The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) has today (Tuesday 30 June) published its plan for a Green Recovery from the COVID-19 crisis with a call for the Scottish and UK governments to deliver an ambitious ‘green stimulus’ to kick-start the economy, create new green jobs and fuel ‘clean growth’.

The plan has been developed by SCDI’s Clean Growth Leadership Group, which brings leaders and experts from business, industry, academia, local government and the public sector together in a shared mission to tackle climate change with practical ideas and action.

Building Scotland’s Green Recovery contains 12 big ideas which can be delivered in the coming weeks and months.

SCDI CEO Sara Thiam said: “Government, employers, workers, citizens and communities need to work together to tackle the climate emergency with the same urgency as we have the public health emergency.”

This ‘green stimulus’ should include new or expanded national programmes of investment in:

  • Domestic buildings retrofit and energy efficiency;
  • Domestic buildings heat pumps;
  • Low- and zero-carbon transport infrastructure (e.g. active travel routes, EV charging points, hydrogen refuelling points, railway electrification);
  • Nature-based solutions (e.g. tree planting, peatland restoration, flood management); and,
  • Digital connectivity.

Such investment needs to happen at pace and at scale to address the worst-hit sectors of the Scottish economy and jobs at risk in tourism & hospitality, retail, construction and energy. Investment should be targeted at accelerating the decarbonisation of such sectors and supporting laid-off workers with reskilling, upskilling and transitioning into new green jobs.

The report also calls for:

  • A Green Jobs Transition Taskforce to prevent a surge in unemployment by supporting laid-off workers into new green jobs.
  • Green Reskilling & Upskilling Fund to help Scottish workers to keep pace with technological, environmental and labour market changes and to increase workforce and business resilience to future disruption.
  • Green Town/City Plans to transform the natural and built environment of Scotland’s towns and cities to create more inclusive, resilient and sustainable places which encourage walking and cycling, reduce pollution and facilitate social distancing.
  • New ‘net-zero presumption in favour’ in planning for developments which are essential to achieving net-zero (e.g. new active travel routes, onshore wind farms, pumped storage hydro or sustainable housing).
  • Better public procurement approaches by government, local authorities and public agencies to invest more public money locally and sustainably (e.g. Community Wealth Building).
  • Strong environmental conditionality on business support, rescue agreements or bailouts for the worst-hit businesses and sectors to accelerate their progress to net-zero.

Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower said: “SCDI’s plan further strengthens the case for accelerating investment in a cleaner, greener society to deliver positive outcomes for both the economy and the environment. Positive outcomes that will benefit all of us thanks to cleaner power, cleaner home heating and cleaner transport that will deliver much-needed jobs and investment while cleaning up the environment and decarbonising the economy. The time really is now for government, business and all of us to step up and make this happen.

“As the UK’s first 100% green energy company, we’ve continued to invest and support the economy during the pandemic and continued to lead the way on the country’s journey to net zero. These two strands must keep working hand and hand to achieve a cleaner, greener and fairer future and ScottishPower will continue to play its part to ensure we can all enjoy that better future, quicker.”

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said: “As we begin to overcome the immediate economic challenges we face, we must build a sustainable recovery for both Scotland’s communities and its climate through embracing flexible, low carbon technologies like pumped storage.

“Through the Scottish Government adopting the report’s call to favour projects that contribute to net zero within the planning system, and the UK Government supporting an appropriate investment framework, innovative pumped storage projects such as Cruachan 2 could be delivered in the years to come. Increasing the role of pumped storage will unlock the full potential of wind power in Scotland and provide the secure and sustainable electricity supplies a post-Covid, zero carbon economy needs.”

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council and Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building said: “In the midst of this economic recession, it is clear we need to build back our economy better, fairer and greener. North Ayrshire Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and we are committed to taking action now to achieve net zero by 2030.

“The COVID-19 health and economic crisis has challenged the existing economic model and urgent investment is now needed to create a more inclusive economy that is more resilient and sustainable, to ensure we are ready to deal with wider global challenges such as the Climate Emergency.

“To achieve this, we need to work collaboratively across all sectors and support local Green New Deals to support economic transition, to create fair green jobs and contribute to a circular economy.

“Business as usual responses will not deliver what is required. We are ready to play our part in delivering Community Wealth Building locally and regionally to achieve wellbeing and inclusion and to help combat climate change.”

Robbie Kernahan, Director of Sustainable Growth, Scottish Natural Heritage said: “This report highlights the critical role of nature based solutions and active travel in the green recovery, it shows how business and public sector interests are working together and at pace to develop the ambitious plans needed.”

Dave Gorman, Director for Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh said: “Climate science is clear: we must reduce carbon emissions to net zero in order to stabilise global warming and prevent future damage to the environment and society.

“Rebuilding the economy post Covid-19 is a fantastic opportunity to prioritise clean growth and a just transition, ensuring Scotland ends its contribution to climate change within one generation.

“The University of Edinburgh supports the 12 big ideas presented in the SCDI’s Green Recovery Plan. We are currently implementing many of them on our campuses and supporting Scotland to achieve others through our links to local communities, businesses, government and the public sector.”

Andy McDonald, Head of Low Carbon Transition, Scottish Enterprise said: “It is vital that we map our way to a net zero future and this report from SCDI alongside the work of the Economic Advisory Group and recent findings from the UK Climate Change Committee all point towards collective investment and commitment to a green recovery and SE can act as the conduit for this alongside partner agencies.

“In addition, the SCDI report highlights the importance of encouraging inward investment and our work via SDI to position Scotland as a leader in renewable energy, sustainable mobility and low carbon will be ramped up as we head towards COP26 next year with all eyes on Scotland as we rebound to emerge from a global pandemic with resilience and renewal as our focus.

“There are many projects that Scottish Enterprise has taken forward from MSIP, to our work on low carbon heat and transport, offshore wind clusters to opportunities around energy transition and place that we will continue to work with partners on and build the green economy of the future in Scotland.”