Johnson has not grasped scale of climate crisis, say Greens

Lorna Slater said Scotland should become independent so it can make 'tough decisions' the UK Government has avoided.

Johnson has not grasped scale of climate crisis, say Greens Scottish Greens

Boris Johnson has not grasped the scale of the climate crisis and so Scotland needs to become independent, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens has said.

Lorna Slater said she wants to be in government in an independent Scotland to make the “tough decisions” that the UK Government has avoided.

The Scottish Government minister said she believed Scotland’s ability to address the climate emergency was “being strangled” by the UK Government and that she cannot “realistically talk about tackling the climate crisis” without having the powers currently reserved to Westminster.

Speaking to the PA news agency on the eve of the Scottish Greens’ conference, the party’s co-leader said “dramatic changes” are now needed because no government or country had addressed the environmental crisis.

Having described Scottish independence as “inevitable”, Ms Slater said she believed breaking away from the UK “would lead to Scotland having a higher profile and more influence on the world stage”.

She continued: “As part of the UK, Scotland’s potential is really being strangled.

“Scotland has 25% of all the offshore renewable energy in Europe, but we don’t have 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.

“There are so many things we cannot do because we don’t have the powers that we could have.

“So I don’t see how I can realistically talk about tackling the climate crisis when I don’t have the power to do all those things.”

Slater, who recently became minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity after a power-sharing agreement with the SNP, said the UK Government led by Johnson was a “horror show”.

She added: “They talk about ‘we’ll let the free market look after the climate crisis’.

“That is washing your hands of it, that is saying ‘this isn’t our problem’ as they say with so many things.

“‘Oh you’re hungry, child? Not my problem’.

“We hear that over and over from Boris.

“I’m in government now, it’s my problem, I want it to be my problem, I want to be able to make those changes and make those tough decisions.

“But the powers have to reside in Scotland to do those things.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Holyrood has gained a raft of new powers in recent years, including on income tax and welfare, and as a result, the Scottish Parliament is now one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world.

“We are committed to working closely with the Scottish Government in realising all of the benefits of the devolution settlement.

“The pandemic has created immense challenges for our country and our focus must be on rebuilding our economy and supporting our public services.

“As we tackle the challenges created by the pandemic, we’ll recover faster and stronger if we work together.”

Describing the upcoming COP26 conference as “humanity’s last chance to save the planet”, Slater revealed she would be taking part in at least one protest during the climate summit.

She said: “We didn’t start making small changes 30 years ago, we didn’t start making medium-sized changes 20 years ago, we didn’t start making the big changes we needed to make ten years ago and so here we are.

“We now need to make dramatic changes to our economy, how we get our energy, how we move around, how we deal with waste, how we deal with consumption.

“All countries everywhere all over the world need to do these things and this is our last chance to do it.

“I don’t necessarily have confidence that all countries in the world understand the scale of the transformation required.

“When you hear Boris Johnson calling us Kermit the Frog while, at the same time, approving new oil and gas exploration, I feel that he really hasn’t grasped the thing.

“At least here in Scotland we have a government who is taking it seriously.”

Slater also revealed that she has had no discussions with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to try to get her to oppose plans for new oil and gas extraction from the Cambo site near Shetland — an issue the Scottish Government has remained on the fence about.

Slater told PA the oil field proposal was “absolutely incompatible” with tackling the climate emergency but said: “It’s not a devolved matter, we don’t have time to sit in the Scottish Government and talk about matters that we don’t have the powers to make decisions about.”

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