This Thursday, MSPs will spend their final hours of the 2013 parliamentary calendar debating the draft Scottish Budget for 2014-15 before Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP presents it to the Parliament in the New Year.
The Parliament’s Finance committee, charged with scrutinising the Draft Budget, noted that a “renewed effort is required by the Scottish Government, in terms of both policy and finance’ if climate targets are to be met.” I agree.
It is vital to ensure Government spending plans underpin, not undermine, Scotland’s climate change commitments. Yet we look back at a record of two missed targets under the Climate Change Act and minimal progress on reducing emissions in our transport and housing sectors.
For me, government budgets have always been a test of the priority and urgency with which politicians demonstrate their commitment to a low carbon economy.
What good is a climate change plan to transform the entire economy to one on a more sustainable footing, without the resources to do so? Since the passing of the Climate Change Act in 2009, Scottish Budgets have consistently provided inadequate support to enable this transformation.
So, the budget is an obvious place to start.
Just over a week ago, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement signaled an additional £308m in this financial year for the Scottish Government to spend on its priorities. This means that John Swinney has a little more room to listen to the Parliament’s recommendations and support his government’s priorities.
WWF Scotland is calling on Mr Swinney to channel more funding into one of the key priorities cited in his draft budget, to “accelerate the economic recovery while creating jobs and new opportunities, through the transition to a low carbon economy”. Specifically, we want him to come forward with a Budget Bill in the New Year that doubles current energy efficiency and active travel budgets to deliver meaningful progress on this agenda.
The Minister himself acknowledged to Parliament, that more needs to be done by the Scottish Government if the climate change targets are to be met.
I urge John Swinney to ensure his Budget Bill reflects that commitment.