SCOTLAND’S move to beyond Level 0 on Monday allowed me to resume constituency visits and I have had a busy week spending time with organisations and businesses across Edinburgh South West. From paddle boarding on the Union Canal at Wester Hailes during what felt like the monsoon season to learning about how best to make localism work, it has been lively and stimulating.

Some meetings are still taking place on Zoom and at a community council meeting on Monday night the chair asked me what I thought was the most important issue facing his area over the next few years.

Following on the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report earlier that day, I had no hesitation in saying it was climate change. We only need to reflect on the torrential rain we have been having, the loss of life in the floods in Germany and Belgium, and the forest fires across Europe and North America to know how real and immediate this challenge is.

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After 18 months focused on the pandemic, we must now turn our attention urgently to how to make our lives and our environment more sustainable. Change needs to happen internationally, at national governmental level and closer to home, not just at the level of local government but in our local communities.

As the UK Government prepares to host COP26, it needs to get its house in order to deal with the incredible humanitarian challenges to come. It must face outwards and work internationally rather than turning its back on international organisations and going it alone. Foreign aid cuts are particularly unconscionable given the scale of the challenge faced by the less developed world because of the excesses of the developed world and must be reversed. Parts of the world may become uninhabitable, so climate change will mean more – not less – migration, so all the more need for a humane immigration policy.

Closer to home, the Scottish Parliament has shown a strong commitment to tackling climate change. Although some of the powers needed to fully realise this commitment reside at Westminster, for now, Holyrood can still sufficient effect real change. If there is to be a co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Greens, it should focus on how to deliver this change rather than virtue signalling and identity politics. Green Ministers could be put in charge of departments where sweeping change is needed to make our lives more sustainable, which is the very raison d’etre of their party.

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This week’s report from the Common Weal think tank called 21 for 21: The Climate Change Actions Scotland Needs Now, launched by my colleague Douglas Chapman MP (above), shows the way. It lists 21 priority actions which Scotland could embark on during 2021 in order to prove “we are serious about making the transition to a zero-carbon future and averting catastrophic change”.

The report focuses on energy, population and consumption as the “three key drivers of climate change in Scotland” but the authors say they could have produced many more proposals.

This latest report from Common Weal sits among an important body of work advocating a Green New Deal to transform our economy, to make it more resilient and to reduce inequality and alleviate poverty, while tackling climate change. One of the major themes is land reform – making the way we use our land and the wonderful natural resources upon it more efficient in terms of creating jobs and incomes. A deal with the Greens is the perfect opportunity to tackle land reform anew. What a shame Andy Wightman is not where he should be when he is needed most.

Another issue the coalition might tackle is local government and how we finance it. Both the SNP and the Greens are committed to improving local democracy and how we fund it. The SNP have pledged to have an annual citizens’ assembly tackling issues like the role of local government and local taxation.

AS in Ireland, these focused assemblies should come up with concrete and detailed proposals which the parliament can enact. A lot of time has been spent discussing the importance of reducing the sizes of councils and giving more local control. It’s high time we had concerted action to break up councils and implement real local democracy. The 2022 local government elections should be the last ones contested under the existing system.

The unprecedented steps taken by governments across the world to deal with the Covid pandemic have shown us that sudden drastic change can happen and work, albeit it that it has come at a significant cost. Covid has meant the loss of lives and livelihoods. But it has also shown us that home working is viable for a significant chunk of our workforce.

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People have spent more time in their local communities than they perhaps had for years, and local organisations and new voluntary groups have taken the lead on food distribution and supporting the vulnerable.

We are far more open to living and working differently than we would have been before the pandemic. However, managing change is crucial. Government at all levels, including local, must take communities with them. That means plans developed from and with communities following real engagement and not simply imposed on them.

Communities must be properly invested and in control of decisions about change that will impact on their day-to-day lives.

In 2019, the Planning (Scotland) Act introduced a wide range of reforms to Scotland’s planning system, including the opportunity for communities to develop Local Place Plans.

Wester Hailes in my constituency was one of the first communities in Scotland to develop its own Local Place Plan. It takes advantage of local knowledge to reflect the aspirations of people in Wester Hailes in order to make it a better place to live, work and visit, to influence decision-making on planning and investment and to involve young people and all generations to have their say.

One of my constituency visits this week was to see the rejuvenation of the local community space that has happened as a result of this work and to discuss next steps. The Scottish Government’s Place Based Investment Programme aspires to “ensure that all place-based investments are shaped by the needs and aspirations of local communities and accelerate our ambitions for place, 20-minute neighbourhoods, town centre action, community led regeneration and community wealth building”.

In a 20-minute neighbourhood, everyone should have access to essential services including shops, childcare, schools, GPs, dentists, recreation and public transport within a short walk or cycle ride, together with plenty of open green public space. It’s a not a new idea but it’s one that we are all more open to as a result of the pandemic and it seems to me that the energy saving benefits of reshaping our local communities in this way will be integral to tackling climate change.

The Common Weal agrees and making localism work in this way is one of the 21 actions it says Scotland can take now.

None of this is to underestimate the importance of achieving independence to realising the goal of a greener more resilient Scotland. But that won’t happen overnight, and, in its latest policy paper, Common Weal has shown yet again that transformative change has to start now and be developed as we move to independence.

Embracing its plan would be a great way for an SNP/Green co-operation agreement to get off the ground.