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by Neil Evans
26 September 2014
The grass is greener, honest

The grass is greener, honest

The revolution didn’t happen. The voters took a walk up to the line, but in the end didn’t step over it.

In the run-up to the referendum those who were concerned with environmental issues and willing to pin their colours to the mast appeared to be mainly from the Yes camp who saw opportunities in everything from the current differences in policy on nuclear power to the potential of sitting at the ‘top table’ on the world stage and raising issues like climate justice.

The fact that notable environment campaigners including the Scottish Greens backed a Yes would suggest that No has stunted their ambitions. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Even as part of the UK, Scotland is able to champion issues like cutting carbon emissions and fighting climate change and ministers from here should continue to be part of delegations to major conferences like the annual climate summits – particularly the vital event in Paris next year.

In the marine environment, RSPB Scotland has called for more planning controls on developments – something akin to the planning process onshore including the potential to launch public inquiries over issues like the installation of offshore wind turbines; however, while they may not be perfect, the confirmation this year of a network of Marine Protected Areas is setting an example to other countries across the world – not least the rest of the UK.

Fishing and farming are still areas where Westminster plays the lead role, but the environment is more or less completely devolved and the clamour for more powers has not been lost on the renewable energy sector.

Shortly after the referendum result was announced, Scottish Renewables called for a new joint Scottish and UK Government energy policy that would see a more open and accountable energy regulator; a commitment to island grid connections – vital for Orkney in particular where wave and tidal energy has been developed over the last 10 years into a serious contender as an energy source; and a coordination of support for Scotland’s world-leading marine energy sector from both governments. 

A much-used phrase in the independence debate has been how it has reinvigorated the political process and seen people engaging with politics more than ever before. The environment is an area which already has well-established and experienced campaigners, indeed for many it has been the doorway into the wider debate on social justice and then mainstream politics. These groups now have an opportunity to mobilise even greater support and find an even larger audience.

There is a great deal of negotiation to take place both before the General Election next May, the Scottish elections the year after and beyond, but Scotland has much to win.

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