Flooding during the monsoon conditions in Dumbarton. Picture by Tom Gardiner
By Rory Murphy
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today called for a new fund to protect communities from extreme weather as heavy rain batters Scotland on the eve of COP26.
Homes have been evacuated, infrastructure has been washed away, roads flooded and trains have been cancelled.
In January, research by the party revealed that just 7 of the 42 flood protection schemes identified by SEPA for delivery between 2016 and 2021 had been finished. Despite that, there was no mention of flooding or announcement of new help for communities affected by the climate emergency in the SNP/Green Coalition’s Programme for Government last month.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, left, commented: “We are facing what I can only describe as the “Scottish Monsoon” and communities haven’t been prepared for it.
“Flooding events which I was told were a once in a thousand year events when I was first elected now happen every year. Scotland is underpinned by Victorian sewers that were never designed to cope with the extreme weather we get today.
“It is why, as part of my commitment to provide new hope for the climate emergency, I’ve proposed a new Climate Emergency Communities Fund. This would have the objective of upgrading Scotland’s homes, businesses and infrastructure to cope with the impact of the climate emergency which are already taking their toll.
“There are countless communities across Scotland that look up at the sky with dread in the knowledge of what heavy rain might bring. We know there is worse to come as the climate emergency deepens. The Scottish Government should listen to these proposals and not leave communities to feel the full force of extreme weather events.”
Meanwhile, since becoming Scottish Liberal Democrat leader in August, Mr Cole-Hamilton has made offering new hope for the climate emergency his top priority.
Under Alex’s leadership, the party has:
- Lodged an amendment to end Scottish Government support for Heathrow airport expansion which would generate 75,000 extra flights to Scotland by 2040, rejected by SNP and Conservative MSPs.
- Called for all new public sector vehicles to be electric, longer government-backed interest free loans to enable people to buy electric vehicles and a scheme to enable everyone to try out an electric car for a weekend funded by the government.
- A new railcard entitlement for everyone built on the model in London and the South East, meaning railcard prices for everyone, alongside an extra discount for those already entitled.
- Pressed the UK Government to reconsider axing the North East’s carbon capture and storage project, championed by the Liberal Democrats.
- Proposed a Fast Fashion Commission, to review Scotland’s role in “fast fashion” domestically and internationally, new textile waste monitoring and reporting, alongside textile waste reduction targets and new kerbside collection options for textile recycling, to reduce the volume of clothing bought and binned and help build the brilliant network of charity shops.
- Demanded that the long-delayed Circular Economy bill is resurrected and includes a latte levy and a new ban on single use plastics.
- Challenged the Scottish Government over missed emissions and heating targets, including the renewable heat target which has failed on the eve of COP26.
- Delivered a detailed plan to ensure that all new builds install climate-friendly heating systems and an upfront voucher scheme for homeowners who want to install these, as opposed to the current schemes for cashback systems or loans.
- Called for a fresh drive on insulation as a national strategic priority
- Proposed a new Climate Emergency Communities Fund to prepare and protect people across Scotland already being affected by extreme weather, following research by the Scottish Liberal Democrats which revealed that just 7 of the 42 flood protection schemes identified by SEPA for delivery between 2016 and 2021 had been finished.
- Set out proposals to establish a new Highlands and Islands Just Transition Commission, to take account of their specific needs and unique opportunities.
- Backed a conference motion calling for the rapidly acceleration of decarbonisation in sectors that have recorded little or no progress towards achieving emissions reduction targets since 1990 and for all future policy commitments to be sense checked in light of the climate and nature emergencies.
- Proposed linking Air Passenger Duty to how far and how regularly people fly after six years in which the only thing the SNP Government has changed is the name.
Bridge Street in Dumbarton where the River Leven could no longer contain the floodwater.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “COP26 must offer the world new hope for the climate emergency and it must finally cause the Scottish Government to act on a scale that will bring an end to its years of missed targets and opportunities.
“Minutes after her MPs in Westminster attacked the Tories for cutting airline taxes, her MSPs were voting to expand Heathrow, pump more airline emissions into the atmosphere and bring tens of thousands of new flights to Scotland. This week, of all weeks, it was business as usual and generations will pay the price for that. No wonder Greta Thunberg said that Scotland is not a climate world leader. Greens in government are no more than a name badge.
“With the eyes of the world on Scotland, under my leadership Liberal Democrats have proposed a whole series of measures to cut emissions, tackle fuel poverty, boost renewables and protect communities from the ravages of climate change.
“That’s the plan that the planet needs, not Nicola Sturgeon’s warm words and hot air.
“Scotland cannot save the planet alone but it should have used this opportunity to show real leadership and secure green jobs for the future.
“If voters want a party that will tackle the climate emergency without the baggage of nationalism, they should join the Scottish Liberal Democrats.”