By Ben Wray, published in CommonSpace 29th August 2019
THE Scottish Greens published a set of measures for a Scottish Green New Deal last Thursday, arguing that Scotland needed an “interventionist state” if it is to rise to the challenge of the climate emergency.
The idea of a Green New Deal, based on the name given to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s massive state investment strategy which helped lift America out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, has attracted global attention over the past year, after being backed by US Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and high-profile congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as means to tackle inequality and address climate breakdown while modernising economic infrastructure.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said to the STUC conference in May that she also backed the idea, but the Greens are the first party in Scotland to publish a set of proposals under the Green New Deal (GND) rubric.
The paper argues for a multi-pronged approach to green public investment in Scotland, including increasing the share of infrastructure spend devoted to low-carbon projects from 31 per cent currently to 70 per cent; making GND the long-term purpose of the new Scottish National Investment Bank; making the City Region Deals fully aligned with GND priorities; and establishing a National Energy Company as “both a renewable energy supplier and generator.
The paper also backs the “Preston Model” of community-based economic development, where councils support the development of local co-operatives which maintain wealth in the local area.
“This kind of systemic change can improve a city’s sustainability and quality of life for its residents,” the paper states.
Other proposals in the Scottish Green New deal document include: the “entire” public sector estate is mobilised via procurement and land use programmes to support renewables development; a target to increase forest cover to 40 per cent, the EU average; establish a Union Engagement Fund which would help trade union representatives in the workplace support low-carbon transition; and a new funded programme of “deep-retrofits” which prioritises transforming the most energy inefficient houses to make them the highest energy efficiency rating.
Speaking at the launch of the Greens Scottish Green New Deal paper in Glasgow, the party’s co-leader Patrick Harvie insisted it wasn’t a manifesto, and that the ideas would be “fleshed out” ahead of the 2021 Scottish elections. He admitted that the proposals are at this stage not costed, but that they will have “a fully costed document” ahead of the Holyrood elections.
“But it’s not just about spending the money, it’s about what economy we want,” he added, pointing to the example of land value capture – a proposal which would allow public bodies to buy land at use value rather than market value – as a way in which policy changes can reduce the cost of a Scottish Green New Deal.
Harvie said the Scottish Green New Deal was “not just about how we invest in low-carbon, but how we build an economy for everyone”. He said the “public-sector and the power of the state played a critical role” in advancing the GND.
While the proposals are based on the powers the Scottish Parliament has currently, he said that a GND could help “develop the case for independence by using the powers we have now to set the agenda for the sort of independent Scotland we want”.
Harvie described the UN Climate Summit, which looks likely to come to Glasgow next November, as an “incredible opportunity” to push an ambitious climate change agenda in Glasgow and Scotland.
You can read more about the Green Deal on the Common Space website