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ScottishPower offers to pay for pupils to see Gore film

Every schoolchild in Scotland is to be offered the chance to see former US vice-president Al Gore’s film about the dangers of global warming under a scheme by energy company ScottishPower.

The firm, a major windfarm developer which also runs the coal-fired Longannet power station, is prepared to commit “tens of thousands of pounds” to the project and is currently in negotiations with the Scottish Executive to secure its backing.

ScottishPower, which has also given copies of Mr Gore’s book of the same name, An Inconvenient Truth, to hundreds of its staff, plans to pay for cinema screenings for older children in primary schools and all secondary pupils. The firm is currently discussing with the Executive how pupils could be bussed to cinemas, and to cinema owners about times for screenings.

The idea came about after Stephen Dunn, the company’s director of human resources and communications, bought the book in the US while visiting a company owned by ScottishPower.

“On the way home, I picked up the book in a bookstore in Oregon. We flew right back to the UK and I basically read the entire book during the night on the flight,” he said.

“The thing that grabbed me about it was it’s actually quite a simple book, telling a simple story about the world and what we are doing to it and how we have the opportunity to improve it. That sort of very personal picture of what we are doing struck home with me. The film is equally powerful.

“We are working with the Scottish Executive to see if we can put together a funding package to get this film viewed by schoolchildren across Scotland.

“We are putting up the cost of the cinemas and the cost of getting the film and we’re just looking for a bit of support from the Executive.”

Mr Dunn said ScottishPower was also looking at biomass generators and wave power in addition to its windfarm programme in an attempt to reduce emissions and the impact of global warming.

“In helping get this film out to schoolchildren, we give them the opportunity to think about what we are doing to this Earth in a very simple way – kids take very complex things and make them very easy much better than adults can.”

David Eaglesham, general-secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said: “The film certainly puts across a view about how the environment could be affected in the coming years, and climate change is something that is already being looked at in many areas of the curriculum.”

Ronnie Smith, the general-secretary of the EIS teaching union, said that the film would have to be put in context.

“I entirely accept that the environmental issue is moving up the agenda, but I think it would be preferable that it was used as part of the curriculum, rather than taking an one-off, piece-meal approach,” he said.

James Douglas-Hamilton, the Scottish Conservative’s education spokesman, said he had not seen the film, but added he was in favour of the “principle of greater environmental awareness, provided it is objectively done”.

A Scottish Executive spokesperson said:

“We are aware of the film proposal from ScottishPower and are currently considering this.”

By Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent