I was in the Scottish Parliament yesterday giving evidence to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee on the budget strategy. Part of a panel representing Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of more than 60 organisations with a combined supporter base of over 2 million people in Scotland.
The committee was concerned that the financial crisis will be used as an excuse to drop or at least downgrade actions to tackle climate change. There is some evidence that budget cuts will impact on this, and in particular, the availability of funds to spend and save. I argued that tackling climate change was an opportunity not a cost. Energy efficiency, active travel and green workplaces can all contribute to more efficient as well as more environmentally friendly public services. The public sector has to lead by example and early action is cheaper than delay as highlighted in the Stern Report.
A particular concern is procurement where centralisation is damaging the prospects of smaller local suppliers. I gave some current examples including the proposal to source books for libraries and schools from one supplier. In practice that means from outwith Scotland with a much greater carbon footprint.
This committee is also responsible for Scottish Water and therefore I warned against proposals to privatise or mutualise Scottish Water. Selling off our water and sewage industry at a cut down price, dumping debt, dividends, profits and fees on the charge payer would be a real stealth tax. Water is probably Scotland's greatest asset and at a time when countries across the world are returning to public ownership, it would be plain crazy to even consider privatisation.