FRENCH-style, yellow-vest climate protests could happen in Scotland if moves to cut emissions are perceived as unfair, ministers have been warned.

The Just Transition Commission, set up by the Scottish Government to advise on a net-zero economy that is fair for everyone, warned of the backlash if climate policy benefits were not shared equally, or their costs had a disproportionate effect on the country’s poorest people. Its interim report, published yesterday, called for “clear transition plans” about how Scotland moves towards net-zero, but warned: “If action taken to reduce emissions is unfair, or is perceived by the public as being unfair, then it risks the kind of backlash seen in France with the gilets jaunes protests.”

A planned rise in petrol and diesel taxes in France in 2018 sparked the gilets jaune (yellow vests) protests across the country.

As part of Holyrood’s legally binding commitment to have all emissions offset by 2045, and an interim target of a 75% cut by 2030, it has proposed a workplace parking levy that gives councils the power to tax business car parking spaces to try to discourage commuters from driving.

Low-emission zones banning some vehicles from city centres have already been introduced in Glasgow, with others planned for Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

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The report also warned of social injustices if changes were not properly planned, and said lessons should be learned from the closure of Scotland’s last coal-fired power station at Longannet, if cutting emissions was to be fair.

When it closed in 2016, a government task force was set up to help workers find jobs, but the report said little consideration was given to the impact on nearby Kincardine in Fife.

The Just Transition Partnership, comprising trade unions and environmental groups, said the Scottish Government should act immediately, adding that it was time to “move beyond the rhetoric of just transition and begin the hard-work of policy development and implementation”.

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC, said: “The commission has clearly stated that the current transition is not just, highlighting three decades of failure to create jobs in the renewables industry’s supply chains.

“The Scottish Government must recognise that to deliver a truly just transition, ministers must be much more interventionist and willing to take on corporate interests.”

Gary Smith, secretary of the GMB Scotland union, said the report was a missed opportunity and added: “The report asks us to ‘learn the lessons of Longannet’ but that failure is already being repeated and the BiFab yards in Fife and Lewis are evidence of this.

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“Scotland’s green energy revolution is being built by China, Indonesia and the UAE – anywhere but Scotland.

“Meanwhile the bill payer is subsidising those renewables industry firms to the tune of billions of pounds through the contracts for difference and constraint payments schemes, while one in four Scottish households exist in fuel poverty.”

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said: “These findings confirm the need for continued partnership working with governments, regulators and our people to ensure that we can continue to support the UK’s diverse energy needs, the communities we work in, as well as wider society.”

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “The actions required by 2045 will transform all sectors of our economy and society. As the pace of our transition increases, ensuring fairness will become ever more important.

“While the scale of the challenge posed is in no doubt, the commission’s report is also clear – there are significant opportunities for Scotland.”