DISCUSSIONS in, and certainly around, parliament in recent days have often been dominated by the ongoing climate emergency. It’s heartening to see this issue at the top of the political agenda and igniting the passions of the public, but the debate has often been frustrating.

The Scottish Government’s decision to declare a climate emergency, mere weeks after voting against a Green motion which did just that, was a case of better late than never. The onus is now on them to back up words with actions.

Too often the effects of ecological collapse are viewed as distant or in the abstract. Those resistant to change are happy to pay lip service to the environment but when it comes to taking steps to actually address the issues they quickly change their tune.

The bluster from Tories, Labour and the LibDems on my workplace parking levy amendments is a prime example. There are swathes of Scotland which are currently choked by air pollution. Exposure to noxious fumes is a contributing factor to an alarming number of deaths every year, and cars on the road are a big part of the problem.

The workplace parking levy isn’t going to be imposed by central government, rather local authorities, who have serious issues with traffic congestion and air pollution. They will be able to apply the measure in a way that’s appropriate for their area, if they apply it at all.

A similar scheme already runs in Nottingham. There council officials have seen a positive impact on pollution and congestion. It has also raised £50 million, which the authority has reinvested into public transport. That’s a substantial sum and while we need as many tools as possible to tackle the climate emergency, improved public transport is one of the most effective.

That’s why its baffling that bus travel, the most common form of public transport in Scotland, has been routinely ignored by successive governments. It’s no surprise that across the country bus patronage has decreased when services are infrequent, often late and in many cases scandalously overpriced. Private companies take no account of the importance of public transport to individuals and communities and are interested only in profit.

For many people, particularly in rural areas, buses represent their only viable mode of transport. They are an essential service, just like water or electricity, and should be treated as such. The whims of the free market allow operators to pick up the profitable routes while abandoning those elsewhere to isolation.

The Scottish Government’s original plans to address this were timid and ineffective. But I worked with colleagues to amend the Transport Bill to allow for councils to run their own services, giving communities across the country the chance to benefit from a model akin to the successful and publicly run Lothian Buses.

Of course, the workplace parking levy can assist councils in this regard. The money raised from the scheme can be used by councils to invest in a high-quality bus service, ensuring everyone has an accessible alternative to cars.

While bus services are vital in connecting local communities, railways are equally important, especially when it comes to connecting the nation. Sadly, this has also been neglected. The Highland Mainline, which connects the Highlands to the rest of Scotland, consists of only one track and simply can’t provide the regular and reliable service the region needs.

Despite insisting that it recognises that we are in a midst of a climate emergency, the Scottish Government persists in spending vast quantities of money on roads while railway infrastructure lags behind. Ministers have spent billions on dualling the A9 and A96 when the Highland Mainline could have been dualled in a shorter time and for less money.

With a single-track system, one train breaking down grinds the whole system to a halt and there is a hard cap on capacity. An efficient rail network in the Highlands is essential if the region is to cope with rising tourism, while helping residents travel throughout the region.

It’s not just passengers who could benefit, dualling the Highland Mainline while reopening lines like the Levenmouth Rail Link in Fife would massively increase the potential for rail freight. More goods on the tracks means fewer lorries on the roads.

The ultimate point is that public transport coverage in Scotland could be so much better than it is. The changes we need to make to address the climate emergency don’t have to involve pain and sacrifice. Instead they represent an opportunity. Investment and improvement in the nations transport network will make a huge contribution in terms of meeting our emissions targets but it will also make it easier, cheaper and more pleasant to travel across the country. The process of fighting back against ecological collapse is one that involves all of us, but if we take the radical action needed we’ll have built a better Scotland.