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Our Common Home

Below we explore the learning needed to deliver the Common Home Plan.

To deliver the Common Home Plan there needs to be an enormous amount of learning, of all sorts. One of the biggest barriers to getting started is the sheer number of people needed to fill the jobs that need to be done.

Simply to get going we’ll need almost 4,000 more skilled tradespeople than we currently have – such as plumbers, electricians and joiners. And we will soon need to double that number to meet our deadlines. There is a serious shortfall in skills - for example, the total number of plumbers currently training in Scotland is only about 140, and many of them are needed just to replace other plumbers who are retiring. Eventually we will need 20,000 trained land managers to bring our nation’s land back to life. If we are going to move to a system of agroecology we’ll need to provide extensive training and support to the farming community, and increase their number. And we’ll need many more engineers, planners, project managers and project accountants to get it all done. This might seem like a huge task, but it’s actually a fantastic opportunity. The Common Home Plan aims not just to solve our environmental crises but to radically improve our living standards. With a massive increase in good, skilled jobs available, Scotland’s history of poverty and inequality will finally come to an end. This will also require a substantial expansion in our higher education system so that universities and colleges can meet this new demand for training and expertise. This needs to happen immediately – the longer we wait to begin training, the longer before we can start work. 

It’s not just the new workforce which will need to learn new skills – all of our organisations and companies will need to adapt. Businesses need help to learn how to become zero-waste, looking at all their resource flows to understand where and why waste is happening and how to prevent it. They need to look at how they use energy, how their buildings operate, what they’re manufacturing products with, what they’re selling in their shops. The same is true of voluntary organisations, charities and public bodies; everyone must get support in learning that ‘how we’ve always done things’ can’t be how we do things in the future. When we get this right it will greatly benefit all of them because they will become more efficient and more productive. But everyone needs help. We should set up a National Environmental Audit Agency and every business and organisation should get a free audit to devise a plan for how to change their resource and energy use – though the cost of implementing the plan should be borne by the organisation. Long-term, businesses will benefit from increased energy efficiency and improved infrastructure, and continued support in becoming zero-waste. 

The next kind of learning we need to do is about research, development and innovation. There is so much to do here. If Scotland moved ahead with the Common Home Plan quickly it would be the first country in the world to implement a Green New Deal. We would be global pioneers and as we undertook the work we would be learning constantly about how best to achieve our goals. This learning would be invaluable not only to us but to the rest of the world. We need to examine and collect information on everything we do so none of that learning is lost. We will also need a great deal of innovation in our research institutions to generate new technologies. For example, it would be a terrible missed opportunity if Scotland fails to become a world leader in hydrogen, but the electrolysis process needs refining and improving and much of that may fall to Scotland. In partnership with our many world- leading universities we need to identify and overcome technical and technological barriers, and then share the knowledge with the rest of the world. It will also give us valuable new industries which will help us to create new export opportunities. So we must establish a major centre of research and development coordinated across our existing universities and we should invest properly to make sure that we make the most of this new knowledge. 

We also need better learning in our schools. The current curriculum is mostly geared towards one, limited idea of the purpose of education. We need every new generation of Scots to understand exactly why the massive investment of the Common Home Plan was needed by making sure they understand the way nature works – and how we worked against it. We need much better teaching of the key cycles of nature (the water, carbon and nitrogen cycles) and the way different materials behave. That gives understanding. 

Then we must teach the history of why the world edged towards these environmental crises in the first place and how we can make sure we don’t do it again. That gives awareness. 

But most of all, we should provide young people with the skills that they will need to play their part. For example our food system, the supermarkets and the relentless advertising of processed ready meals means that many parents have lost the core skills of cooking and that will cascade down across the following generations. 10. Learning to cook with fresh ingredients is an essential aspect of tackling crises in health, the environment and in poverty. We must set up a commission to recommend how to redesign the curriculum to make sure that this pattern of providing knowledge, awareness and skills is at the heart of how we teach future generations. 

Finally (and there is a reason it’s finally), we should also support adults with learning. The reason this is very deliberately last is to make sure that the impression is not given that our environmental crises are somehow the fault of the individual, or that if we just lectured individuals to ‘be better’ it would solve our problems. That isn’t true; we can only face these challenges through large-scale collective action and investment. In order to achieve the goals of the Common Home Plan, we must invest in lifelong learning for anyone who wants it.