AS Boris Johnson is painfully finding out, it’s not enough to simply make up policy on the go, not on everything at any rate. International agreements take time to work out, policies need to be costed and implemented. The upcoming COP26 forum in Glasgow is little more than a couple of weeks away and we have little indication what, if anything, will actually be agreed.

We want to see a Glasgow Agreement or, if not, a comprehensive framework then at least a list of things which were agreed. Climate change is – short, medium and long term – our biggest challenge and it isn’t going away.

If our societies and communities are to survive then we will need to transition from a fossil-fuel, single-use society to a sustainable, circular one. This means reusing materials and engaging in cleaner, healthier practices.

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It must be a fair transition though and those most vulnerable must be helped the most – and I do not just mean the developing world, I mean here at home too. Many communities across Scotland still bear the scars of Thatcher’s destructive neoliberalism – a transition of a sort – whilst the empty glens of the Highlands bear testimony to the cold-hearted Clearances when another transition was foisted upon communities without the power to make their own decisions.

A just transition from our current energy, transport and economic models is therefore not only a sensible option – it is the only game in town.

Fortunately, Scotland is not short on ideas. Last week I had the privilege of convening a fascinating discussion at an event organised jointly by SNP London Branch and Stirling constituency where we had Professor Jim Skea (below) speaking to us. It was in London where I first joined the SNP so it was great to see familiar faces. It was even more heartening to hear what Jim had to say.

The National: Professor Jim Skea.

For context, Jim chairs the Scottish Just Transition Commission. It was established in 2019 to provide recommendations to the Scottish Government on how to make a fair and equitable transition to a clean, green, lean society. Its findings were published in March this year with a set of 24 recommendations and makes for interesting reading. I really would urge you to read them, they are pivotal to Scottish Government policy for the months and years ahead.

The commission makes clear the importance of pursuing an orderly, managed transition to net-zero that creates benefits and opportunities for people across Scotland. Individuals should be equipped with the skills and education needed to benefit from the transition, whilst people should be empowered and invigorated to strengthen local communities.

Crucially, the benefits of climate action should be shared widely whilst costs should be distributed on the basis of the ability to pay. Essentially, from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.

The Scottish Government has not delayed in getting to work in implementing the commission’s recommendations. It has already developed a national Just Transition Planning Framework to guide the development of sectoral plans for a just transition. It’s also working on developing national resilience through an effective Supply Chains Development Programme. Moreover, it is committed to giving annual updates to Parliament on the progress that’s being made in implementing a just transition to a cleaner, leaner and sustainable Scotland.

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Crucially, these policies are being co-designed and co-delivered alongside Scottish businesses, trade unions, civil society stakeholders and local communities. Each and every one of us has a part to play. This approach, with all parts of Scottish society working together hand in hand, is crucial for achieving a better future for all of Scotland.

This ambition has a solid foundation already, we are not starting from scratch. Scotland is already a world leader in tackling climate change. Since 2008, we have decarbonised faster than the rest of the UK or any other G20 economy for that matter.

In 2009, we published a landmark Scottish Climate Change Act which reflected bold ideas and targets for its time. In 2011, renewable technologies generated 37% of our electricity demand.

Last year it was 97.4%. Since 2015, the Scottish Government has published annual reports on the progress of Scotland’s climate adaptation programmes.

In 2019, we updated the Climate Change Act which saw us set world-leading targets and ambitions in tackling climate change. These include a net-zero target of emissions by 2045 at the latest (five years ahead of the UK) and a 2030 target of at least a 75% reduction in emissions. There is also the aim for 50% of energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources by 2030, up from 17.8% in 2015.

The Scottish Government has already demonstrated its commitment to a just transition. The success or failure of COP26 is out of our hands; sadly, but it should not stop us continuing to focus on what we can do at home and agitate for internationally.

A just transition, for me, is also another opportunity to demonstrate why an independent Scotland will be a constructive and innovative partner to the international community. The levers of independence will allow us more flexibility and freedom to adapt to the coming transition. Combined with membership of the world’s largest single market in the EU, our transition to a cleaner, fairer and more sustainable society is more than achievable.

The clock is ticking. Scotland has already demonstrated its big ambition. Time will tell if the UK and indeed the world will follow our example. Either way, we will continue getting on with the day job and of building a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous Scotland for all.