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Climate Unions push SNP and Greens for public ownership commitments

Pre-Cop26 event asserts that greater nationalisation is crucial if a 'real just transition' is to be achieved

Scotland editor

UNION leaders criticised the lack of urgent commitments from the SNP government on public ownership at a major climate conference yesterday.

Delegates from across the world gathered online for the Climate, Jobs, Justice event, hosted by the Just Transition Partnership, to analyse efforts ahead of Glasgow’s Cop26 this November. 

The partnership hosted Scottish trade unionists, activists and academics to assess the current efforts being made towards a just transition north of the border. 

Conference chair, Unison Scotland’s Stephen Smellie, said the appointment of Green ministers could mean some progress in Holyrood.

Mr Smellie said: “We are very aware in Scotland of the transition which needs to come. But that transition needs to be just. 

“Those of us in Scotland had our bubble burst to a certain extent when Greta Thunberg told us we were not world leaders in climate change — though many of us already knew that.”

Concerns were also raised about the lack of reference to a publicly owned energy or construction company, regulation of buses, or wider questions of ownership as part of the recent joint policy platform outlined by the Scottish government. 

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer called for workers’ control over industry to be put back on the agenda, warning that Scotland’s history of deindustrialisation means many remain sceptical of intervention.

“If the trade union movement is to be more green in its thinking, we also need Greens to be more red,” she said.

“But while the policy platform agreed contains welcome gains, it fails to deal with fundamental questions on ownership that are crucial to achieving a real just transition.

“These issues are not only crucial to tackling climate change, but are critical to meeting the material needs of working-class people and these need to be at the heart of any serious government action aimed at tackling inequality and climate change.”

Ms Foyer said that the Scottish government must take back control of the bus network, climate-proof homes and democratise ownership in energy industries ahead of Cop26.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Ryan Morrison told delegates that the government was co-opting the language of a just transition, and would be lobbied by private interests to ensure this amounts to little more than business as usual. 

He warned that it was down to the climate and trade union movements to define what a just transition is, calling for a wide-reaching campaign.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “A just transition within the energy sector is critical and the redeployment and, where necessary, retraining of workers will be key to ensuring a just transition over the next decade.

“We are working collaboratively with the industry, trade bodies and unions to ensure the right skills and training are in place to protect and create jobs as we become a net-zero economy.”

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