Unions must lead on fair energy and just transition

Willie Docherty

Willie Docherty

#stuc2018 Congress backed UNISON’s call for a Scottish energy policy, including the creation of a government owned energy company and a Just Transition Plan.

The wide ranging composite also called on the Scottish Government to ensure that their Just Transition Commission includes the trade unions.

Moving the composite, UNISON’s Willie Docherty told delegates that it is due to a lack of a proper industrial strategy and a lack of a strategy planning for a just transition to a low carbon economy that Scotland has lost out on the manufacturing jobs that were continually promised from the renewables industry.

Willie said: “Brian Wilson rightly said in the Scotsman on Friday that Scotland had missed an open goal with renewables. He pointed, among other lost opportunities, to the fact that the world’s most powerful wind turbine, just installed off Aberdeen, was manufactured in Denmark.

“That detail attracted less publicity than the fact Donald Trump had famously campaigned against this offshore wind farm.”

Willie added that the GMB motion on energy manufacturing debated earlier was correct to highlight the anger of many union members who feel let down by politicians talking up renewables but failing to ensure investment to support turbine manufacturing in Scotland.

“If there had been a proper strategy, the threat to Bifab would have been identified much earlier, as part of planning for the just transition to a low carbon economy,” warned Willie.

“That’s why we are proud to have been part of the Just Transition Partnership, working with the STUC to call for a Just Transition Commission,” he added, welcoming the Scottish Government’s decision to create the Commission and encouraging all affiliates to support the just transition movement.

“It will work to protect livelihoods and ensure funding for training and re-training. Practical measures will include drawing up a heat map of vulnerable industries and companies, working to avoid future BiFab scenarios. Fair work principles and collective bargaining are key to success as is direct trade union representation on the Commission, which must have real teeth.”

Willie also called for a proper balanced energy strategy for Scotland to deliver security of supply, at an affordable cost, meeting climate change targets, with communities supported to develop local energy solutions.

He expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government’s plans for a government owned energy company are for just a retail operation similar to Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham. UNISON had suggested a more radical option involving generation and transmission.

“We want to see more public, community and co-operative ownership of energy generation with councils setting up municipal energy companies, as happens across Europe. At a time when local government budgets are under such stress, this could bring in welcome income.”

He called for an energy policy that will set energy targets with credible milestones and delivery plans, including a new statutory target to eliminate fuel poverty by 2030, with a clear plan to do this; and one which will invest in research, development and production in new and existing low-carbon industries.

Willie reminded delegates that a new Climate Bill is imminent which will hopefully build on the achievements of the existing Act, with huge public support for increasing ambition to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

“The trade union movement internationally has secured just transition policies in the Paris climate change agreement.

“Trade unions here can play a world leading role in making sure Scotland’s Just Transition Commission makes a radical impact in delivering a fair transition to the low carbon future that all our children and grandchildren need.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

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