As world leaders gather in Egypt for COP27, plans for tackling the climate crisis are again under scrutiny. Earlier this year Keir Starmer unveiled the Labour’s new Green Prosperity Plan. It includes the establishment of Great British Energy, a publicly-owned clean generation company to harness our renewable energy, cut bills and deliver energy independence for the UK. It would also see significant investment in green jobs to buy, make and sell more in the UK to boost local supply chains.
These commitments are important because the SNP Scottish Government has failed miserably to deliver its promises on this issue. Its target for 2020 was 130,000 green jobs, but only around 20,000 were actually delivered.
East Lothian is already critical to renewable energy production and forestry and wood processing, and has the potential to be at the heart of this green prosperity agenda. Last month I joined Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray MP on visits to Glennon Brothers’ Windymains sawmill near Humbie, and Alba Trees nursery, near Gladsmuir. We met with industry representatives and discussed the contribution forestry and wood processing can make to delivering green jobs and growth.
It gave us fresh insight on this issue, particularly the importance of planting more wood-producing forests. This would support local economies, create jobs, reduce imports, support our climate change ambitions and bring a range of societal and environmental benefits to communities.
However, to reap the benefits of these opportunities we also need investment in other areas. For example, apprenticeships and FE courses in traditional skills, such as stonemasonry, to develop the workforce to support these ambitions. Sadly, the Scottish government slashed funding for colleges by more than £50m this year, making it all but impossible to sustain, let alone expand, such provision.
The SNP has failed to deliver on its green job promises. Labour has a clear plan to maximise green prosperity and East Lothian is well placed to benefit from it.