John Ferry John Ferry

Can Scotland reach net zero without the Union?

(Photo: Getty)

What’s more important to supporters of Scottish secession, achieving the break-up of Britain or seeing Scotland successfully transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions?

It is a difficult question for environmentally conscious independence supporters to face, but face it they must, for it is becoming increasingly clear that Scotland cutting itself out of the UK will see England, Wales and Northern Ireland power ahead to net zero while Scotland gets left behind.

This month saw the publication of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) latest fiscal risks report. The bi-annual document identifies and models potential shocks to the public finances. The new analysis has lengthy, detailed sections dedicated to examining the government budget implications of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

The UK has targeted 2050 to reach net zero on greenhouse gas emissions. In Scotland, environmental policy is devolved while energy policy is reserved (although responsibility for awarding fracking licences was devolved in 2018). The Scottish government has set a target of 2045 for Scotland to achieve net zero.

These costs have not been factored into the SNP’s separation plans

The cost of getting the UK there is estimated to be £1.4 trillion in real terms. The OBR takes as a reasonable scenario that the government will pick up a quarter of that cost, which gives a net bill for the state of £344 billion in real terms over the next 30 years. That means tens of billions of pounds will be required to be spent by the government in Scotland over the next three decades if the country is to meet its target.

These costs have not been factored into any SNP separation plans. The 2018 Sustainable Growth Commission report, which remains Nicola Sturgeon’s benchmark policy document on the technicalities of separation, has no decarbonisation analysis.

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