Post-war to post-industrial Scotland

As a contribution to a radical plan for an independent, decarbonised Scotland, Brian Parkin analyses the damaging ways in which successive British governments have restructured the Scottish economy since the mid-twentieth century. A version of this article was first published on the rs21 website.

Ravenscraig steelworks, shortly before closure in 1992. Photo: Elliott Simpson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Part 1: Dreams of development

The post-war settlement that enshrined full employment as a core economic aim saw the British state play a central role in redirecting labour into new post-hostility recovery employment. At the same time efforts were made to revitalise industries through new technological investment and in many cases reorganisation and modernisation through direct state ownership.[1]

Inevitably, this rationalisation, with newer technologies reducing the ‘living’ labour component in many processes, also meant job losses. In regions in which heavy industries predominated the initial impact, in terms of unemployment and outward migration, was to deepen the sense of decline.  Hence the persistence in many regions the West of Scotland, Tyneside, Teesside, Humberside, South Yorkshire and South Wales – of the feeling that much of post-war recovery passed them by.

The Labour technocracy

The return of a Labour government in 1964 saw an attempt to continue state enterprise in creating a modern and competitive UK economy. Highly specialised industry development boards were set up- both to modernise existing industries through targeted capital investment grants- but also to encourage more product diversity with an ever- increasing high technology content.

Regions were also picked out for extensive development and regeneration. Whole industries- coal, iron and steel, shipbuilding, aerospace and textiles were all serviced by development boards or consultative committees whose task it was to marshal the strategic resources of manpower training necessary to ensure competitive recovery. So-called ‘Advance Factories’ and industrial parks were set up on derelict mining or iron-works sites for incoming investment to take advantage of generous grants in exchange for providing high skill employment- and with it, hoped for economic regeneration.[2] Such policies, initiated by the Attlee government, were to be resumed with a greater vigour by the Wilson government of 1964-69.

But whatever the success of such schemes, they could do little to offset the principal ills of UK capitalism – low productivity and sclerotic profit rates. With Labour’s fall from grace in 1969, to an extent due to unpopular incomes (wage) controls and trade union reforms, the way seemed open for a ‘tougher’ Tory government.

The beginning of the end of the post-war settlement

The Tory government of 1969-74 entered office determined to replace the policies of the former Labour government with early trace elements of free market ideology. Incomes policies would persist as would trade union legislation. Although state aid to industry continued, a clear disdain for traditional manufacturing gave rise to terms such as ‘lame duck’ or ‘outdated’ to describe those sectors suspected of harbouring tribal anti-competition cultures. The difficulties in replacing an interventionist strategy with a reckless more laissez faire approach were made clear in the case of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) in what was to become a legendary confrontation between popular defiance and a government determined to let the market decide the future of some 28,000 shipyard workers and their communities[3].

UCS had been formed in 1968 under the direction of the then Industry secretary, Tony Benn. It comprised five shipyards and was the product of an extensive rationalisation and reorganisation programme overseen by the Shipbuilding Industry Board which provided start-up capital grant plus a £5.5 million interest free loan over three years. At the time of its conception it had an order book of £87 million. The government had a 48.4% shareholding.

At the end of 1970, UCS had experienced some delays in securing orders and in early 1971 the board applied to the government for a £5 million short-term loan. This was declined and the subsequent ‘work-in’ and the massive response in terms of working class solidarity followed by the government climb-down, is now the stuff of legend. The embarrassment of the Heath government was further deepened by an emergency bailout and nationalisation of Rolls Royce which had foundered on the costs of developing a new generation of turbofan commercial jet engines.

Until these two major industrial setbacks there can be no doubt that Tory leadership thinking had begun to depart from the post-war consensus of economic recovery based on full employment. Certainly, before his fall from grace over the ‘rivers of blood’ anti-immigration speech, Enoch Powell (along with Nicholas Ridley and Sir Keith Joseph as members of the Institute of Economic Affairs- IEA) had been exerting increasing influence.[4]

The climb-downs at UCS and Rolls Royce were followed within months with the first ever national miners’ strike in the winter of 1972. The strike, ostensibly over statutory wage controls contained within it a highly charged set of political grievances. In 1939 there had been 37,000 miners in Scotland: by 1972 this had dwindled to 21,000. There had been a long held suspicion by the Scottish NUM that since 1946 and the nationalisation of coal, Scotland had been disfavoured in terms of both of  coalfield development and capital investment. Another subsequent miners’ strike in 1974 in seeing off the Heath Tory government, also forced the hand of the incoming Labour government to underpin the security of all of the coalfields with The Plan for Coal[5]Although this agreement did give some initial security, it wasn’t long before the full implementation of a productivity agreement: the National Power-loading Agreement opened up wide disparities in colliery and coalfield performance.

Whilst it is clear that a number of almost classic set-piece industrial confrontations thwarted the testing of Tory ideology it was only to take another two years for a Labour chancellor to seek IMF support in exchange for a virtual surrender to market ideology. In that year of 1976 a Labour government now demanded that the maintenance of a welfare state had to be conditional on the working class accepting both wage restraint and public spending cuts. And as if to demonstrate the awesome power of unfettered markets, unemployment was allowed to exceed one million for the first time in forty years.

Other industries

Prior to the decisive break from post-war economic strategies that occurred in the mid-1970s, there had been a wide range of industry specific investment programmes aimed at achieving both economic growth whilst maintaining employment at optimum levels. Such programmes took on added significance when they offered the prospect of regional regeneration. As many of the regions then experiencing decline had economies based on either extractive or manufacturing industries, the conventional economic wisdom was to ‘reindustrialise’ them, either by modernising existing processes or by inward investment in the form of newer industries with a higher technology content.

In the case of Scotland, which even in the best of times during the 20th century had experienced net outward migration and persistent poverty, the task was especially difficult. Much of the industrial base was both dated and dedicated to declining markets. The industrial capacity that did offer the prospect of recovery was hopelessly under-invested. Despite genuine attempts to revive certain sectors while using inward investment to maintain employment at acceptable levels, the downgrading of much of Scotland’s industrial capacity has had a shattering effect. Scotland has a small population and a large surface area and can still derive considerable wealth and employment from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and downstream processing, but it was the range of industry, from coal to cruise liners, that had given the country much of its sense of identity.

In an attempt to maintain a primary industrial base, the metal producing sector was marked out for modernisation. Firstly, the Collville steelworks at Motherwell, which had been site surveyed in 1954 for expansion, was renamed Ravenscraig and extensively developed by new state owned British Steel in 1967 as a combined iron, steel and hot strip steel mill which at the time was the longest in Europe. The site employed over 13,000 workers and was known as ‘Steelopolis’. The plant closed in 1992.[6]

Davy rolling mills in operation at Ravenscraig in 1985. Photo: Dave Wilson (CC BY SA 2.0)

In addition, the first Scottish aluminium smelter at Fort William, (opened in 1929) benefited from power from the dedicated Lochaber hydro-power station. Still operational it employs 240. Although extensively modernised by British Aluminium in the 1970’s it is now operated by RTX/Alcan. But a further bid to expand a strategic aluminium industry foundered when the Invergordon smelter at Cromarty (opened by state owned British Aluminium Company in 1968 and originally employing 900)  closed in Dec 1981[7].

In order to give Scotland a place in mass production industry, two sites were chosen for new motor vehicle manufacture and assembly:

  • Rootes (later Chrysler) was chosen for state investment in its plant at Linwood, Renfrewshire 1961. It was further enlarged in 1967. The workforce was incrementally increased from the original 450 Rootes workers by a further 3000 in main assembly plus 2000 in the Pressed Steel plant. The site closed 1981 with loss of 5500 jobs.
  • BMC (trucks and tractors) at Bathgate first opened 1961. Largely due to the chaotic phases of mergers and rationalisations in what was to become British Leyland the plant closed 1986 with loss of 2300 jobs.

In addition to the above, further grant aided programmes aimed at modernising other established industries – most notably chemicals and textiles – did much to retain employment in traditional industrial areas. Notable projects aimed at modernising the jute and linen mills, not only in terms of new plant machinery and infrastructure, but also in terms of the diversification in yarns towards synthetics increasingly available from a burgeoning petrochemical industry. In areas such as Dundee, this did much to protect employment traditionally undertaken by women.[8]

From command and control to markets

All of the above industrial strategies were predicated on a mixed economy model in which the state had a central and almost entrepreneurial role as technical driver, banker of last resort and planning enabler. To a considerable extent, a degree of market protection would always be necessary for such projects to work. They also required the co-option of the unions and local authorities to ensure the necessary workforce goodwill and motivation.

The subsequent Thatcher governments from 1979 onwards saw the withdrawal of the state from most aspects of industrial and regional strategies. Industrial technical innovation and implementation were to become matters for private enterprise and much state funded R&D activity was terminated. The result was to effectively see off most of the industrial regional programmes resulting in plant closures as part of a de-industrialisation process, which hit regions like Scotland almost overnight.

But as Scottish industry generally was allowed to face increasingly tough market tests, another sector and one of a wider strategic importance to the UK economy as a whole was to see ever-increasing levels of state investment. That strategic sector about which all governments felt best not left to the market was energy. In particular Middle East oil shocks had shown how tenuous the whole issue of security of energy supply had become. In the 1960s, offshore surveys revealed the continuous extent of North Sea gas reserves westwards from recent onshore Dutch gas finds and further exploration in the UK sectors consequently revealed large gas deposits in 1965 followed by extensive oil finds in 1971. But until the oil shock of 1973 in particular, coming as it did between two national miners strikes, the North Sea and its hydrocarbon resources had not commanded much in the way of strategic attention.

It is an irony that the deciding moments that determined over 40 years of expansive state intervention and economic management of the biggest industrial capital investment programme came at a time when the Keynesian orthodoxy of demand management was being abandoned, greatly to the detriment of most of the efforts of post-war Scottish reindustrialisation

Part 2: North Sea Oil and Gas: Straddling the ideological eras 

Until the early 1960s, the known extent of the UK’s oil reserves were, in addition to shale oil deposits in Scotland, confined to a handful of small sites in England. Although the extension of onshore coal measures with possible petroleum potential well into the North Sea was understood, there was neither the available technology nor economic incentive to explore these ‘prospects’. But in the late 1950s, onshore gas-field exploration began in the Dutch province of Groningen. In 1959, what turned out to be a giant field was struck there in a sugar beet field.[9]

As the find was located in the strata that formed much of the UK’s coal measures, albeit much deeper, it was only a matter of informed guesswork to assume that such gas deposits could be found west of Groningen in the British sectors of the southern North Sea. It was also clear from deeper boreholes that the strata at deeper levels could probably contain oil.

The strategic importance of such a discovery was at first almost entirely regarded as being a potential source of relief for the UK’s ongoing balance of payments problem. But although slow at first, the British government eventually passed a UK Continental Shelf Act in 1964 securing automatic mineral rights to 200 metres of depth.[10] Then a year later Norway and the UK struck an agreement which allowed exploration to commence. A feature of this agreement is that both the UK and Norway initially agreed to permit exploration and production on the basis of licences allocated by administrative assessment rather than by the more customary practice of auction. The decision arose from a distrust of the oil companies established habits of acting as undisclosed cartels and thereby ensuring licence auctions rarely exceeding the reserve price.[11]

Another advantage of this licensing regime was that it allowed the UK government to favour British companies as well as giving state control over the rate of exploration and production in line with strategic imperatives. To this end a Department of Power was, among other things, charged with an offshore licensing regime with an initial view to ensuring a prudent rate of extraction. But a rapid turn of events was to significantly upgrade the importance of the North Sea and at the same time shift the resource management criteria from one of protracted conservation to one of maximising output.[12]

As Juan Carlos Boué has described, UK governments realised an offshore industry in deep and inhospitable waters would require substantial inducements if the oil ‘majors’ were to be the principal players. Hence a high subsidy- virtually zero taxation environment that by any measure ruled out any market test for what was at best speculative, if not unknown, geo-physical evidence.  This meant from the start that the UK government had to be the risk-taker of both first and last resort.

Such a ‘statist’ approach presented no problem for Labour or Conservative governments alike who shared the imperatives of breaking the powers of a largely Arab OPEC cartel with the added bonus of petroleum security and a more comfortable trade balance. And in this approach the UK pioneered a governance model involving state subsidies and minimal tax penalties. Such a model made little sense within a UK economic regime slipping further towards market criteria being the ultimate test- and even less sense when applied to established oil producing countries- yet one that made all-too much sense to the largely western giant oil corporations.

Yet, this fiscal gamble was to pay off when a sequence of strikes proved the possibility of a viable UK offshore industry.

The first event occurred in December 1969 when an exploration well 2/4-1AX drilling 100 miles east of Dundee struck oil.[13] The find proved to be the giant Ekofisk field, which actually lay beyond UK jurisdiction in the Norwegian sector. But weeks later similar oil finds in the UK sector began with the Montrose field confirming commercial promise to the east of Peterhead.

Subsequent events came with a rapid sequence of Middle East conflicts that massively increased the price of imported oil, followed by a second national miners’ strike: both unconnected but seminal moments which concentrated the minds of governments of both persuasions on the strategic matter of energy security. For the incoming Labour government of 1974 there were two major energy initiatives. The first was a major stepping up of the nuclear power programme as a hedge against the miners and the second was a major state intervention in North Sea exploration, extraction and investment. [14]

The first (under Tony Benn) resulted in the hasty decision to proceed with a nuclear programme based on the ill-fated UK designed Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) of which two were built and continue to under-perform in Scotland – Hunterston B and Torness. The second was to create two state bodies to oversee the respective North Sea hydrocarbon operations. A British National Oil Corporation (BNOC)[15] in 1975 became not only the oil sectors regulator and licensor – it also became a commercial partner with the option to ‘buy back’ up to 51% of a field’s production in order to then sell it back to the company for selling on to the refineries.[16] BNOC also reserved the right to take out a stake in certain fields which essentially saw the state both stimulating development as well as underwriting risk. British Gas (BG) was set up to carry out similar duties with regards to the gas fields.  Initially, in the case of the Irish Sea and Morcambe Bay it actually operated rigs. BG also took on responsibility for the much bigger North Sea operations as well as the downstream duties of onshore gas distribution and marketing.

Although many North Sea oil and gas discoveries were relatively close inshore, in the fairly shallow English waters of the Southern and Central North Sea, the trend as a consequence of progressive exhaustion has seen production move northwards into more remote and deeper water gas fields. Scotland with its share of the Central North Sea and the whole of the Northern North Sea and West of Shetland sector now accounts for over 95.1 % of UK oil and 48.0 % of UK gas production.[17]

Crisis of Markets and Investment

It is evident from the sheer scale of the North Sea oil and gas industry, and the most hostile of environments that it continues to work and develop in, that a project of such technical complexity and vastness could never have got going by private enterprise alone. Without the UK government acting as the risk-taker of last resort, it is hard to imagine usually risk-averse capital venturing  beyond ‘the Forties above the latitude of 58 degrees North where the weather is apt to get rough with winds of 125 miles per hour and waves over 100 feet’.[18]

Yet now as more well injection applications are made, in order to enhance well output from the older wells, it is becoming clear that the current rate of extraction is just unsustainable. As established fields deplete alternative reserves must be found further North. But with revenue from falling production and falling world oil prices combine it is likely that as exploration falters then the offshore industry as a whole faces the threat of loss of its critical mass. Between 2011 and 2014 North Sea exploration costs per barrel rose from £4.00 to £22.00 and between 2010 and 2014 development costs rose from £8bn to £15bn.[19] And that was before the oil price crash.

Part 3: Update

That the North Sea industry continued to attract government support was evident from the decision by a Tory chancellor to provide further tax breaks and incentives in the wake of the global oil price crash. But government aid would not last indefinitely if the world market continued to be awash with over-produced cheap oil. But by 2017 it had become clear that the North Sea had been since its inception a net cost/zero revenue operation for HM Treasury.

OperatorSubsidy (£ million)Tax yield (£)
BP5800.00
Canadian Natural4800.00
Exxon/Mobil4000.00
Hess2200.00
Sinopec2000.00
Shell800.00
Chevron500.00
Bhpbillton400.00
Centrica300.00
North Sea operators: subsidies and tax yields 2015-17[20]

(See: ‘Overdue! A Just Transition for Scotland’s offshore Oil and Gas workers: part one. Brian Parkin, Scot. E3, 22 April 2020. Also: Juan Carlos Boué: The UK North Sea Global Experiment in neoliberal resource management. Scot E.3 Edinburgh Feb 2020).

Nationalisation, resource conservation and democratic control

As the title of this paper suggests, the North Sea oil and gas industry has, unlike probably any other, been able to straddle a transitional phase between two opposing economic ideologies. It has done so because whatever the prevailing ideological wind, governments have always been preoccupied with matters of energy security. But now as a residual neoliberal dogma falters amid Covid-19 and post-Brexit uncertainties it would only be a matter of time before any remaining interventionist notion evaporated.

By 2018 BP, in the light of Forties field exhaustion, sold off its remaining offshore and onshore assets to the Grangemouth owner and operator, Ineos. Shell, facing the depletion of the once mighty Brent field, indicated that it would no longer be investing in any major North Sea activities. This was then followed in early 2020 by Exxon/Mobil declaring a sell-off of all of its North Sea licences and infrastructure assets in a bid to raise $2 billion in liquidity for oil and gas investments elsewhere

According to current estimates reserves lasting ‘well beyond 2055’ and ‘with a total wholesale value of at least £1.5 trillion’ could be realised on the basis ‘of a 28% rise in demand by 2035’.[21] But while such forecasts are often excessively optimistic, it is nevertheless possible that extensive and economically profitable reserves could be exploited well into the future. UK and Scottish governments remain committed to extraction of all economically viable oil and gas.  However, the assumption of a  28% rise in demand deserves comment.  At a time when the evidence of accelerating climate change is undeniable, it is irresponsible to make policy based to base on rising rates of fossil fuel usage.

Contrary to any previous forecasts the demand for hydrocarbons is set on a downward trajectory as the intersections of global recession, Covid-19 led demand collapse and a growing climate change consensus indicate an irreversible decline in fossil fuel usage. For a high production cost and medium volume North Sea industry, a permanently depressed world oil price can only accelerate its rate of decline.

Unwanted North Sea oil rigs queue up in the Cromarty Firth

The oil price collapse of March 2020 onwards could lead to a sequential collapse in UK North Sea operations, which on a central forecast, could mean the loss of some 200,000 jobs (offshore and onshore supply chain) within the next 18 months: some 9% of the Scottish workforce.[22]

The pace of change in both the global and Scottish economies since the inception of the Manifesto project in 2014, have been both rapid and extensive. But in order to discern a trend and identify the strength (or otherwise) of the economy, we have to bear in mind the trajectory of the UK economy as a whole over the past 40 years.

Economic management to markets: a (very) thumbnail sketch

 By the late 1970s, Scotland, like other ‘industrial regions’ of the UK was about to be assaulted by the first phase of market ‘shock therapy’. In the philistine mind of the primitive neoliberals, an economy based on heavy engineering, ship building, metals manufacture, textiles and energy extraction, only a dose of economic Darwinism would be fit for who could – or could not – survive the market test. And although such an economic portrait could describe some other UK regions, it all applied to Scotland. The basic core of the economic ‘philosophy’ was that by opening up UK economy as a whole to the reality of ‘market forces’, those sclerotic and sullen elements of the workforce would be ‘shaken out’. Uncompetitive industries would be forced to prove themselves within an environment where management would be forced to re-learn the arts of management.

However, such a strategy failed to take into account the degree to which many industries were marked by years of under-investment. Hence this was an exercise predicated on assumption that the UK economy was structurally strong enough to withstand a little shock and awe.

For some of the UK regions, this proved to be catastrophic. And for a Scotland now hanging on a rapidly declining offshore oil and gas industry – as well as remnant sectors about to face the full-on forces of a post-Covid-19 global recession – the future could be bleak.

Fast-forward and we can survey the results, although at times it was no pushover for the ruling class. The miners fought on for a whole year, and the largely female workforce at Timex, Dundee, stuck it out for eight months. But when defeat ensued, the devastation of working class communities followed.

In any case, the UK economy became within a few years, one of the most open economies in the world and as a consequence became a playground of post-Big Bang speculative finance capital within which it was argued that the market as a force of nature –  rather than Tory ruling class malice – was determining an ‘inevitable’ process of deindustrialisation. While industrially dependent regions and sub-regions as a whole took a battering, it was Scotland as a Northern and largely industrial outlier that bore a disproportionately heavy brunt.

The basic evidence of this experience can be found in an accompanying index, but it is by no means alarmist to suggest that a triangulated outcome of a global recession, a post-Covid-19 mass unemployment outcome and the all-but collapse of the North Sea oil and gas sectors, the Scottish economy is likely to enter a maelstrom.

However, since the point is not just to interpret the world, but to change it, I would suggest from the forgoing in which neither corporatist nor laissez faire ‘strategies’ have worked, it is unlikely that any reformist solution will be able to address the social and economic crises that Scotland now faces. So it is time for the bruised but so-far unbroken agency of the working class and its communities to administer a Just Transition away from two centuries of economic chaos and social injustice.

There is evidence of a spirit of defiance. In November 2017, workers at the offshore renewables fabrication yards of BiFab in Fifeshire occupied their workplaces in defiance of closure. Similar actions were underway at the Ferguson shipyard on Clydebank until the Scottish government was forced to nationalise the company. The yard with more or less its original workforce is now engaged in the production of a new generation of hydrogen-powered ferries for the state-owned CalMac company that will soon be running carbon-free ferries between the Scottish islands.

At a strategic level, a new and radical environmental network, Scot.E3, is linking rank and file union activists with working class communities and environmental organisations to fight for green jobs, climate justice and a democratic future. A new chapter in the political economy of Scotland may be about to be written.

References

[1] David Edgerton, ‘War, reconstruction and Nationalisation of Britain 1939-51’, Past and Present, 210, Supplement 6 (2011): 29-46David Edgerton, The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A Twentieth-Century History (London: Allen Lane, 2018).

[2] Distribution of Industry Act of 1946. This empowered the Board of Trade to implement the Advance Factory Programme. An Industrial Development (Scotland) scheme was established in the same year. The programme was terminated in 1976.

[3] UCS comprised five shipyards: Yarrow, John Brown, Govan Shipbuilders, Alexander Stephens and Scotstoun Marine.

[4] This extent of this influence was demonstrated by a speech given by Edward Heath at the Selsdon Park Hotel, Croydon in 1967, which clearly indicated a degree of acceptance of IEA market dogma.

[5] National Coal Board, Plan for Coal 1974. The Plan declared a target of an additional 47 million tonnes per year production from modernised existing capacity plus new developments in the central coalfields. In fact, the Plan led to the acceleration of pit closures in Scotland and South Wales. This was demonstrated by the fact that between the year of the plan (1974) and the Great Miners’ Strike (1984-5), the number of miners in Scotland fell by exactly half: from 21,000 to 10,500. Over the same period productivity rose by 22%.

[6] The 13,000 Ravenscraig workers came from an area with a total population of 60,000. For a concise history of the plant see: John Cowburn, Ravenscraig Steelworks 1954-1992, cowburnjohn@hotmail.com

[7] The £37m smelter at Invergordon was constructed on the assumption that with existing hydro capacity plus predicted cheap power from additional Scottish nuclear stations, the plant would be highly competitive- so much so that its construction was sufficient to anticipate enough demand to justify the construction of the Hunterson B AGR station. This in turn was sufficient for British Aluminium to qualify for a low interest loan of £30m. However, delays and subsequent underperformance of Hunterston B meant power charges had risen 31% over estimates which meant that by 1981 Invergordon was expected to make losses of £20m. See: www.rossandcromartyhertitage.org for a brief history of the Invergordon smelter.  On nuclear fantasies see: https://www.rs21.org.uk/2020/06/13/not-an-atom-of-truth/

[8] Dundee was an early beneficiary of the Redistribution of Industry Act with the decision of the NCR Corporation to locate there. This was later followed by Michelin tyres and Morphy Richards, the light electrical appliances manufacturer. The intention of these assisted inward investment initiatives was to make good for the loss of jute mills employment.

[9] Small sites at Wych farm, Dorset, Formby on Merseyside and Hardstoft in Derbyshire had all produced ‘conventional’ oil from the 1920s onwards. See: Charles More, Black Gold: Britain and Oil in the Twentieth Century (London: Continuum, 2009), pp. 62-3.

[10] Øystein Noreng, The Oil Industry and Strategy in the North Sea (London: Croom Hill, 1980), pp.39-40.

[11] Noreng, Oil Industry, pp. 115-16.

[12] Christopher Harvie, Fool’s Gold: The Story of North Sea Oil (London: Penguin, 1995), pp. 225-7, 291-4. Harvie compares the respective extraction strategies of the UK and Norway, generally favouring Norway for opting for a regulated approach to production in contrast with UK rapid extraction emphases.

[13] Bryan Cooper and T.F. Gaskell, The Adventure of North Sea Oil (London: Heinemann, 1976), pp. 26-8.

[14] Initially it had been hoped that North Sea oil could also provide a fuel substitute for coal and thus another hedge against the miners. However the grades of oil first extracted proved unsuitable for refining into the necessary heavy Fuel Oil.

[15] The British National Oil Corporation (BNOC) was replaced by Britoil in 1990 which was to oversee the future wholly privatised oil industry with a ‘light hand’ of licence regulation.

[16] This arrangement also acted as a subsidy and incentive for the oil companies in that it assured them of a sale subsidy in the event oil falls in the international price.

[17]https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/statistics/2015/03/government-expenditure-revenue-scotland-2013-14/documents/00472877-pdf/00472877-pdf/govscot%3Adocument/00472877.pdf

[18] Report by Shell/Exxon crew of Block 211/29 Forties 1971. Quoted in: More, Black Gold, p. 162.

[19] UKCS/OIL and Gas UK 2014. In: Brian Parkin, ‘rs21 Industrial briefing: Scotland’s oil and gas after the price crash’(Leeds, May 2015).

[20] UK Extractive Transparency Initiative (EITI) Multi Stakeholder Group 2018.

[21] Business for Scotland. 10 facts about Scotland’s oil and independence. 29 July 2015. Figures quoted from UK Oil and Gas 2013 Economic Report.

[22] https://www.rs21.org.uk/2020/04/23/overdue-a-just-transition-for-scotland/

Briefing 12 – What is the COP?

Our latest briefing (number 12) explains what COP 26 is and discusses some of the issues that it raises. Like all our briefings it’s designed for downloading, sharing and distributing in workplaces and community settings.

What is the COP?

COP stands for ‘conference of the parties’.  Organised by the United Nations, it’s normally held on an annual basis and it is the place where the nations of the world come together to discuss policy on climate action.   So to give it its’ full title COP26 is the 26th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

COP 26 was due to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. However, the actual event is always preceded by a number of inter-governmental meetings.  These have not taken place because of the global pandemic and as a result it has been postponed until 2021.  The new date is not yet known.  At the moment Glasgow is still expected to be the venue. 

A history of failure

The first COP was held in 1995 in Berlin.  It has taken place every year since then. 2020 will be the first year that a COP has been postponed.  In terms of making an impact on greenhouse gas emissions the COPs have been an abject failure. The two most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane.  When COP 25 took place in Madrid at the end of 2019 the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen 67 parts per million by volume (ppmv) above what it was when the first COP met in Berlin. To put this in perspective CO2 levels increased by more during the 25 years of COP discussions than they had in the previous 200 years.  Methane levels have tripled since 1995.  Greenhouse gases act like an insulating blanket over the earth’s atmosphere and are responsible for rising global temperatures.   So the massive increase in the amount of these gases in the atmosphere is the reason why the climate crisis is now acute and why rapid action to cut emissions is so important.

The Paris Agreement of 2015

Back in 2015 the COP (21) took place on Paris.  The conference ended with an agreement that has since been ratified by 189 out of the 197 countries that participated (The Paris Agreement).  Ratification committed countries to developing plans that would curtail global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees centigrade.  Those who have not ratified include some important oil producers.  Moreover, the USA ratified under Obama but has now withdrawn.  

In principle ratifying the Paris Agreement commits countries ‘to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.’  The reality has been that progress has been negligible.  The agreement is essentially voluntary and avoids specific targets.  Patrick Bond notes the ‘Agreement’s lack of ambition, the nonbinding character of emission cuts, the banning of climate-debt (‘polluter pays’) liability claims, the reintroduction of market mechanisms, the failure to keep fossil fuels underground, and the inability to lock down three important sectors for emissions cuts: military, maritime transport and air transport.

Paris 2015- the big demonstration defies a police ban – image by Pete Cannell

COP 26

Along with committing countries to regular reporting on progress the Paris Agreement also scheduled 2020 and COP26 as a major milestone at which all the countries would need to assess progress.  Had the COP gone ahead in November an honest assessment could only have been that the Paris Agreement has been a failure.  The failure will have intensified by the time COP26 takes place in 2021.  No one should have high expectations that COP26 will take action to address this failure but it is an important opportunity for the climate movement to hold the rulers of the world to account.  Success for our side must mean a bigger, stronger, better-rooted movement that develops the strength to insist that governments take action.  

COP fault lines

The COP is dominated by the big powers.  So in the negotiations there are sharp divisions between the major industrial nations that are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions and the global south, which endures the biggest impact of climate change.  These divisions were much in evidence at COP 25 in Madrid.  At the COPs and in the run up to them there is also a great deal of activity from non-state organisations.  Businesses, NGOs and union federations lobby before the event and can obtain credentials that enable them to be within the main conference areas.  There is of course a huge imbalance in resources between the corporate lobbyists and the climate campaigners.  Groups that represent women, indigenous people and poor people struggled to have their voices heard within the conference – indeed in Madrid some were excluded for holding a peaceful protest.  The climate movement is mostly excluded from the conference zone by barricades and police; we make our case on the streets and in meetings and the counter summit.  This will be the case in Glasgow.

Cop 25 in Madrid – image from Wikimedia Commons

Why should we organise for the COP?

From the start the COP process has operated within the domain of market economic orthodoxy.  Crudely it has assumed that market forces will drive a move towards less carbon intensive technologies and hence reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  There have indeed been significant developments in sustainable technologies – particularly wind and solar.  And yet at the same time the big energy companies have also pursued a ruthless drive to exploit new hydrocarbon resources in a way that is completely incompatible with even the most modest targets for limiting global warming.   

COP 26 will take place in 2021 in the economic and social aftershocks of a global lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Mobilising for the COP is necessary because the event will be the occasion for a huge onslaught of ‘greenwashing’, aimed at persuading us all that the leaders of the world know best, and that the market, ‘business as usual’, can protect us.  Now more than ever we know that ‘business as usual’ is not simply ineffective in face of global crisis, it costs lives.  So building for mass protest in Glasgow is necessary, but is only part of the ongoing struggle to win a just transition to a people centred zero carbon economy.   

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Pandemic, climate crisis and why a return to ‘normal’ is a threat to us all

In what we hope will be a series of articles on the intersection of pandemic, lockdown, economic disruption and climate action, Pete Cannell reflects on what a return to ‘normality’ might mean.

It’s so easy in the present circumstance to talk about ‘when things return to normal’.  At an interpersonal level this is clearly important and we all look forward to the end of social distancing.  However, at the level of society, of politics and economics, it’s another matter altogether.  

“In the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.” – Arundhati Roy

For a brilliant exposition of what ‘normal’ means for the poor and oppressed around the world do watch this discussion between Naomi Klein and Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor.

The pandemic has shone a harsh light on the way that society operates ‘normally’.  It’s clear that while we can all catch Covid-19 we are not all in it together.  The impact of the virus is expressed through the distorting lens of the gross inequalities that exist within and between countries.  In the UK we are seeing how the impact of neo-liberal policies on the NHS has meant that we have been unprepared for a pandemic, which public health experts have been predicting for a long time.  We have a government at Westminster which having failed to prepare as the pandemic loomed then first planned to let it rip in the interest of’ ‘herd immunity’, ostensibly in the name of science, but truly in a vain attempt to keep the economy going.  In just a few days they were forced into containment mode through ‘lockdown’ as numbers of infections spiraled upwards.  

In the context of the last two decades what the Tory government is doing with the economy is astonishing.  Government ministers told us that running the economy is just like running your weekly budget and that cuts in public services and infrastructure were unavoidable because debt must be avoided at all costs.  This was always economic nonsense.  Yet now the same politicians are injecting hundreds of billions of pounds into the economy.  Such has been the turn round that at the daily pandemic briefing Matt Hancock could announce a £13 billion write off of English NHS trust debts as if it were just routine.  We’ve been here before.  In 2008 our money propped up the banks while real wages fell and social services were ravaged.  This time the sums of money are even larger but the intention is the same.  In a briefing for The Source, Ben Wray describes how the current bail out is primarily aimed at keeping big business and the banks afloat.  Throughout the twists and turns of government policy the objective of maintaining existing relationships of wealth and power has remained constant.  

If current economic plans remain on the course that the Tories have set post-pandemic normality will be restored for the 1%.  There will be an even greater concentration of wealth and power as mega companies like Amazon thrive whilst small businesses go to the wall.  For the rest of us a return to ‘normal’ will mean more austerity, higher prices, shortages of food and large-scale unemployment.  This is bad news for all of us and horrifying for the most vulnerable.  

As the Coronavirus crisis unfolds the climate crisis continues to deepen.  In the short term lower economic activity is reducing greenhouse gas emissions but the government’s economic plan for recovery, for a return to ‘normal’ that bails out the airlines, banks and big energy corporations, will rapidly ramp up emissions again.    Over the next few months the climate movement needs to have an intense discussion on the politics of a sustainable path that tackles both the pandemic and sets a course for zero carbon.  The terrain on which we make demands has shifted.  Self evidently the money for transition is there – the money allocated by the advanced economies to finance the bailout is of the same order as what is needed to build a new economic system based on renewable technology.  So right now we need to develop and popularise a set of demands that clearly articulate how the money should be spent.  

Image by Kris Krug “System Change Not Climate Change” banner – United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP15 – Copenhagen, Denmark CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The North Sea is a good example.  With oil and gas prices falling we are likely to see a new wave of job losses and new developments like the fields west of Shetland are likely to stop.  Current government plans for a return to normal would see cash going to the energy companies to salvage these projects.  Surely we should demand that the money goes to supporting the laid off workers, to a rapid expansion of retraining opportunities in further and higher education and investment in sustainable projects on a large scale.

There’s much more to say about this but I hope this article contributes to a necessary debate about the way ahead.  We need clear demands so that we can build mass pressure for action.  

This changes everything

Mike Downham reflects on discussion at a recent Scot.E3 organising meeting.

This piece began as a report on a ScotE3 discussion about its forward strategy at an organising meeting on 19th March. The meeting had been planned before COVID-19 had become the over-riding priority. By the time we met, it had. For most of us it was our first Zoom meeting.

Over the week since we met, events have moved more quickly and more significantly than in any of the 4,213 weeks I’ve been alive and aware (too young to be aware of the outbreak of World War 2, and too distracted as a medical student  to be fully aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis.). So this report has become an attempt to develop the main points which emerged from our discussion in the light of the subsequent escalation of COVID-19 – an escalation in terms of the spread of the disease, the number of deaths, Government intervention, and the response of communities and activists.

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The key points which emerged from our discussion that night were that the COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare the contradictions in the capitalist system;  and that increased consciousness of these contradictions among working-class people, already noticeable, has the potential to build to a point where those people will collectively insist on fundamental change.

What are the contradictions in the capitalist system which the pandemic is particularly exposing? Above all, the vulnerability of our health and social care infrastructure as a result of market-led policies over recent years has become blatantly obvious. The NHS has about 5,000 ventilators, and we are predicted to need around 100,000 within the next few weeks – this despite a flu pandemic exercise run by Government three years ago which pointed to the need to increase ventilator capacity. The Government took no action. On top of that it’s now widely known that the Government, as recently as a month ago, was prepared to sacrifice older people to save the shareholders. Though it became politically impossible for them to hold tightly to that strategy, it still informs their inadequate and confused public health interventions.

The economic impacts of the epidemic are likely to be as big for working-class people as the health impacts. Yet the Government’s income-support interventions have been slow to emerge, inadequate and confused. What for example is an ‘essential job’? Essential for who?

Food will inevitably become scarce soon, particularly but not only for those with least money.  The official figure for the percentage of food the UK imports is 50%. But this is a figure massaged by the inclusion of foods processed in the UK. If ingredients for the processing are included, the real figure is around 80%. A lot of that comes from Europe. Wholesale prices of the fruit and vegetables we import from Europe are rocketing in the context of the pandemic, some of them have already risen by 100%. Wherever food comes from it has to be distributed and many of the waggon drivers come from central Europe. Homegrown fruit and vegetables are threatened by the shortage of harvesters, most of whom also come from Europe.

What are the signs of increased consciousness of these contradictions? Already many people are expressing lack of confidence in the Government. That, to date, 600,000 people have responded to the call for volunteers to help the NHS is a sign that people recognise just how under-resourced the service is. At this point the Government is arguing that the scale and severity of COVID-19 was unpredictable, but as the facts emerge about their inaction in the face of what became known to them from the experience of China and other far-eastern countries, this argument will be seen through, especially by the new volunteers as they experience working at the front line. The vigorous responses of local mutual aid associations will lead to increased confidence and a growing collective consciousness about the way working class people have been failed, particularly as people lose loved ones and as their economic conditions deteriorate. Workers are standing up for their rights for protection from Coronavirus infection in their workplaces – at Moy Park poultry processing plant, Northern Ireland’s biggest employer, 1,000 workers have walked out.

ScotE3’s primary aim is to contribute to the building of a mass movement to achieve a Just Transition from North Sea oil and gas to renewable sources of energy within a timeframe which prevents catastrophic climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic, despite its devastating outcomes, which have now become inevitable, offers an opportunity for ScotE3 to support the growing consciousness of the way the capitalist system is threatening the very survival of working-class people. We can support the generalisation of that consciousness, so that it extends to an understanding of the urgency of Just Transition. As one of our members put it recently:

Oil & gas need to go the way coal went, but this time without victimising the workers and their communities…The people, if they get the facts, will not allow either the industry or the Government to lead us into a future that condemns our grandchildren.

We are well placed to continue to contribute strongly to a Just Transition movement, despite the restrictions of the pandemic, given our emphasis on providing high-quality information widely available online, and the diversity and depth of the experience of our membership. The pandemic will make it more possible for us to promote radical solutions, above all the need to replace the capitalist system. The COVID-19 pandemic should inform all our activities, the resources we work on, and the politics of the material we publish. The pandemic is the new prism through which we should view everything.

 

 

 

 

Just Transition Commission Interim Report

The Just Transition Commission began its work in 2019.   Established by Scottish Ministers its remit is to advise on how just transition principles can be applied to climate change action in Scotland.  It is tasked to complete a final report with recommendations for Scottish Ministers by January 2021.  The Commission published an interim report on 26th February 2020.

Commissio interim cover

The interim report has four main themes:

  1. Planning Ahead
  2. Public engagement
  3. Bringing equity to the heart of climate change policies
  4. Opportunities and the need for immediate action

The report notes that since the Commission began its work both the Climate Change (Emission Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act and Scottish National Investment Bank Bill include reference to just transition principles. However, it is critical of a lack of action by the Scottish Government and highlights opportunities that have not been taken.  The closure of the coal-fired power station at Longannet is cited as a case where the local community in Kincardine contest the view of Fife Council and other agencies that the closure was well managed and socially just.

There is a strong emphasis from the Commission on the need for strategic vision that cuts across sectors and for government leadership and direction.   It contends that the task of making strategic progress across sectors

… cannot be left to enterprise agencies or indeed companies themselves. There is a crucial need for Government leadership.

Further, it argues that the Scottish Government shouldn’t wait for its  2021 report before acting, stating that

We firmly believe that all decisions taken by Government in the year ahead need to be made with a view to supporting a just transition for Scotland. We don’t want Government to wait for our final report to begin planning how a just transition will be achieved.

It notes that current planning approaches are insufficiently rigorous and suggests that all Scottish Government funded investments should be prioritised against inclusive, net-zero economy outcomes.  Planning is essential if we are to avoid the kind of unjust transition that has characterised previous major economic transitions.

While arguing for a much more proactive role for the Scottish Government the interim report doesn’t make recommendations for how a state energy company could be used to drive transition. It’s to be hoped that the final report will say more about this.

While it is critical of lack of action and leadership from the Scottish Government, the interim report is weak on the role of public ownership and democratic engagement.  The former is largely neglected while the latter is viewed in terms of  consultation – there’s no real sense that system change is on the agenda.  This is most evident in the way that the report approaches North Sea Oil and Gas.  The  oil industry’s  Vision 2035 and associated roadmap are mentioned without criticism.  The truth is that aiming for the  North Sea to become the ‘first net-zero carbon hydrocarbon basin’  means continuing extraction and carbon capture and storage on a massive scale.

‘Just Transition’ was prominent at COP24 in Katowice – developed by the workers movement and climate activists – it has been partially co-opted by corporations and government agencies.  It’s critical that the climate movement defends the radical core of the concept.  If social justice is not central to transition then it will not be possible to build the scale of social mobilisation that is needed and the risk of a climate catastrophe is magnified.  Here in Scotland we need to put social justice at the heart of our actions as we build the climate movement and mobilise for COP26.  The Just Transition Commission is asking for civil society to submit their views as it works through 2020 and prepares its recommendations for Ministers.  We should do that.  But even more important is raising the level of mobilisation so that the pressure for action becomes irresistible, system change is on the agenda and corporate greenwashing is exposed as a desperate attempt to cling on to business as usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February Organising Meeting

Our February meeting will be held at the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre on Thursday 20th February.  The Centre is in the basement of the Epworth Halls on Nicolson Square.  The meetings are relaxed and informal and open to anyone who is keen to engage with organising around Just Transition and Climate jobs.  You can download the detailed draft agenda and there’s still time to email in other ideas and contributions to the agenda.  Among other things, we’ll be looking at what we can do in terms of outreach activities and meetings in the year of the Glasgow COP and planning updates and additions to the resources that are hosted on this website.

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Glasgow XR meeting on North Sea Oil and Gas

Following actions in Dundee (see video) and at First Ministers Questions Glasgow XR held a well attended meeting on the 25th January.   The meeting began with contributions from XR activists, Friends of the Earth Scotland and ScotE3, before breaking into discussion groups.  The remainder of the post reproduces the text of the ScotE3  contribution in which we shared some thoughts on strategies for achieving a just transition to a zero carbon economy.

ScotE3 campaigns for the importance of climate jobs.  Jobs that are critical to the economic transformation that is needed to prevent a climate catastrophe.   In Scotland  100,000 of these jobs are needed .  However, to date we are not doing well.  According to the Office of National Statistics the UK’s green economy has shrunk since 2014.  The number of people employed has declined as has the number of green businesses.  This is true UK wide and in Scotland.  It’s no wonder that some representatives of unions that organise workers in the hydrocarbon sector pour scorn on talk of a just transition.

The Sea Change report makes it clear that unless we phase out North Sea Oil and Gas the UK will produce far more green house gas emissions than is compatible with restricting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.  But we have a huge challenge; the big energy companies are still committed to maximising extraction of oil and gas and so are the Holyrood and Westminster governments.  Just a year ago when the discovery of new oil and gas reserves east of Aberdeen was announced energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse highlighted,

 the significant potential for oil and gas which still exists beneath Scotland’s waters.

He added:

Scotland’s offshore oil and gas industry has an important role to play with up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining under the North Sea and in the wider basin and discoveries such as this help to support security of supply as we make the transition to a low carbon energy system.

 Just this week the Africa summit in London ended with the Westminster Government pledging £2 billion to projects concerned with fossil fuel extraction.

From the outset North Sea has been a bonanza for the oil companies.  Nigel Lawson, now a prominent climate change denier, was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1986 and said then

the whole outstanding success of the North Sea is based on the fact that it is the freest petroleum province in the world

He meant of course almost complete freedom for the oil companies – few if any benefits accrued to society as a whole and even centres of the industry like Aberdeen were then, and remain, centres of acute inequality.

So we need a rapid phasing out of North sea Oil and Gas.   How can we overcome the powerful vested interests that oppose this and at the same time protect the lives and livelihoods of the workers in the industry.  Theer is no evidence that the private sector can lead such a transition.  The public sector has to take the initiative – and in Scotland that means a much more ambitious role for a state energy company and the new national investment bank.  However, for this to happen we need a powerful movement of movements that has deep roots throughout Scotland.

To grow the movement and force the pace of change clarity of ideas is essential.   We don’t have all the answers but the core issues around climate jobs and just transition are clear.  So we need to patiently and persistently explain why hydrocarbons need to stay in the ground, why we need zero carbon, why the counter proposals from the industry are a dangerous diversion and how a just transition would have a positive impact on working people.

Reaching the audience we need goes hand in hand with maximising pressure on the energy corporations and local and national government.  Much of this will be through all kinds of direct action.  There have been some brilliant examples already but we need much more.

Direct action is necessary but not enough.  The power to force a transition can only come from a mass movement and to build the movement we need to win hearts and minds.  This means reaching out into unions, communities and community organisations with a vision of just transition that goes beyond simply defending existing jobs and embraces practical steps that have direct and understandable benefits for working class people across Scotland and beyond.   We need win people to a positive vision of transition, but more than that we need to win them to be active agents in the transition: part of a movement of rebels, not just on the streets, but in workplaces and communities.  So as we plan actions we always need to think about how to reach new audiences – through stalls, street leafleting, public and workplace meetings and patient door to door leafleting debate and discussion.  It may be that some of those who work in the industry will be the last to be convinced (although that’s not inevitable – our opponents are the same corporations that drive down their wages and conditions and play fast and loose with health and safety).  But if they are unconvinced we need to aim for a situation where climate justice is common sense to millions and where the people that oil workers meet in the pub, out shopping, their kids and relatives, are all won to the need for transition.

With the COP being held in Glasgow this year we have a huge opportunity to build outwards and take a massive step forward in creating a campaign for transition that is unstoppable.

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North Sea Oil Rig by Gary Bembridge, CC BY SA 2.0

Climate emergency – a model motion

New Year 2020 is a critical time to be taking the campaign for climate action into our workplaces.  Below we’ve pasted a model motion that can be used or adapted in your own workplace context.  (You can also download a PDF here and a Word version here.  If you have already raised a similar motion in your workplace we’d love to hear about it and would be pleased to share the text (with permission) so that others can build on your experience.  We think there’s a particular case for developing clear policies in education, from school through to university, and would be really interested to get feedback on particular demands and actions for the education sector.  Please send feedback to triple.e.scot@gmail.com 

Draft model motion 

This (branch/region/committee/trades council/union/conference) notes the urgent need for action on the climate emergency, both in response to existing negative impacts such as extreme weather, fires, droughts, floods and loss of habitat and species; and to avoid the catastrophic and irreversible climate damage which people increasingly realise the world is on course for, after the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

We recognise that big business, the military and the richest individuals are responsible for the vast majority of climate change, yet the global working class and poor are disproportionately at risk. A just transition (that protects the lives, livelihoods and rights of the poor and disadvantaged) to a decarbonised economy is not only right, but is the only way the movement against climate chaos will secure the mass support needed to win, and avoid a rich minority protecting themselves at the expense of the planet and the vast majority of people.

We congratulate the school students striking around the world for real climate action and welcome the decision of the TUC to support them and call for a solidarity stoppage. We note that many workers did strike on 20 September 2019, despite Britain’s repressive legislation, by campaigning to pressure employers not to apply sanctions to climate strikers.

We note that there is discussion about the possibility of making Friday 1 May 2020, traditionally International Workers’ Day, also a climate strike. We note that the UN ‘COP’ climate change conferences have become a major focus for campaigners, that COP26 will be taking place in Glasgow from 9-20 November 2020, and that many organisations are already making plans.

We resolve to:

  1. Publicly state our support and solidarity with the climate strikers and the wider movement for rapid and effective climate action
  2. Invite climate strikers to speak at our meeting
  3. Educate our members about the climate emergency
  4. Give practical support to the climate strikes, without adults taking it over. This will include asking schools and local authorities to commit to imposing no sanctions against striking students, promoting the strikes on social media, encouraging members to attend, taking our flags or banner if agreed with the strikers. If requested, it could include co-hosting events, providing sound systems, staging and stewards, using our public liability insurance, help with press releases or police liaison.
  5. Support workers joining climate strikes and maximise member involvement
  6. Work with other local labour movement and environmental organisations to arrange discussions locally and within workplaces about practically how workers and unions can learn from 20 September, join climate strikes or show solidarity
  7. Promote through the labour and climate movements the idea of making 1 May 2020 a climate strike as well as International Workers’ Day
  8. Organise to make COP26 in Glasgow, 9-20 November 2020, a major focus of campaigning for effective action on the climate emergency
  9. Call on employers and local authorities to declare a climate emergency and involve workers and communities in planning, implementing and monitoring to rapidly achieve zero carbon emissions, including ending investments in fossil fuels
  10. Call on employers to recognise union green/environmental reps and give them work time for their activities
  11. Create climate action groups at workplace level and within union structures
  12. Look for opportunities for unions, communities and the climate movement to work together, for example for improved housing and public transport
  13. Call on unions and the TUC to back the climate strikes, call and build action
  14. Call on our union to carry out a major exercise to understand the potential positive and negative impacts of the climate crisis and responses to it on employment
  15. Campaign for a legal right to strike and to repeal all legislation that makes it harder to strike over climate
  16. Discuss what climate-related demands to include in collective bargaining, including ones which could be the basis of a lawful “trade dispute” under current legislation and to call on our union to produce guidance on this
  17. Ensure that unions are visible as relevant and useful organisations within the climate movement and that participants are encouraged to join a union
  18. Demand massive public investment in the jobs required to address climate emergency, including massive improvements in renewable energy, housing and public transport
  19. Send this motion to our local trades union council, up through our union structure, and to local SNP, Labour Party and Green Party branches

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Energy efficient housing

The announcement by Paul Wheelhouse that the Scottish government will work on new regulations to ensure that new homes use renewable or low carbon energy sources for heating is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  However, the timescale for action is disappointingly unambitious; the new measures are not planned to be implemented until 2024.  Setting a much shorter deadline would send a message to private sector builders and local authorities that ‘climate emergency’ is exactly what it says. In housing, as elsewhere, action needs to be take place on the shortest time lines possible.

Let’s up the pressure for a mass public programme of retrofitting existing houses to be energy efficient.  This is a necessary step and in addition the climate jobs and the improvements in living conditions that it would generate would have a massive impact on people’s attitude to the climate emergency and what needs to be done.  It would be just transition in practice.

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Passive House, Image CC BY SA 3.0