WITH a cost-of-living crisis fuelled by soaring oil and gas prices and war, there’s never been a more important time to accelerate our pathway toward a just transition away from fossil fuels. Wednesday’s Spring Statement did little to help the millions of people who are being punished by escalating energy prices and offered nothing to tackle the climate crisis. In fact, the word climate wasn’t used once.

The two issues are intrinsically linked, with the cost of living crisis having been driven by Downing Street’s addiction to oil and gas. The decision by the then prime minister, David Cameron, to “cut the green crap” was typical of a government that paid lip service to social and environmental justice but delivered neither. Analysis from Climate Brief shows that this reckless decision alone, which scrapped a number of green energy and efficiency initiatives, has added £2.5 billion to UK energy bills.

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Energy prices were already high, but they have skyrocketed over recent months. It could not be happening at a worse time. The choice between heating and eating is already a real and horrific one for far too many families, with one in four households across Scotland already experiencing fuel poverty.

It is people on low incomes who are being hit the hardest. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that low-income single-adult households could soon be forced to spend a majority of their income on gas and electricity.

The UK Government’s solution is to double down on the same failed strategy that had led us here.

Last week the Prime Minister met with senior oil and gas industry representatives to discuss additional funding for the sector. He then visited Saudi Arabia to encourage the brutal regime to increase its production too. They are also back in talks with Shell about further oil exploration in Cambo. The oil would be sold on the international market and would do nothing to lower bills. None of this will help us to build a sustainable future.

Last week the Prime Minister met with senior oil and gas industry representatives to discuss additional funding for the sector

The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres (above) has described the reliance on fossil fuels as “mutually assured destruction”. He’s right. Our energy policy cannot be based on pumping ever more carbon into our environment while seeking grubby and compromising deals with human rights abusing regimes and dictatorships.

It is not a solution, and nor is the lobbying from the nuclear industry. This week the UK Minister, Greg Hands, called for the Scottish Government to support new nuclear plants, claiming that there has “never [been] a better time to bring more nuclear power to Scotland”.

There is nothing safe, secure or reliable about nuclear power. It is the last thing we need. It is costly, dangerous and leaves a toxic legacy for centuries. It would add extra costs on to household bills, and, as Hinckley Point shows, it would take years to get on stream.

For the good of people and the planet, we have no choice but to ensure a speedy and just transition to renewables.

Last week the Prime Minister met with senior oil and gas industry representatives to discuss additional funding for the sector

The Prime Minister and his colleagues could learn a lot from looking to Germany. Rather than flying to Saudi Arabia, the German government responded to the invasion of Ukraine by halting the development of a gas pipeline to Russia and scaling up investment in renewables. Earlier this month they published plans to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035.

They are not alone, with more of our European neighbours following similar paths. Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission called for a continent-wide “dash into renewable energy at lightning speed.”

This transition isn’t just desirable; it’s necessary. The longer it takes the greater the scale and the speed of change will need to be.

We didn’t arrive at the current situation overnight. It is the result of decades of bad decisions.

The UK’s response to the oil price crisis of the 1970s was to develop gas infrastructure and exploit the North Sea oil reserves. In comparison, Denmark invested in a structural transition away from imported oil. The long-term impact is that two-thirds of Danish homes are now connected to district heating networks, which are cheaper, more efficient, and easier to transition to zero carbon.

This is the sort of change that the Scottish Government is trying to learn from, including in the Heat in Building Strategy that is being overseen by my Green colleague Patrick Harvie.

It is the sort of transition that Scotland should be well prepared for. We have 25% of all the offshore renewable potential in Europe. We have the resources, technology and the skills, but, if we are to realise our potential and create thousands of cleaner, greener jobs, it will need investment and support.

With Greens in government we are taking big steps. We are doubling onshore wind capacity and investing record amounts in marine energy.

We are also enabling and encouraging positive choices, with record investment in active travel and a £5 billion commitment to decarbonise our railway network and cut emissions.

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We are ensuring a positive and just transition for workers, with a £500 million deal for the north-east, to support the communities and workers who have relied on the fossil fuel industries for work to move to the green energy industries of the future.

Unfortunately, we can’t go as far as we would like. What we don’t have is the power to upgrade our own electricity grid to accommodate those renewables. We don’t have the power to lay offshore cables to export that energy.

Independence would give us more powers and help bring us closer to the full transition that is so necessary. However, the constitutional settlement can’t be an excuse for inaction in the areas that we do have power over. While we campaign for independence, we also have to redouble our efforts to ensure that Scotland lives up to its green potential.

Despite the UK Government’s assurances and promises, the Office of Budgetary Responsibility warns that we could be facing the sharpest fall in living standards since the 1950s. We are in a desperate and urgent situation for people and the planet, and all governments must do everything they can to deliver the positive change that is needed. There’s no time to waste.