By Cameron Archibald
You know that moment when you meet someone new and you realise you have a lot in common? It’s a great feeling when you discover there are others out there who share the same passions and ideas as you do. It’s even better when you begin to learn new things from each other that perhaps you weren’t aware of before. Yet when it comes to the two biggest national debates in Scotland there are two campaigns that don’t seem to realise how much they have in common.
On one side we have the Scottish independence movement taking on the chaos of Westminster and Brexit, whilst on the other side we have the incredible Scottish climate youth movement fighting to save the planet’s sustainability. Both these movements have almost the exact same goals; fighting social and economic inequalities in a fashion which reverses the climate crisis created by neoliberalism.
The independence movement has struggled to discuss the issue of climate change, largely because activists see it as a different discussion. But reality tells it differently. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that we only have 12 years to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Failure to address this problem means the world faces a wave of extreme heats, drought, poverty and floods. Achieving independence will mean almost nothing if our children and grandchildren are living in a world that’s ruined from climate catastrophe.
The Scottish climate youth movement has successfully got the attention of politicians, but Scotland’s economic and political barriers still exist because of Westminster. Almost a decade of austerity from the Conservatives has harmed Scotland’s renewable sector, including a £1 billion cut to the carbon capture plan in Peterhead that ultimately ruined the project. The Conservatives also voted to stop grants for new onshore wind turbines back in 2017, which the Green Alliance predicts would lead to a 95% decline in investment by next year. How can Scotland fight climate change if it is at the mercy of right-wing governments it never voted for? How can we create a green economy when Westminster holds most of our macroeconomic levers?
Both campaigns also have incredible resources. Tens of thousands of young people have taken to the streets to make clear they’re no longer tolerating complacency by those in power. It is the same kind of political energy you find at independence marches, also attended by tens of thousands of people. Combining these resources together would create an unstoppable grassroots campaign.
So what could that campaign look like?
One package that both campaigns have taken a liking to is the Scottish Green New Deal. It’s a long-term plan put together by many progressive experts to completely reshape our society today. First, it is a complete reversal of austerity. Scotland needs to invest heavily to kick start a new independent economy and build green projects. A good start would be removing old polluting public transport and instead reinvest in technology that helps create a zero carbon industry. This also means more solar panels, retrofitting coastal infrastructure and producing more electric cars. Investment can also go to reforestation and developing local food markets, meaning less reliance in imports.
Second, the levers to run our economy must be given to normal people. Policies such as the voluntary Job Guarantee allows communities to decide what jobs would best benefit local people, whilst offering a living wage and a healthy working environment. What if local communities wanted to build a local windfarm? What if communities wanted to retrofit renewable heating into their homes and public centres? Scotland has surplus labour and resources to turn this into a reality, which in turns strengthens our democracy.
Third, we must hold other big private polluters to account. The Carbon Majors report found that since 1988 just 100 companies have been responsible 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore they have a serious responsibility on their shoulders, especially when it comes to decommissioning infrastructure in the North Sea. Other actions include manufacturers moving away from the use of plastic, finding alternative means of transporting goods across the globe and even offering company lunches to staff sourced largely from plant-based foods. New climate models and technology also allows governments to put a carbon limit on private corporations.
Unionists and the political right will try to scaremonger about the cost of a Scottish Green New Deal, without realising that the cost of not implementing it will be astronomical. But history has shown us that massive social and economic change usually puts cost near the bottom of priorities. The creation of the National Health Service, the welfare state and new towns after the Second World War prioritised people over profit. In the 2008 financial crisis world governments seemed to magically find money to support their friends in the financial sector. If Central Banks can dump $17 trillion into the global money supply from 2008 to 2018 then there is no reason that an independent Scotland, and the rest of the world, could not finance a Green New Deal.
Scotland cannot change the world alone, but we certainly can be a leading example for others to follow. A green economy for people must be run by people. Only then can we all lift together.