Mark Ruskell speaking at Scottish Green Party conference

Scottish Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell has accused the Tory government in Westminster of “printing off oil and gas licences as fast as covid contracts for dodgy donors”. He made the comments at the Scottish Greens’ conference taking place this weekend in Dunfermline.

Ruskell made the opening speech at the conference, where Scottish Green Party members will be gathering to hear from the party’s MSPs, NGOs and trade unions, as well as to debate and set party policy on a range of issues.

Addressing the conference, Ruskell used his speech to criticise Westminster’s energy policy and call for a transition away from fossil fuels which puts “people and the planet first”.

Ruskell acknowledged that the area in which the conference is being held – Fife – has experienced the damaging effects of an unjust energy transition when coal mines were closed in the 1980s and 90s. He described the closure of the coal industry as a “betrayal that is still impacting generations today”.

He told the conference: “Fife of course bears scars from our industrial past, a time when change was imposed on communities – a time when most things about us were done without us, by a remote and unaccountable Tory government.

“And in Fife, the memory of the un-just energy transition away from coal runs deep and sore. At its peak there were 50 pits here, with the last closing as recently as 2002. The coal fired power stations in Kincardine, Longannet and Methil defined their landscapes and defined their  communities. 

The closure of this industry in the 80s and 90s, without any planned transition to new, green industries, was a betrayal – an utter betrayal – that is still impacting on generations today.”

He went on to say that the Tory government in Westminster is setting up to repeat that by failing to plan for a just transition to renewable energy now. He said: “And we see this same betrayal played out by this current Tory Government. They know that North Sea oil and gas reserves are in decline and the time for transition – to plan for that transition – is now. And they know that if we are to have any hope of keeping the world safe, then we need to leave most of the oil and gas reserves in the ground, but of course in recent months they have printing off oil and gas licences as fast as covid contracts for dodgy donors.”

Ruskell went on to contrast the approach of the Westminster with the Scottish Government – of which the Greens are a part. He said: “The Scottish Greens have stepped up to the challenge of government, because we refuse to let communities like those here in Fife suffer all over again – particularly when the challenge of the climate crisis presents so many opportunities for communities as well. 

“So Fife’s story also points to a bright future, a transition in an age of climate change which can deliver fair livelihoods, wellbeing and prosperity.

“And with Greens in Government, we’ve published a new energy strategy for Scotland, which not only has a presumption against new oil and gas, and a ban on new coal and waste incinerators, but it also maps out the positive vision for the future of wind, solar and tidal power in Scotland. 

“And that’s what will secure jobs for the young people next door at Fife College who studying engineering and wind turbine maintenance. That’s what will power a just transition going forward. But, you know, no one doubts there are difficult conversations to have, but as Greens we’ve never been shy of those conversations. 

“And just a few miles from here, the gas plants at Mossmorran remain one of the biggest climate emitters in Scotland. But even here, many workers recognise their future relies on a real and meaningful change at the site.

“So a couple of weeks ago I was pleased to bring together representatives from the Unite and the GMB unions, alongside the STUC and individual workers at the plant to discuss what  a just transition could look like at Mossmorran.

“So his is about seeding a worker led transition that leaves no-one behind. And it’s our responsibility as Greens to put people and the planet first.”

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