SUSTAINABILITY

Interview with Nicola Sturgeon

September 24, 2019

IMAGE: Scottish Government

Nicola Sturgeon has had strong political opinions from a young age. In her teens, she joined CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and after watching Labour MPs unsuccessfully try to defeat unpopular Tory policies in Scotland, she joined the SNP at 16, convinced that Scotland could only prosper through independence.

 

She was Scotland’s youngest candidate in the 1992 Westminster election. However, her first victory wasn’t until 1999, when she was elected as Glasgow’s MSP.

 

After the party formed a minority government in 2009, she served as Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and Health Secretary and drafted the White Paper, ‘Scotland’s Future’, ahead of the independence referendum. Despite Scotland voting No to independence in September 2014, Nicola took up the challenge of party leader and was sworn in as Scotland’s First Minister on November 20th 2014, the first woman to hold the role. Less than a year later, she led her party to unprecedented victory in the general election, taking 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

 

Nicola appointed the first gender-balanced Cabinet in the UK, and her government is internationally recognised for its global responsibility, progressiveness and social conscience. Scotland’s Climate Change Bill aims for carbon neutrality by 2040.

 

In September, she announced measures including new targets for fossil fuel-free flights by 2040, carbon neutral rail services by 2035 and all new-build homes heated from renewable or low-carbon sources from 2024.

 

She made time in her busy schedule to tell us more about Scotland’s plans for a sustainable and post-Brexit future.

 

 

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Following school strikes earlier this year, Scotland has stepped up to the plate and declared a climate emergency, whilst you've gone on record to say that "Scotland will lead by example." Can you please tell us about some of the ways in which Scotland can serve as an exemplar in the fight against climate change?

 

Scotland is a world-leader in the fight against global warming, passing legislation to end our contribution to global climate change by 2045 – five years earlier than the rest of the UK. But we know that commitments like these have to be backed up with concrete actions.

 

That's why the Scottish Government has set out plans for a new Scottish Green Deal, with measures to reduce emissions, support sustainable growth, promote wellbeing and create a fairer society.

 

One key focus will be on greener transport. In September I announced an investment of over £500 million in bus infrastructure to reduce congestion on bus services, which is part of our efforts to provide more sustainable travel choices and reduce the numbers of cars on the roads.

 

I have also announced a new partnership with SP Energy Networks and Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks to deliver more electric vehicle charging points, where people are unable to make alternative transport choices. Over the next year we will provide a further £17 million in loans to help businesses and consumers to buy ultra-low emission vehicles, and in 2021 we will begin trials of low or zero emission flights.

 

These proposals, alongside policies for greener homes and energy use, are just a down payment on our efforts and in the coming year we will also publish an updated climate change plan setting out in detail how we will meet our targets.

 

Key to this is providing access to finance for companies with innovative ideas for tackling climate change. We are creating a Scottish National Investment Bank, which will invest at least £2 billion over ten years to ambitious companies and projects, with a primary mission of securing the transition to a net-zero economy.

 

The Scottish Government is pleased that Glasgow has been nominated as host city of the UN Climate Summit in 2020, and look forward to welcoming delegates from across the world to increase efforts in the fight against climate change.

 

The 2016 Referendum saw Scots overwhelmingly voting to remain in the European Union. Given the lamentable handling of the Brexit negotiations and the increasing likelihood of a no-deal scenario, what are the chances of Scotland becoming independent and gaining control over its own EU destiny?

 

Scotland didn't vote to leave the EU at all, so the increasing possibility that we face the most extreme version of Brexit, with the accompanying likelihood of food and medicine shortages, shows how important it is that Scots are able to have more of a say over their own future.

 

The Scottish Government intends to offer another independence referendum by 2021. A Referendums Bill is now before the Scottish Parliament, setting out the way in which any future referendum would be run.

 

We intend to seek a transfer of power from the UK Government to put beyond doubt or challenge our ability to apply the bill to an independence referendum. It would be contrary to basic democratic principles for the UK Government to attempt to block such a referendum.

 

We have also set up a Citizens' Assembly to create a space for members of the public to discuss ways of solving the biggest issues facing Scotland. This has been endorsed by Parliament, and my Government will set out how we intend to implement the recommendations of the Assembly within three months of it reporting.

 

While the UK Government pursues a damaging Brexit, Scotland is determined to remain an open and international country. We want to ensure that EU citizens living in Scotland know we want them to stay and that people from around the world are welcome to live, work, visit and study here. Our cultural festivals and music scene are thriving. Tourist destinations ranging from Edinburgh to the Highlands and Islands continue to draw visitors from around the world and our businesses are expanding on the global stage.

 

Scotland deserves the chance to choose a better, more hopeful future as an independent country. The Scottish Government is determined to offer it such a choice.

 

 

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