By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has set out ambitious plans to save Scotland’s nature for future generations with a new Nature Recovery Law.
The criticism follows widespread criticism of West Dunbartonshire Council SNP leader Jonathan McColl for the council’s indiscriminate tree-felling indiscriminate tree-felling on the site of the old County Buildings at Garshake in Dumbarton.
The LibDems say urgent action is needed to write into law a requirement for governments to tackle the crisis facing Scotland’s natural environment.
The new law, which would be the first of its kind in Scotland, would see binding national recovery targets and investing more money in nature through plans like planting 36 million extra trees each year across the country.
The party also plans to establish new national parks – in what would be an important boost for rural employment.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto will propose a Nature Recovery Law to set legal targets across government to clean up our air, soils, seas and rivers. The plan will include measures to:
- Set legally binding nature recovery targets, with an action plan and financial support for delivery.
- Protect and restore carbon-rich habitats while phasing out harmful practices.
- Expand woodland using at least 50 percent native species, increasing Scotland’s forest cover by an additional 36 million trees every year.
- Develop a formal strategy for Scotland’s Wild Land Areas.
- Set a national target that 30 percent of all publicly owned land should be used for rewilding, including land owned by Forestry and Land Scotland, Crown Estate Scotland, and Scottish Water.
Willie Rennie said:“Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. If elected as government, we would declare a Nature Emergency on day one.
“Because almost half of species in Scotland are in decline. Experts say around one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.
“I want future generations of Scots to enjoy our woodlands, our national parks and our beautiful landscapes. Taking action now to stop the nature crisis is our duty.
“As a sign of our ambition we are proposing plans that would see seven native trees planted for every person in Scotland, every year.
“The SNP are consumed with creating more divisions by pursuing independence when instead they should be focusing on the recovery and protecting Scotland’s natural environment.”
Trees being felled at Levengrove Park in Dumbarton. Picture by Jim Crosthwaite
Meanwhile, also on the subject of climate change, Willie Rennie has set out a commitment to switch one million homes from polluting mains gas to climate-friendly heating by 2030.
The party’s zero carbon homes strategy would help deliver ambitious targets to reduce emissions and would also create incentives for all households to improve their energy efficiency, with an initial five-year programme that will improve 80,000 homes per year.
In their forthcoming manifesto the party will declare home insulation a national strategic priority and set a target to have covered the whole country by 2030, double fuel poverty budgets and provide incentives for all householders. These steps have been estimated to create 34,000 new jobs in energy efficiency.
Willie Rennie said: “I am setting out a commitment to switch one million homes from gas to zero and low emissions heating by 2030. This is a big number but if we haven’t moved half the homes in Scotland to climate-friendly heating by 2030, we will not meet our climate change targets.
“I have recently installed a heat pump in my own home and know how important it will be to line up the skills, training and business support for the tens of thousands of people who will be part of this transformation.
“I am concerned that, under the SNP’s best-case scenario plans, there will still be 1 in 20 households in fuel poverty in 2040. We must take action now to improve homes and make them greener and warmer. Work on this will create jobs, cut bills and tackle the climate emergency.
“Scotland could be a beacon to the rest of the world, investing now to cut carbon from our energy networks will pay an environmental dividend for decades – we can’t afford to wait.
“We will bring forward an Energy Efficiency and Zero Carbon Bill to underpin a new zero carbon homes strategy. This will introduce ambitious targets so we can meet our emissions and fuel poverty targets.
“When I say Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first, this is what it looks like: more jobs, lower bills and greener homes. This is what people want politicians to focus on – improving lives and communities, not wasting another five years squabbling about how to deliver another divisive referendum.”
LibDem leader Willie Rennie stresses the importance of climate change when it comes to keeping elderly people warm in their homes during winters like this one.