By Francis Stewart, published in Bella Caledonia 23rd April 2021
Our strategy to tackle climate change could line the pockets of the rich or it could benefit the majority. It’s all about political choices – including the choice about Scotland’s constitutional future.
Last week it was announced that 290 renewable energy jobs will be created in Methil following the winning of a contract by Harland and Wolff to build eight jackets for the NNG offshore wind farm.
It follows years of campaigning by workers in Fife and the Western Isles who refused to give up as, time after time, hurdles were thrown in their path. The contract provides some hope that there can be a future for the renewables yards formerly owned by Bifab, as well as the wider supply chain.
But the path ahead won’t be easy. The latest ONS figures show that employment in Scotland’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy is falling.
If we are to reverse this decline, we need a fundamentally different approach. The next Scottish Government must take a much more active role – through an industrial strategy for a just transition, significant investment, and far greater levels of public ownership.
Such an approach could create 367,000 green jobs according to a new report by the Scottish Trades Union Congress. However, the report warns that poor policy choices could see less than 131,000 jobs being created.
Written by Transition Economics, ‘Green Jobs In Scotland’, looks at how energy, buildings, transport, manufacturing, waste, agriculture and land-use need to be decarbonised, and sets out how Scotland can maximise green job creation, as well as fair work and effective worker voice in these jobs. It estimates the following job potential:
• Energy: The transition to zero-carbon energy could see 30,000 – 95,000 jobs created over 15+years. However, this will require a national energy generation company, local content rules, and upgrades to ports and manufacturing sites. Without policies like this we could see less than 16,000.
• Buildings: Decarbonising buildings & broadband could see 61,000 – 136,000 jobs created over 10+years, plus a further 22,000 – 37,000 jobs over 3 years in building new social housing. This area holds the greatest potential for job creation but requires billions of investment – including in a street-by-street retrofitting programme run directly by Local Authorities.
• Transport: Upgrading and expanding transport could see 26,000 – 60,000 jobs over 10+ years with a further 11,000-13,000 ongoing jobs in operations. However, this will require significant investment in municipally run electric buses, railways, shipping, cycling and walking infrastructure.
• Manufacturing and Industry: Heavy industry is particularly hard to decarbonise but 5,000 – 9,000 jobs could be created in steel, CCS and re-manufacturing, while existing employment numbers in chemicals and refining could be protected. However, even achieving these numbers will require investment in plant conversions and an industrial strategy to promote domestic manufacturing.
• Waste: The circular economy and waste management could provide 17,000 – 23,500 jobs. But this needs policies to boost recycling capacity, improve waste collection, scale up the deposit and return scheme, develop tool libraries, expand reverse logistics services, and expand remanufacturing.
• Land-Use and Agriculture: Greening land-use and agriculture could create 17,000 – 43,000 jobs over 12+ years. But this requires significant investment in reforestation and rewilding, alongside support for local organic farming and stronger enforcement of labour standards in Scottish agriculture.
The recommendations in the report span UK, Scottish and Local Government, with the scale of public investment required in the hundreds of billions of pounds – far exceeding what the Scottish Government alone can access under the current financial settlement.
That poses a constitutional challenge.
For those who support the union: how do you raise billions of pounds to decarbonise and create green jobs under a Tory Government?
For those who support independence: how do you raise the required finance under the SNP’s Growth Commission proposals?
At its annual Congress this week the STUC re-affirmed its historical position that the Scottish people have the right to self-determination and that the power to hold a second referendum should rest with the Scottish Parliament. But while making clear its support for self-determination, the STUC warned against the Tory status quo and the Growth Commission’s model of independence, instead focusing on a People’s Recovery with an industrial strategy and public investment at its core.
Ahead of the election in May, and in the weeks and months after it, we need our politicians to set out how they will raise the vast sums of money needed to decarbonise Scotland’s economy and create good quality green jobs.
Rather than lining the pockets of the rich, a just transition to a low-carbon economy could benefit the majority of working people. But such a transition requires radical policy change and clear answers to longstanding constitutional questions.