On Monday the Members’ Restaurant of the Parliament was taken over with representatives from all over Scotland and Europe for Scotland Europa’s conference entitled Scotland’s Route to 2050: Contributing to Europe’s Low Carbon Energy future. I was delighted to host the event which gave an in-depth treatment of the renewable potential of Scotland, mixing science and politics, mapping out potential scenarios for Scotland’s future.
The speeches and presentations were extremely informative and useful, in particular Duncan McLaren’s presentation for Friends of the Earth Scotland which made the case for a target of at least 100% renewable energy by 2020. Questions from the floor followed, which probed a panel made up of individuals from energy companies as well as George Tarvit of Sustainable Scotland Network and Dr. Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland. Questions came from other energy companies, researchers at a number of universities across Scotland, and representatives from within the EU.
There was a real buzz about the event, and it was brilliant to have so many people from all different sectors engaged in debate and discussion about renewables, energy efficiency and carbon emissions targets. What is so important now is to translate a low carbon strategy into action. Original targets must be met, more ambitious targets must be adopted, and changes must be made both in terms of energy production, and our energy consumption.
This year was no exception and on Saturday I joined volunteers at Cramond beach to sift through marine litter and clean up this beautiful site.
Now more than ever we must focus on the conservation of our coastlines. As government legislation kicks in over the next few years it is important that the pressure is kept up to make seas and beaches cleaner.
Fans of the TV face of ‘real food’, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, will remember his recent promotion of the Landshare concept, in which people are encouraged to sign up if they have the time and energy to grow food but nowhere to do it, or if they have land for growing but need some willing helpers to make it happen.
What you may not know is that the Landshare project is now based in Glasgow, and I recently had the chance to meet them and talk about how the public sector could get involved.
In Glasgow very few people have gardens, and most back courts are not designed to let people grow food. There are huge waiting lists for allotments, and while the number of community gardens is increasing there are still many people who’d love to get involved but don’t have the chance.
But many public sector organisations, from local councils to health boards, could make land available if they wanted to. It’s something which “ticks lots of policy boxes” too. It’s not just about the environmental benefits of local food production but help give people access to a fresh and healthy diet, it’s great exercise, brings communities together, and saves money from the household shopping bill too.
As we face the threat of cuts in public spending imposed by the UK Government, increasing the productive use of public land could be a terrific, cheap and beneficial way of improving quality of life throughout Scotland. I’ll be working with allotment growers, community gardeners, and my chums at Landshare to try and get local and national government support behind the movement to get Scotland growing.
Last week I had the pleasure to visit Neil Gaunt and his colleagues in a group called COBRA – the Campaign to Open Blackford Railway-station Again – at Gleneagles and Blackford stations. It was delightful to see such positive promotion of cleaner transport methods shining through, especially when the Scottish Government is still committed to carbon-emitting vanity projects and motorway extensions and expansions. It was also a particular pleasure to meet a project that has been supported by the Climate Challenge Fund, a Green initiative, and to see them building momentum towards the reopening of this station.
The train line between Perth and Stirling used to stop at several local communities including Blackford, and with a growing local population there’s a strong case for bringing it back to life. It would be far easier to build in a good standard of disabled access, and the campaigners argue that it needn’t cost any more than the planned improvements at Gleneagles. Either way, the Scottish Government will need to make a decision soon.
Yesterday evening I had the pleasure to chair an awareness event organised by the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society (SAGS) in the Parliament, where allotment owners and enthusiasts could meet with MSPs and other like-minded individuals.
It was wonderful to see such a great turn-out of MSPs at this event, and it was not just down to Peter Wright’s outstanding home-made wine! Allotments are extremely desirable and there are long waiting lists to obtain one. There are just 7,000 in Scotland down from 80-90,000 after WWII. By 2018 SAGS hope to have one plot per 300 people in Scotland, bringing us back to 50,000 plots.
Allotments promote healthy eating, exercise, the minimising of waste, regenerating dishevelled areas of cities, and so on. The benefits are endless and I am thrilled to support such a positive movement!