New wind farms will be approved much faster under plans revealed by Humza Yousaf to try to accelerate the end of Scotland’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Despite promising to take firm action on climate change, the first minister was criticised by environmental groups for an “underwhelming” set of policies.
The cornerstone of the green pledges in Yousaf’s programme for government committed to agree a deal with industry that would “halve the consenting time” for new large-scale projects.
Previous analysis by Brodies, the legal firm, found that the average time for a determination on such developments, which can prove controversial in some local communities, was three years.
The announcement came as Rishi Sunak agreed to relax a ban for onshore wind farms in England as the prime minister moved to head off a looming Commons defeat.
Yousaf has previously said that he was prepared to “pick a side” even if that meant making unpopular decisions in a bid to stem climate change.
He said there was “an overwhelming moral imperative” to shift to renewable energy, which in turn would create “enormous economic opportunity” for Scotland.
Both the SNP and Labour have promised to create thousands of jobs to replace the current oil and gas positions that are key to the economy of the northeast of Scotland.
“The terrifying impacts of climate change are not something to worry about in the distant future – they are here today,” Yousaf said.
“In that context, some of the actions of the Westminster parties over this summer – the UK government’s reluctance to support onshore wind, its commitment to more than 100 new oil and gas licences, and Labour’s U-turn on low emission zones – are as baffling as they are dangerous.
“The Scottish government will take a responsible approach and show leadership. Tackling the climate crisis will be hard, but in the long run, doing nothing – or acting far too slowly – is the more expensive choice.
“It is a choice that will see far more lives lost on our planet. And it’s a choice for which we would rightly never be forgiven, by our children and grandchildren.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland said that “warm words won’t stop a warming planet” in a highly critical intervention on Yousaf’s environmental plans. The Scottish Greens are currently in a coalition government with the SNP.
Caroline Rance, a climate and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is an underwhelming programme for more of the same when what is needed a radical change that can speed Scotland away from the damage being wrought by fossil fuel companies.
“The first minister talked a good game about the importance of climate action and a just transition to net zero, but warm words won’t stop a warming planet.”
She said that the plans to speed up onshore wind farm approvals was positive but warned ministers not to plough ahead with sites that are not “environmentally appropriate”.
Mike Robinson, of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said the programme for government “offered few, if any, new measures to deliver emissions reductions”.
“In the context of Scotland missing annual targets in eight of the past 12 years, and the Committee on Climate Change advising that the integrity of the Scottish climate framework is now at risk, this is deeply disappointing and a missed opportunity,” he added.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding