Calum Hodgson, Scotland Campaigner at Green New Deal Rising
In the past year, I’ve noticed more and more that the world is changing around us. It’s only June and we’ve already had a summer filled with wildfires across Scotland and an unprecedented heat wave off the Western coast, causing intense and unseasonal heat waves and relentless thunderstorms.
As the world changes, I’ve increasingly felt stuck in place. Watching the same debate as an unending spectacle. Just last weekend, the SNP met in Dundee to discuss fighting the next election as a de facto referendum. A plan that would shape what would be the most important election around the constitution when it should focus on preventing serious climate breakdown.
If it wasn’t clear where the Scottish Government’s priorities were, this happened the same week that, for the eighth time in twelve years, Scotland missed its greenhouse gas emissions target. To be absolutely clear, this is a legally binding commitment that must be met. The fact is that the climate is becoming more dangerous for people, for communities and for nature. This should be anything but business as usual.
I was in Dundee alongside a crack team of activists from GNDRising. We stood outside, braving the heat and challenging SNP MSPs and MPs to use their position to act for people and the planet. I can’t lie, there was trepidation as we were on the train heading North. There always is when you stand in front of politicians – those with the power to make real change – and challenge them to do more. As we got up and saw the crowds of supporters, I felt that fear grow. Turning up to a party event and knowing you’re going against the crowd is a difficult position to take.
We decided to jump right in and find politicians. We spoke to MPs and MSPs, asking them to do more than pay lip service to the challenges we face and take a real stand against new oil and gas. We were given vague platitudes and unclear positions on whether new oil and gas should in fact go ahead.
As we fell into a rhythm, the nerves turned to focus. It’s always a liberating experience participating in these kinds of actions. As you’re face to face with politicians, instead of fear or anxiety I find myself feeling spurred on to do more. The vagueness, the prepared answers, the lack of real commitment is not a barrier, but a vacuum for us as activists to fill the void.
From an outsider looking in, the convention seemed to be an exercise in branding. The party’s top brass took it in turns to announce how serious they were about independence. But what about climate change? We have heard all the same promises and seen so little change.
As an ex-member who has voted SNP before and voted Yes in 2014, I do not believe the next election should be a single-issue election. This next election needs to be one which addresses these issues, with parties proposing genuine plans to take the climate crisis seriously. There’s plenty of work out there by individuals and groups showing how we can create a liveable, sustainable, fair and prosperous Scotland.
We want to see a genuine plan to tackle the climate crisis from the SNP in the election. But there’s so much more they could do now. The fact is the Scottish Government has plenty of powers it could use today to achieve the targets it has set itself. It could use its powers to set up a public energy company (a promise made in 2017, reneged in 2021). This would save thousands of people from fuel poverty and give us the opportunity to ramp up our investment in clean energy. It could also begin building energy efficient housing and retrofitting existing homes, creating thousands of green jobs and decarbonising our housing stock which is currently a major contributor to our emissions.
Even this summer we could see the Scottish Government begin making clear commitments to a detailed Green Jobs Guarantee that is focused around public investment in retrofitting of homes, carbon neutral public transport, and a skills passport for those working in the North Sea to move into renewable energy. We need to see a fully detailed and fully costed just transition plan, and a public energy company that invests in renewable energy generation. We also need to know that these commitments will be within the energy strategy released later this year. Sadly, just today (Thursday 29th) we have seen the Scottish Government delay their highly protected marine area (HPMA) policy.
Activism works. I have seen what can happen when politicians are forced to take a side. I’ve been involved in moments of political change that seemed so small at the time but quickly grew into an unstoppable force. In 2021, I was part of a group who challenged Nicola Sturgeon to oppose the Cambo oilfield. She tried to avoid a real promise but in just a few short weeks the pressure was too much and with her intervention Cambo was halted. More recently we have seen young politicians taking stands with climate activists, Mhairi Black was the most recent MP to publicly oppose Rosebank. A real success to see which politicians are on our side.
I, like many young people in Scotland today, want to see the SNP deliver on their promises. We are tired of parties that pretend to listen to us and then continue with business as usual. It’s become unavoidable to deny that we’re living in a time of crisis. This crisis demands action. If the SNP are not able to provide that, then we will. I was asked to reflect on the direct action taken over the weekend, and if I were to summarise the experience it would be this: Politics is not done in committee rooms and parliament’s halls. It’s a space of constant action. If you’re reading this and wonder where to start, if you’re an SNP member it could be to chat with other members or the youth branch to take action. If you’re not a member, you could join a group close to you. If you’re under 35 and reading this, you should join GNDRising and help us build power. We’d love to fight alongside you!