Amid the GERS hullabaloo yesterday (a good analysis of that is on Sourcehere), there was some other interesting things going on that deserve a bit more attention.
First, the STUC, Scotland’s leading trade union body, have written to Alok Sharma MP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, UK and Scottish Energy Ministers respectively, calling for an urgent bilateral summit to discuss the “renewable construction and green manufacturing jobs crisis”.
Given how little this is getting talked about, you might be surprised to hear that it is a crisis, but it really is. Add together the job cuts planned at bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, the virtual mothballing of offshore wind sleeve manufacturer Bifab after the fiasco of EDF energy outsourcing this work on a huge, local offshore wind contract to Indonesia instead, and the effective shutting of the Campbeltown factory of CS Wind, Britain’s only manufacturing facility for offshore and onshore wind towers, you begin to get the picture of a sector that should be thriving in a climate emergency on its knees.
“Promises of a green recovery and a future jobs guarantee are worthless unless there is an industrial plan and investment strategy brought forward to deliver it,” Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary, said yesterday as she called for the summit.
The Scottish Government’s low carbon energy strategy in 2010 had promised 28,000 new green jobs, but official estimates in February 2020 found just 1,700 full-time jobs had been created in that time, just 6 per cent of the promised figure.
“The renewables industry is characterised by overseas financial interests, a limited industrial base and precarious work,” the STUC warned in a paper on the “broken promises” of the green jobs boom that never came last year.
Meanwhile, think-tank IPPR Scotland has warned that Scotland could be on course for 140,000 young people unemployed by the end of the year, more than tripling the pre-pandemic rate of youth unemployment. “Over the coming weeks and months, the challenge policymakers in Scotland face is to find 100,000 additional opportunities for young people in Scotland for this next year,” the report states.
Put together the lack of Scottish jobs in green energy with the spiralling youth unemployment crisis, and combine it with the monumental overhaul needed to deliver rapid decarbonisation in less than a decade, and you get a good picture of what the problem is in the Scottish economy, and what needs to change.
But with news that the introduction of Low Emission Zones in Scottish cities is being delayed by 18 months ostensibly because of the pandemic, is the Scottish Government seriously thinking about putting economic recovery and tackling the climate emergency together? If high-quality, secure work to deliver the Green New Deal is not created now in Scotland, when will it be? And what sort of future are young Scots, looking down the barrel of unemployment and climate breakdown, facing?
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