COP26 has been the overwhelming news agenda this week and rightly so. There is no planet B. You can read more about my view in my Shetland Times column this week here. At the end of the week I joined other delegates virtually in a COP26 GLOBE Legislators’ Summit. It was important to hear from other elected representatives from across the world discuss how we reach our Net Zero targets and make a new future for the planet.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have long campaigned to protect our environment and embrace sustainable measures. In the short time since Alex Cole-Hamilton took over from Willie Rennie as leader our party has:
- Lodged an amendment to end Scottish Government support for Heathrow airport expansion which would generate 75,000 extra flights to Scotland by 2040, rejected by SNP and Conservative MSPs.
- Called for all new public sector vehicles to be electric, longer government-backed interest free loans to enable people to buy electric vehicles and a scheme to enable everyone to try out an electric car for a weekend funded by the government.
- A new railcard entitlement for everyone built on the model in London and the South East, meaning railcard prices for everyone, alongside an extra discount for those already entitled.
- Pressed the UK Government to reconsider axing the North East’s carbon capture and storage project, championed by the Liberal Democrats.
- Proposed a Fast Fashion Commission, to review Scotland’s role in “fast fashion” domestically and internationally, new textile waste monitoring and reporting, alongside textile waste reduction targets and new kerbside collection options for textile recycling, to reduce the volume of clothing bought and binned and help build the brilliant network of charity shops.
- Demanded that the long-delayed Circular Economy bill is resurrected and includes a latte levy and a new ban on single use plastics.
- Challenged the Scottish Government over missed emissions and heating targets, including the renewable heat target which has failed on the eve of COP26.
- Delivered a detailed plan to ensure that all new builds install climate-friendly heating systems and an upfront voucher scheme for homeowners who want to install these, as opposed to the current schemes for cashback systems or loans.
- Called for a fresh drive on insulation as a national strategic priority
- Proposed a new Climate Emergency Communities Fund to prepare and protect people across Scotland already being affected by extreme weather, following research by the Scottish Liberal Democrats which revealed that just 7 of the 42 flood protection schemes identified by SEPA for delivery between 2016 and 2021 had been finished.
- Set out proposals to establish a new Highlands and Islands Just Transition Commission, to take account of their specific needs and unique opportunities.
- Proposed linking Air Passenger Duty to how far and how regularly people fly after six years in which the only thing the SNP Government has changed is the name.
I was heartened to hear reports that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is 90% effective. By contrast Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust annual cervical screening stats show that those eligible and up to date with screening in Shetland fell to 79.2% from 80.1%. I urge everyone eligible to have their screening and keep up to date with it. It is good news that the HPV vaccine is so effective, but a screening could still save lives. Shetland is not alone in the fall in screening uptake. It is important that we reverse this trend.
NHS Shetland continues to be there for everyone and anyone who needs medical assistance. Next week Alex Cole-Hamilton will lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Long Covid. I plan to contribute too. I will also be attending the Parliament’s Covid recovery steering committee meeting next week, of which I am a member. In June I first called on Shetland residents suffering from Long Covid to contact NHS Shetland and myself to ensure island sufferers are able to get the assistance they need. You can contact me on Long Covid or any other matter I may be able to assist with on - [email protected] or phone: 01595 690 044.
You may have seen my campaign for a new hospital for Shetland. You can follow the campaign on my website and sign the petition here.
I met with the Faroese Representative to the UK this week for an informal discussion covering issues from post-Brexit settlements, to transport, to future cooperation. I look forward to our continuing dialogue.
I am also pleased to report that the Cross Party Group for Nordic Countries was officially reinstated this week. I led on reconvening the group and was chosen as Convenor. There is so much we can learn from our neighbours and it is my hope the group will showcase that.
And finally, next week will see COP26 negotiations conclude. I am hopeful we will see great cooperation from across the world and the serious consideration of all our futures taken into account. As one delegate put it this week, “humanity is at a crossroads”.