvie: Transport—
As an amendment to motion S4M-02639 in the name of Elaine Murray (Transport), leave out from second “notes” to end and insert:

“believes that successive Scottish administrations have failed both to provide the level of financial support necessary to maintain high quality and affordable bus transport in all communities and to adequately regulate the industry to ensure value for taxpayers’ money; recognises that bus fares in many parts of Scotland are now less affordable than train fares and even taxis in some circumstances; considers that fuel prices are likely to continue to rise and that this will create a greater need for high quality and affordable public transport as an alternative to private car use; notes the lack of any statutory body protecting the interests of bus passengers; believes that bus users’ voices are not being adequately heard in the debate on bus transport; encourages bus passengers to publish their views through the http://betterbuses.org website; calls on the Scottish Government to reverse the cut in the Bus Service Operators Grant, ensure that overall public spending on bus services is adequate to protect services, jobs and fares and extend the remit of Passenger Focus in Scotland to bus users, and believes that new legislation is required to enable the regulation of bus services in Scotland to ensure sustainable and reliable bus services throughout the country.”

Climate change on Newsnight Scotland

Posted on April 11, 2012

Last night’s edition of Newsnight Scotland focused on climate change, following James Hansen’s appearance at the Edinburgh Science festival to receive the Edinburgh Medal.

Following a profile of Dr Hansen, I took part in a studio discussion with Chris Goodall.

Scotland Tonight

Posted on April 1, 2012

Though the threat of a strike by fuel tanker drivers is receding for now, the UK Government’s mishandling of recent events has been widely condemned. But the longer term issues for a society that’s still fatally dependent on fossil fuel are still worth considering. I discussed these on Thursday’s edition of Scotland Tonight, alongside Alan Douglas and Alex Johnstone MSP.

The referendum debate picks up pace

Posted on January 14, 2012

The week has been dominated by the issue of the independence referendum, and the UK Government’s
[a] crass attempt to intervene and pull strings.
[b] proposals for a fair, decisive and legal vote.
(delete as applicable)

On Thursday, the matter came to the Holyrood chamber, with a debate opened by Johann Lamont, entitled Scotland’s Future. Here’s my contribution to the debate:

…and a discussion in the Newsnight Scotland studio the same evening:

Newsnight Scotland on carbon capture

Posted on October 7, 2011

Last night Newsnight Scotland discussed the possible collapse of Scottish Power’s project to develop carbon capture and storage technology at Longannet, which the Guardian reported earlier in the day.

Newsnight invited me to discuss it with Professor Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University.

We’ve always been willing to support research into CCS technology, but I’ve been consistently challenging the Scottish Government not to approve new fossil-fuel power stations on the assumption that CCS can be fitted later. It’s a speculative technology, and if it pays off one day it could play a huge role. But till then the focus needs to be on cutting our energy demand, and generating as much as we can from renewables.

Face to Face interview

Posted on April 20, 2011

This week I took part in STV’s series of 30 minute election interviews, perhaps the most detailed grilling that Alex, Iain, Annabel, Tavish and I have undergone during the campaign so far.

Face to Face

NEWS RELEASE – Community campaigners star in Green broadcast

Posted on April 10, 2011

The Scottish Green Party have today launched their party election broadcast for the 2011 Holyrood poll on Facebook and Twitter, 24 hours before its first airing on Monday. The film, entitled ‘Because’, features party supporters and members who share the Greens’ vision for Scotland, as well local campaigners telling how Greens have supported their efforts to protect their homes, community hospitals, local schools and green spaces.

The film features 26 speakers from across the Scottish regions, including former BBC Scotland correspondent Louise Batchelor, land rights campaigner Andy Wightman, artist David Shrigley, and Michael Forbes, who was threatened with eviction by Donald Trump. The broadcast also features music by Edinburgh band White Heath from their forthcoming debut album “Take No Thought For Tomorrow”.

Patrick Harvie said:

“During the last Parliament we worked with community campaigns across Scotland, from the North Kelvin Meadow group in Glasgow to the Menie residents threatened with eviction by Donald Trump. Greens supported local hospital campaigners, fought to keep schools open, and worked to protect the green spaces communities rely on. We could not be more pleased to see so many people prepared to come out now and say why they in turn are giving their second vote to the Greens in May.”

The broadcast is available on Vimeo and on YouTube.

It will be aired first on April 11 at the following times: BBC 1 at 22.35, BBC 2 at 23.30 and STV at 22.40. The radio version is on BBC Radio Scotland at 15:55.

The film was directed, shot and edited by Simon Hipkins and James Alcock from Macmillan Media.

The 26 people featured in the Scottish Greens’ party election broadcast are, in order of appearance:

1. Merle Ferguson, from Ardentinny
2. Elanor Gordon, from Invergordon, filmed in Stirling
3. Rob Kay, from Kilsyth, Green list candidate for Central region
4. Marij van Helmond, Dunoon
5. Emily Freeman, Edinburgh
6. Idem Lewis, Glasgow
7. Anne Widdop, director of a small company in Edinburgh
8. Andy Wightman, land rights campaigner and land value tax expert
9. Douglas Peacock, North Kelvin Meadow campaign, Glasgow
10. Helen Houston, Moffat
11. Michael Forbes, threatened with eviction for Donald Trump’s development at Menie, Aberdeenshire
12. Dorothy Bothwell, Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen
13. Kim Suprajirawatananon, Glasgow
14. Dominic Hinde, Edinburgh
15. Gordon Cowtan, Fintry
16. Louise Batchelor, former BBC Scotland environment correspondent, Kinross
17. Uzma Tufail-Hanif, Edinburgh
18. Veronika Tudhope, postal worker and active in CWU, Green list candidate for Central region, Kilmarnock
19. Jim Evans-Ewing, Glasgow
20. David Shrigley, Glasgow artist
21. Callum Whiteford, Edinburgh
22. Simon Hackin, founder of Greenworks, an Edinburgh wood reuse and recycling enterprise
23. Sarah Holliday, from Tiree, filmed in Edinburgh
24. Graeme Holbrook, Moffat
25. Jack Hunter, Edinburgh
26. Emma Pattinson, Edinburgh
27. Dominic Hinde (again)
28. Kim Suprajirawatananon (again)
29. Jim Evans-Ewing (again)

The track featured is “Sunday In Fragments”. For more on White Heath, visit them on Myspace.

The Scottish Green Party’s three key election campaign pledges are as follows:

- No fees – keep tuition free
Education benefits us all, not just students, and must be based on the ability to learn, not to pay.

- Fairer taxes – invest in public services
Only Greens are offering an alternative to the cuts to public services: investment built on revenue from big business and the better off.

- Cut your bills – insulate every home
We would insulate every home for free, boost jobs and tackle climate change.

Newsnight Scotland interview

Posted on January 19, 2011

This month Newsnight Scotland has been asking each of the main party leaders into the studio in turn, for a one-to-one interview looking ahead to the Holyrood election. Tonight, it was my turn!

End of Life Assistance Bill

Posted on December 14, 2010

A little delayed, but here is my speech in the Stage 1 debate on Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assitance Bill which took place on December 1st.

I was disappointed that there were only sixteen votes in favour, but I don’t think that this will be the last time Parliament debates proposals to allow people to make their own choices as they face the end of life. Margo is due huge credit for working hard to develop proposals and bring them for debate.