Building a fairer, greener Scotland

We all know there are many, complex factors which define the character of modern Scotland.

We are a welcoming, outward looking country. We value hard work and defend social justice. We champion equality.

But it is our land which defines us above all else; it is the land which has given us our very sense of national identity.

From the Highlands and islands, to the central belt and the Borders, we have shaped the landscape and it has shaped us in return.

This is Scotland. The place we call home. A place to take pride in.

But there is much work to be done to build a fairer, greener nation.

I am reminded of that every day in my role as Scotland’s first Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, and Land Reform.

Our party, and now our government, have long been committed to radical land reform – a bold ambition and a massive task.

The injustices of the past will never be forgotten, but it is time to look to the future – a future where our land, rural and urban, is used to benefit the many, not the few.

Our new Land Reform Act sets out what we want to achieve and how we plan to achieve it.

I am pleased to say our work to implement that Act is already well underway.

We are increasing transparency, fairness, and opportunity.

A powerful new body, the Scottish Land Commission, has already begun its work.

The Commission’s members, based in Inverness, will drive forward the land reform agenda and ensure it delivers for all of Scotland.

I have another promise to make: Scotland will continue to lead the rest of the UK in the fight against climate change.

We set a world leading emissions reduction target of 42 per cent for 2020 – and we’re well on track to meet it, having met our annual targets for two years in a row.

Now we’re about to raise the bar, by setting tough, new targets; targets we plan to achieve and want others to match.

“I make no apology for using Scotland as an exemplar”.

These aren’t my words, although I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.

They are, in fact, the words of Lord Deben – the Chairman of the influential UK Committee on Climate Change.

You may remember him as John Selwyn Gummer. Yes, that’s right, a Tory publicly acknowledging Scotland’s SNP Government is getting it right. Doesn’t that make a refreshing change?

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our age and make no mistake – we will be judged by future generations. I want to ensure our grandchildren and great grandchildren look back and can agree: Scotland was bold. Scotland delivered.

There’s no doubt difficult choices will have to be made as we transition to a low carbon economy. But there are valuable opportunities too. The remarkable success of our renewable energy sector is testament to that.

The latest figures show the number of workers in Scotland employed in the low carbon and renewables sector rose to 58,500 in 2015 and generated a turnover of £10.5 billion.

The message from leading scientists grows louder and clearer with every passing day. More extreme weather, more often. That’s the new reality at home, and abroad.

And so, we must go further, be bolder. If only we could say the same of the UK government, which we’re told plans to reduce its international focus on climate change to allow it to deal with the devastating consequences of Tory plans for a hard Brexit here at home.

Compare that with the efforts of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who earlier this year visited the US where she signed a widely-praised climate change deal with Jerry Brown, the Governor of California.

There are powerful individuals and organisations who seek to thwart our work to protect the environment, fight climate change and achieve radical land reform. But our Parliament has spoken and I am determined to ensure the will of the people of Scotland prevails.

After all, that is my day job.

– Roseanna Cunningham MSP, is Cabinet Secretary for Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Read more here about our action to protect our environment and tackle climate change.