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Landin in Scotland Emergency? What emergency?

CONRAD LANDIN wonders why Nicola Sturgeon is in no hurry to do anything about climate change

AS EMERGENCIES go, it’s pretty underwhelming.

Yes, Edinburgh is the only one of Britain’s governments to adopt new targets on climate change. Yes, its policies and practices are being reviewed in light of this.

But when you call 999, you expect a blaze of sirens. You expect the ambulances or fire engines to arrive on the scene to stabilise the situation. 

If it’s a major incident, let alone a “national emergency,” you expect immediate action to activate water hydrants across the affected area, and for hospitals to call in off-duty staff.

Yet since Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency in Scotland, it’s seemed very much like business as usual.

At First Minister’s Questions this week, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie ridiculed the Scottish government’s abandonment of planned cuts to aviation taxes. 

Sturgeon had originally planned to go ahead with the tax cut in spite of the climate emergency. Rennie asked if Sturgeon had “only just realised” that more flights would be a problem.

At the weekly briefing after the questions session, the press pack questioned Sturgeon’s spokesman over the First Minister’s announcement that her support for Heathrow expansion would be included in the climate policy review. 

The spokesman played it down, saying that flights to Scotland were only a tiny percentage of Heathrow’s traffic, and that it was really a matter for the Westminster government.

But SNP MPs were crucial for giving Heathrow expansion the go-ahead, voting in favour or abstaining in the House of Commons. 

This followed a “memorandum of understanding” between Heathrow and the Scottish government, which promised thousands of new jobs north of the border, incentives for more flights to Scotland and a “logistics hub” (yes, yet another hub) for Heathrow construction at Prestwick.

The question on our lips was: does that not bind you in?

But perhaps that misses the point. Having given support at crucial stages when the go-ahead for a third Heathrow runway was by no means guaranteed, the important work has been done. 

A withdrawal of support now might be a nice gesture, but both the Scottish government and Heathrow know it would be unlikely to be anything more.

Meanwhile, Sturgeon’s government is intent on continuing North Sea oil and gas exploration, talking up potential for carbon capture and storage.

All in all, you could say it’s a very SNP emergency. This government, after all, does nothing better than cloaking an avid defence of the status quo in the language of radicalism.

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