WITH our transport sector responsible for more than a third of our carbon emissions, decarbonisation of this sector is an urgent priority for Scotland.

Much of the technology we need to supercharge our drive to net zero in transport exists in the here and now – hydrogen and electric trains and ferries, EV cars, vans and bikes, with Scotland’s first electric aircraft beginning test flights in Orkney this summer.

There are many exciting advances in this sector powered by renewable electricity and green hydrogen, and we must continue to fund research, development and innovation in transport as we strive to hit our net zero milestones.

In order to do this properly and make the most of our abundant natural resources in a sustainable and equitable way, we need an over-arching plan to create a structure for success for Scotland in this field. With this in mind, and the number of significant pledges on transport decarbonisation already made by the Scottish Government, I was delighted to back a resolution at the recent SNP conference to establish a National Transport Company which members then overwhelmingly approved.

The National: Hydrogen energy study

The NTC’s priority must be to ensure that a robust charging and hydrogen-refuelling infrastructure is in place for all types of new vehicles as well as supporting the creation of new, skilled green jobs and innovative projects in this sector.

A National Transport Company would own and operate this infrastructure for the public good, setting annual targets and ensuring that all of Scotland benefits from new opportunities to reach net zero.

For this to be a success, Scotland must be in a position to be self-sufficient in domestic green hydrogen production. Building our own electrolysers, storage systems and defining urgent areas for immediate usage will not only address our clean energy requirements but create opportunities for new work streams to bolster the economy.

High priority areas for the use of this green hydrogen will include the decarbonisation of shipping, and we’ve already seen some announcements from our Danish neighbours on the development of carbon free fuels for their container ships, as well as decarbonising private and public transport.

Meanwhile, we can already see a huge uptake in the sale of electric vehicles, with a number of initiatives run by the Scottish Government to support this change as well as the electrification of our trains and buses. More still needs to be done in this area to encourage the switch to carbon free travel; we need only look to our Norwegian neighbours to see how their joined-up thinking on incentives for EVs has led to their accolade as the first country in the world where electric vehicles outsell traditional combustion engines cars.

Importantly, the timescale set out by the Scottish Government dictates that the work of a National Transport Company needs to be completed quickly and so must be paid for by the public purse to ensure a core service is in place nationally.

We often hear of the term “Moonshot” to describe big projects that require even bigger imaginations on how we approach an urgent issue, mobilising public and private sectors to be bold, courageous and innovative.

If ever there was an area where we need to marry huge public investment with positive partnerships with private businesses, academia, green tech and the energy industry, it is in the transport sector.

We talk about creating a resilient Scotland in a world where climate scientists have warned that the window of opportunity to prevent catastrophic global warming is closing fast. Addressing our transport emissions under the umbrella of a holistic national company would both embody our economic and social values as a nation while addressing the greatest challenge of our age.