Taking the Fight for St Fittick’s Park to Parliament
THURS, 12 JANUARY 2023 1.30pm
At the Scottish Parliament – Holyrood, Edinburgh
This post is a copy of the call from Aberdeen campaigners
Come and join people from Torry and the Friends of St Fitticks Park, outside the Scottish Parliament to demand the government uses its powers to stop the industrialisation of the last remaining accessible greenspace in Torry, Aberdeen.
Meet and hear directly from the people who will be most affected by the reckless plans. And the why destroying a thriving and much loved greenspace is not the answer for Aberdeen’s, or indeed Scotland’s energy transition.
Why are we at the Parliament?
Time is running out. The minister for Planning, Tom Arthur has until Monday 16th January to use his powers to direct Aberdeen City Council’s new development plan is changed to ensure St Fitticks Park is protected from an unjust corporate land grab in the name of energy transition. For more details visit here: https://saintfittickstorry.com
We need as many locals and friends of the park to demand the Scottish Government acts in the interest of people and not profit.
For those travelling from Aberdeen the Friends of St Fitticks Park will provide free coach travel for the day. Booking details will be released early in the new year, but you can provisionally book places by emailing FriendsofStFitticksPark@proton.me .
This post is a report of the Scot.E3 public meeting held on 24th October 2022. It includes videos from the meeting and links to resources and further information about the St Fitticks Campaign. Please share widely.
The meeting began with a contribution from Ishbel Shand from the Save St Fitticks Campaign
You can read a written version of Ishbel’s contribution here
Pete Cannell followed up with a short contribution on the North Sea oil and gas industry
The two speakers were followed by a wide ranging discussion which is summarised in the following account:
At the ScotE3 public meeting on 24th October “St.Fittick’s Park – Defeat the Oilogarchy” Ishbel Shand, on behalf of the Save St.Fittick’s Park campaign in Aberdeen, reminded us that nearly a century ago Antonio Gramsci, writing from a fascist prison cell, said “The old world is dying, the new is struggling to be born. We live in a time of monsters.” You can watch the whole of Ishbel’s speech about the history and current significance of St.Fittick’s Park on the YouTube link above. It’s a compelling story not to be missed.
Pete Cannell spoke next, on behalf of ScotE3. He emphasised in particular the catastrophic nature of the North Sea Transition Deal, agreed in March last year and flouted as the first agreement “between the government of a G7 country and its oil and gas production community”. Almost unbelievably this Deal has been signed up to by the Scottish Government and by the Unions which represent the oil and gas workers. More oil and gas, nuclear, and hydrogen for heating. This is a disaster for the climate – particularly in terms of investment. It’s what underpins the Cost of Living Crisis because energy prices would inevitably remain high – much higher than would be the case with renewable sources of energy. It would also be a disaster for jobs – preserving the status quo for jobs is the worst-case scenario, defying any chance of a just transition. You can watch Pete’s presentation on the second YouTube link.
We had hoped for a speaker from Climate Camp, who sited their annual camp this year in St.Fittick’s Park and illegally occupied the site of the old fishing and boat-building village of Torry, destroyed to make way for oil and gas industrialisation. Unfortunately no-one from Climate Campaign was available for this meeting, but their name was on the lips of many participants as a model of how to respect local communities rather than impose on them.
The bulk of the meeting was given to general discussion. Many good points were made, including:
The oil and gas industry has never brought anything positive to the Torry community
There is a parallel between the threatened industrialisation of St.Fittick’s with the Bo’ness road in Grangemouth, which physically divides the local community and threatens the health of that community with air pollution from traffic congestion.
There is also a parallel with the Buckie community’s fight to save the Slochy Wloods
The potential power of communities is huge when they come together to fight – for example the success last year, at enormous personal costs, of the Ujaama indigenous communities in securing land rights in Tanznia.
There is a fundamental democratic deficit which in general communities face.
There’s not just one unaccountable Goliath faced by the David of the Torry community but four – One North East, oil tycoon Ian Wood’s company which will control the development of an “Energy Transition Zone”; Aberdeen Harbour; Ironside Farrar, the environmental consultants tasked with drawing up a “master plan”; and Aberdeen City Council and its Local Development Plan.
Artists/musicians recently performed 45 minutes of songs and poetry at the new Arts Centre in Banchory
Films, short and long, have been made about St. Fittick’s.
University students are giving St. Fittick’s magnificent support
Those of us who don’t live in Aberdeen need to extend the Local actions of the Torry Community to National actions and solidarity across Scotland, through spreading the word far and wide about the threat to St. Fittick’s.
We all need too to take opportunities to spread the St. Fittick’s story internationally.
There’s a need for more radical change than just fighting for “renewables” – a term which can conceal negative elements – for example the jackets for off-shore turbines are plastic and the blades are steel.
The Cost of Living Crisis is fundamental in that it has the potential to mobilize nearly everyone.
The Scotland-wide COP 27 mobilisation is at 12noon on Saturday 12th November in Edinburgh. People from Aberdeen wanting to join this rally were encouraged to accept hospitality from those members of ScotE3 based in Edinburgh.
Yes, this is a time of monsters, but it’s also a time of jewels. St. Fittick’s Park itself is a jewel, as is the current response of the campaign to the threat of industrialising the Park.
The chair ended the meeting with this quote from Ishbel, which emphasises the often-neglected but fundamental significance of the Nature Crisis in all our current struggles:
We can choose to continue with the old dying world of exploitation of people and nature for short-term financial gain. Or we can choose to repair and nurture our damaged environment and learn to live within the constraints that nature imposes.
The film about Old Torry is particularly moving. The Aberdeen Social Centre have a complete collection of issues of the “Aberdeen People’s Press” from the period.. One Old Torry resident, with a compulsory purchase order on her home, laments that the same Council that wouldn’t allow her to put in new windows because of the historic importance of her house are now going to bull-doze it, because Shell want the land.
A link to Mike Downham’s post on St Fitticks on this site
Yesterday (6th April) the UK Government announced a new ‘British Energy Security Strategy’. The shape of the strategy isn’t a surprise with many of the elements being trailed in recent weeks. Put simply the strategy is a disaster. It’s a recipe for failing to meet UK greenhouse gas emission targets and ignores the recommendations of the IPCC report that was published earlier in the week (4th April).
This post is a first response, and we will share more detailed analysis in the weeks to come.
The government’s press release notes that the strategy involves an ‘ambitious, quicker expansion of nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, oil and gas, including delivering the equivalent to one nuclear reactor a year instead of one a decade.’
Note the ‘expansion of oil and gas’. The aim will be to accelerate the approval of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea and west of Shetland. Essentially, it’s a doubling down on the oil industries so called ‘North Sea Transition Deal’. The aim of the deal is to make the North Sea a ‘net-zero’ oil and gas basin by 2050 – but this can only happen if carbon capture and storage can be developed and introduced at large scale, which is as yet uncertain.
Hydrogen is part of the oil industry strategy – the aim of the transition deal is for hydrogen to replace North Sea gas in domestic and commercial heating systems – these currently account for more than 20% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy talks about hydrogen supplying around 10% of energy needs. What it doesn’t say is that producing hydrogen by splitting methane or water is an enormously inefficient process and so a very significant proportion of all the new electricity produced from nuclear, wind, solar and oil and gas will be needed to produce the hydrogen!
After a period of equivocating on nuclear power it’s now back at the centre of the strategy. No figures are given, but if we extrapolate from the cost of the current Hinkley C project the proposed developments will cost around £150 billion. The government refers to nuclear as clean and safe. It is neither. This blog has looked at the arguments about nuclear elsewhere. It’s a hugely expensive form of energy, high risk with long construction times and a history of cost overruns and serious and unresolved problems with radioactive waste.
The new strategy says nothing about reducing energy demand through insulating new buildings and retrofitting existing housing stock. Retrofitting the majority of UK housing is estimated to cost around £160 billion – this is roughly what the new nuclear programme will cost. So, it seems like their plan is to construct large scale nuclear plants whose output will then provide the energy that is lost through the walls and roofs of homes, office and factories.
The supposed rationale for the new strategy is energy security. Currently working people are paying the price for the super profits being earned by the oil and gas sector. Led by that sector the strategy opts for a future of high energy prices – continuing oil and gas and new nuclear. Renewable costs continue to decrease, nuclear energy costs continue to rise. Currently renewable electricity is 6 times cheaper than gas and the gap is even bigger between the cost of renewables and the cost of nuclear.
It will be interesting to hear the response from the Scottish Government. Until now Holyrood has been firmly signed up the North Sea Transition Deal and the oil industry agenda, but it has had a firm position of no new nuclear. Similarly, it is now crunch time for the trade unions who have advocated just transition while endorsing the Transition Deal Strategy. The argument at root has been over jobs. It has been the case for a long time now that large-scale investment in renewables creates far more jobs than the same investment in nuclear. Yesterday’s strategy announcement means in effect no transition and no justice. There is an ever more urgent need for the workers movement and the climate movement to work together in opposition to the new strategy (really just the old strategy with more investment in false solutions). Less than 24 hours after its release the strategy has been widely criticised but we will need to do more than oppose this latest attempt at preserving an unacceptable status quo and reject the North Sea transition deal in its entirety.
I suppose I just thought that campaigning amongst armament workers and on behalf of armament workers would be likely to be difficult in terms of how we might begin to “actually” impact global heating. I know that if we weren’t building all this military shit and jetting it all over the world and destroying humans and other productive forces with it, then we would avoid putting a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. It’s just that I’ve never considered that it was an issue that you might be able to intervene in quite the same way as I think we might be able to when it comes to oil and gas production.
The issue of oil and gas is looming ever larger in the consciousness of the climate movement. It’s way, way higher than it was when I discovered XR in 2019. When I took part in the London Rebellion it was hard to get a sensible conversation about oil and gas and the North Sea was a very nebulous “concept” for many. Look at the movement today with Stop Cambo. If reporting on mainstream media is anything to go by it’s beginning to exercise thoughts in layers way beyond just the activists and the scientists now. Interestingly the only people who dare not mention oil & gas is the COP. I don’t know if any of this is true about the military complex.
But I can see that from the perspective of jobs, and that’s how the discussion was framed, there’s pretty much no difference in making “demands” about just transitioning armaments workers and oil workers into renewables and other sustainable work.
But I can’t see how it would ever be likely to be more than just a “demand” in the case of armaments workers. In the case of oil workers I have, as you know, an idea that a mass intervention amongst oil workers is a crucial first step if we’re ever going to get to the point where we try to choke off oil and gas production – the absolute first and crucial necessity of a movement that has any hope of abating climate change in the face of this system. There has to be a time and it has to come very soon when the licence society gives the industry to produce fossil fuels is withdrawn. Who is going to force that issue?
I don’t know if a part of all this that as oil is is all I’ve ever known/done, oil is all I can ever really see. The opposite was surely very widely the truth for the bulk of the population until very recently. I think that’s changing.
But I’m beginning to realise that what I see as the impossibility of armaments workers turning their weapons into ploughshares, is what others see as impossible when the issue of confronting/challenging the oil and gas workers. I can see why people think it’s a very long shot to imagine that they’ll either participate in the ending of oil and gas production. But I think that least they can be neutralised, picketed at the heliports and stopped from producing the oil. For how long? And anyway! They need to be informed of the science and we can’t rely on the media to do that.
These two issues, fossil fuel and the armaments/military complex, seem to be of different orders (qualitatively and quantitatively) in the context of tackling climate change. Fossil fuel production seems to me to be primary. Once the fossil fuels are out of the ground, they are pollution – they will be burned/processed. Being used to build and deploy military hardware is just (just?) the path the pollution takes to get into the atmosphere. Or do we think that realistically we can take on the military complex and somehow stop it, and therefore stop the demand for fossil fuel?
They (?) take fossil fuels out of the ground and then make fortunes on it. They need to keep taking it out of the ground to keep making fortunes – to keep feeding the beast. So they are endlessly imaginative in finding new and more extravagant and destructive ways of using it. It looks like a real madness. to me. The thing is that they can’t turn this hellish roundabout off themselves. But turned off it will have to be if life is to survive, inasmuch as I understand the science.
Capitalism is the problem. But to a great extent isn’t the oil industry pretty much the same thing as capitalism (?) . . the same thing as climate change? The military complex surely is just (just again?) how they regulate capitalism – keep the imperialistic plunder going and ensure that the trade routes remain open to keep that wealth flowing north, and in the process provide an ever-renewing market for the oil. I never did get my head round the concept of a permanent arms economy – it was an idea touted by a political tendency I was taught was beyond the pale. But I guess I’m stumbling along in the same neck of the woods here.
Obviously, the military complex is a huge issue for humanity, but I just don’t see how you tackle it head on with any hope of affecting climate change. On the other hand, if you end oil you end capitalism (don’t ask me to prove that – I was hoping someone else would though) and then you have at least a fighting chance (is that a pun) of ending the military complex. The other way round it’s even clearer. You don’t stop oil and life on earth is in danger. However, you frame it you need to stop oil.
As the climate talks were starting in Glasgow, the Edinburgh COP26 Coalition and Edinburgh XR held a march of around 400 people from the Meadows to the Scottish Parliament – ending with a rally at the parliament. Speakers included a young activist from Kenya, Friends of the Earth, the Edinburgh Muslim Women’s Association and many more. Ex oil worker Neil Rothnie spoke for Scot.E3.
Stephen McMurray argues that the climate movement needs to be a movement rooted in social justice, not one that falls into the trap of individualism and promoting policies which increase exclusion.
With the COP conference taking place in Glasgow in Autumn 2021, there has been renewed focus on tackling climate change, particularly given the severe fires and floods which have affected many parts of the world. There are however, concerns that policies which are aimed at reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, may have a negative impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities in favour of non-disabled people. Eco ableism is defined as a failure by environmental activists to recognise that many of the climate actions they are promoting make life harder for people with disabilities.
Action to tackle climate change requires a wide range of policies and actions to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. These include changing the way we travel and the way we generate and use energy. However, there is a danger that such policies could further marginalise people with disabilities. This has been illustrated in Edinburgh, which introduced ‘Spaces for People’ in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. Bollards were introduced to separate cyclists from vehicles and pavements widened.
Whilst improving cycling and walking routes to encourage people to cycle and walk more is vital in reducing transport emissions, there is evidence that they have made it harder for people with disabilities getting around. Restricting parking with bollards and introducing double yellow lines has made it much harder for people with disabilities who rely on motorised vehicles to get shopping and socialise.
RNIB Scotland and the Edinburgh Access Panel have expressed serious concern over the introduction of floating bus stops, as it means that people with disabilities will have to cross cycle lanes to get on and off buses. This is particularly worrying for people with visual impairments.
Eco ableism is linked into the neoliberal agenda of tackling climate change by individualism. That individual actions can influence the market and effectively tackle climate change. This ignores the reality that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. Individualism can also be tied into victim blaming. Many people with disabilities are limited in the individual actions they can take.
With buses as well, wheelchair spaces are often taken by buggies, leading to tensions and arguments. This is despite a court ruling that drivers should ask passengers to make way for wheelchairs. This can put wheelchair users off public transport and more reliant on private vehicles.
Much of the advice given to individuals to reduce their energy use is in the form of turning down the heating and watching what we eat. However, many people with disabilities struggle to keep warm due to limited mobility and may require special diets, therefore reducing their choices. A home insulation programme is desperately needed to reduce energy use and bills. People with limited mobility should be prioritised.
Even when it comes to electric cars, people with disabilities face challenges. Research found that there was concern in relation to; lifting the charge cable from the boot, manoeuvring the cable to the charge point, space or trip hazards around the car and charger, charging points not designed for wheelchair users and lack of public charging points.
The challenge therefore, is to design the charging of electric cars to be accessible as possible. There is a definite need to greatly increase the need of charging points. Ideally, these should include disabled parking bays in the street, hospitals, GPs, supermarkets, and shopping centres.
The climate movement needs to be a movement rooted in social justice, not one that falls into the trap of individualism and promoting policies which increase exclusion. Just as we should strive for a just transition for workers and communities, we should strive for policies that not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also increase social justice and inclusion.
Apologies for the short notice – we’ve just received notification that there’s an Open Assembly of the ‘Glasgow Agreement’ tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm – the invitation to attend is copied below. You can see the latest draft of the agreement here.
We want to invite you to our next open assembly of the Glasgow Agreement on the 27th of September (Sunday), from 2pm GMT until 4pm GMT. You are more than welcome to participate, and to invite other groups that you know and that might be interested to participate in the Glasgow Agreement, even if they are not in the process yet.
Agenda: We will talk about: the current status of the text and how you can be involved on the process; what space does the climate justice movement need in 2021; what is the inventory tool and the climate agenda. Introductory webinar: We will also have an introductory webinar at 1:30pm GMT, in the same links, for those who don’t know the Glasgow Agreement that well. Feel free to join us if you want to know more about the agreement before the assembly!
Scot.E3 is part of the Free Our City campaign which launches with a conference on 19th September. We’re demandinga world-class, fully-integrated and accessible public transport network for Glasgow – free at the point of use.
Over the last few years hundreds of forward-thinking cities across the world – from Kansas to Calais – are upgrading their public transport networks and making them free for everyone to use. This radical policy is a necessary one: to address the climate emergency and gross inequalities in our society.Free public transport benefits everyone, but especially those living on poverty pay or benefits, young people, women, black and ethnic minorities – who all rely on public transport more. In a city like Glasgow with such low car-ownership (49% of households), free public transport would have a dramatic effect in reducing social isolation and lifting people out of poverty.
Last year, Glasgow City Council agreed the ambitious target to reduce the city’s emissions to net-zero by 2030, and agreed to undertake a ‘formal assessment of the potential for making the transition to a public transport system that is free to use’.
The Free Our City coalition has been founded to ensure this ‘assessment’ becomes action, and that this policy becomes a reality sooner, rather than later. We don’t have time to waste. Reliance on private cars is the main cause of carbon emissions and toxic air pollution in our city.In order to meet the 2030 target, car mileage will have to be cut by as much as 60% in the next ten years . We need to provide universal and comprehensive active travel and public transport networks, so that everyone can fully participate in the social and economic life of our city without need or aspiration to own a car.
Free public transport also has economic benefits which far outweigh the cost of running it – returning £1.70 to the economy for every £1 spent,  and it can pay for itself in increased tax receipts. But it is only practical and cost-effective to deliver with full public control of the whole public transport network . We must therefore use all new powers available in the Transport Act 2019 to re-regulate our bus network (under ‘franchising’) and set up a publicly-owned bus company for Greater Glasgow to take over routes and reconnect the communities left stranded by private bus company cuts.
The coronavirus crisis has proved that public transport is an essential public service to get our keyworkers to their jobs. It has also laid bare the absurdities of running our public transport on a for-profit basis. The need to maximise profits from fares is not compatible with current social distancing guidance. When services were reduced during lockdown, they ended up costing us more to run. The Scottish Government has already bailed-out failing private bus companies by more than £300 million. This should be an opportunity to buy back our buses, so that they can be run in the public good for the long term.
There are many ways to improve the safety of our public transport and public control is central to them all. If we own and run our own buses, then we control the safety for staff and passengers. We can improve pay, conditions and training for staff. And we can deliver far more frequent and reliable services for passengers to reduce overcrowding, and better plan the routes to speed-up journey times and minimise the need to change. We can upgrade the fleet to zero-emissions electric buses and make them more spacious, with air-conditioning and multiple entrances and exits . Upgrading the fleet of Glasgow buses can be an opportunity to save Alexander Dennis, the world-leading bus production company based at Larbert, which is currently threatening to make 650 workers redundant because orders have slowed down through the coronavirus pandemic .
We need to use this crisis as an opportunity to build back a far better public transport network, which actually serves our needs and helps us meet the many challenges of the decade ahead. Once the pandemic has passed, we will be faced with a massive economic crisis and a climate emergency that is not going away.[
Building a world-class, fully-integrated and accessible public transport network – free at the point of use – will provide the thousands of high quality, ready to go green jobs that we’ll urgently need for our city to make a just and green recovery .
Imagine if buses were free?
The Free Our City coalition is launching with a conference “Imagine if buses were free?” on Saturday 19th September. Speakers from other cities which have achieved free public transport will describe how their system works. We will discuss in break-out groups what we need in Greater Glasgow, and how we move forward to achieve it. The conference will be open to all, welcoming representatives of community organisations across Greater Glasgow and interested individuals to share in the discussion. Register for the conference on Eventbrite. Promote the conference by sharing the Facebook Event and the Event Tweet .
 During the crisis, publicly-controlled buses in London were made free so that passengers did not need to make contact with the driver to pay fares.
 By the end of 2020, as many as 1 in 3 young Scots could be unemployed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Alexander Dennis, based in Falkirk, is internationally important as a manufacturer of double decker buses. In the wake of Covid19 it faces a short-term decline in orders. The response of its new owners, Canadian firm NFI, is to cut 650 jobs.
Clean, sustainable public transport is a critical part of the transition to a zero-carbon economy and Alexander Dennis is a world leader in building all-electric and hydrogen powered buses. The skills of the workforce at Alexander Dennis will be essential in reshaping the way we use energy, the way we produce and the way we live in response to the climate crisis. Sacking 650 workers will blight lives, wreck futures and set back the struggle for a just transition to a new sustainable economy.
In an excellent article in today’s Source Direct Ben Wray notes that the company is asking the government to buy the buses that private operators are not buying at the moment. We do need government action, but as we argued recently in ‘Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save the Planet’ such action needs to be planned and systemic. It needs to tackle issues of safe public transport and it needs to look forward to the zero-carbon future. The private sector is incapable of this kind of joined up thinking. Saving jobs, skills and livelihoods at Alexander Dennis should be seen as part of the broader campaign of taking public transport into public control.
All the signs are, however, that any Scottish Government action is unlikely to measure up to either the immediate crisis in Falkirk or the longer-term crisis of climate. There is a huge gap between the government’s rhetoric on just transition and just recovery and their actions. So how do we turn this round? I’d argue that to make progress we need to think in terms of a ‘worker led just transition’. It’s hard, but collectively we need to take every opportunity to turn the slogan into real action. At a time of public health and climate crisis, when the wealth of the super-rich is rocketing up, and the Westminster government is spending billions on contracts to their friends and bailouts to big business, redundancies in carbon-saving jobs are unacceptable. One option would be for Alexander Dennis workers to refuse to accept redundancy and occupy the factory. Combined with a public campaign for socially useful production as a part of a just transition this would have huge resonance in Scottish society and could provide common cause to the trade union and climate movements. The 1971 occupation of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders is a model – but this could be so much bigger.
Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save the Planet
Support Alexander Dennis Workers
Take Public Transport and Public Transport vehicle production into public ownership
Earlier in the year we held an online public meeting with speakers from the Mossmorran Action Group. Prior to Covid19 Climate Camp Scotland were planning their summer action around Mossmorran. Limitations on social contact have made the original plans impossible but Climate Camp are continuing to campaign for action on Mossmorran. On Sunday at Midday there will be protests at SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) offices around Scotland. The action will continue via social media on Monday; for more details go to the Facebook event or read the action briefing document.