Prospect hosts Just Transition fringe meeting at SNP conference

14 Oct 2019

Prospect held a successful fringe meeting at the SNP Conference in Aberdeen looking at how a Just Transition can be achieved for energy workers as the industry moves to a low carbon future.

The meeting, organised with the Smith Institute think tank, was the last event in Prospect’s programme of events at the main party conferences.

Chairing and introducing the event, Prospect senior deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said the event came at a timely moment given recent commitments made by both the Scottish and UK governments to reach net zero to address the climate crisis.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, minister for energy, connectivity and the Islands, opened the contributions from the panel.

He said that to meet Scotland’s target of net zero by 2045, transition would need to be managed “in a better way than previous transitions”, particularly pointing towards the decline of coal-mining communities in Scotland. They were, he said, “left out to dry” and that “all politicians did not do enough” to manage these changes in past.

He called on UK ministers to mirror Scotland’s approach to planning for the future of the energy industry and Just Transition.

Wheelhouse also called for changes to the way UK government subsidies operate for renewable energy, and to prioritise projects that have the most value-added impact for the Scottish and UK economy throughout the supply chain.

He concluded that if we can get this right then there will be “amazing opportunities for this transition”.

Hazel Gulliver, head of Scotland and EU policy for Scottish Power, told the fringe that Just Transition isn’t always easy but Scottish Power was proud of what they had done as they had transitioned away from coal generation to renewables.

Gulliver added that Scottish Power was investing in both networks and generation, and hoped that the company would bring forward its first offshore wind projects shortly.

Scottish Just Transition Commission

For Prospect Scotland, Richard Hardy, national secretary, explained the work that he was doing on behalf of the union on the Scottish Just Transition Commission.

Explaining his motivation for this work he said: “I don’t want to see other industries go through an unjust transition”.

Hardy argued that communities would need quality well paid jobs from a Just Transition and to ensure they were not being left behind like the coalfield communities were. He hoped the commission, which is currently gathering evidence, could begin to define what a green job is.

Finally, the SNPs Westminster spokesperson on energy and transport, Alan Brown MP, told the event that rapid change in UK government ministers was a barrier to long-term policy making.

He also called on the UK government to allow greater development of onshore wind projects and allow direct investment in green projects.

Questions from the floor included contributions on nuclear power, where Prospect reiterated its commitment to a balanced low carbon energy mix including nuclear; the role of the Scottish National Investment Bank; improving the energy efficiency of new housing; and funding for energy supply chains to diversify.

In closing, Sue Ferns said that regardless of differences of opinion on some specifics of how Just Transition should be achieved, there was much common ground that everyone involved in the debate should seek to build on in the future.

Find out about our green industrial revolution event at the Labour party conference