Claudia Beamish MSP, Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, says the cuts to environmental research made in the Scottish budget last week, while perhaps not as high-profile as cuts to front line services, are nonetheless a serious failure of government.

 

Our next great global challenge will be directly related to the exponential increase in our world’s temperature. It is going to affect everything we count on to survive. Our food, our water, our shelter and our safety will be directly threatened because there will be less food, less shelter, less water for everyone. Already extreme weather events lead to flooding and droughts and we see on the news every day the horrific effects those events have on people’s lives. And soon, it won’t be far off countries that bear the brunt of global warming. It will be us.

Reducing climate emissions in order to prevent impending disaster is received knowledge, unless, apparently, you are the president of the United States. The question remains how to best reduce those emissions and I, unlike Michael Gove, feel safest when those questions are tackled by our best experts; climate scientists conducting research into our warming planet. More than ever we need reliable data and research into the causes, effects, and possible solutions to global warming and Scotland is blessed with world class academic institutions to address these problems.

Which is why I am so concerned that the Scottish budget has cut again the environmental research budget. Government funding for vital environmental research has been in decline for years and along with my committee I have serious concerns on the effects of the long term decline in research budgets.

Already those effects are manifesting themselves in the flat lining of key performance indicators in the areas of the National Performance Framework which relate to the environment. We are even failing to meet our performance indicators relating to reducing waste and increasing energy production through using renewables.

We don’t have time to prevaricate over this. The effects of climate change will continue to make themselves felt and I will continue to advocate for a more detailed climate change plan and stretching targets in the new Climate Change Bill. I’m convinced that our plans to combat climate change can only be successful if we can rely on robust, effective academic research from quality institutions.

The £1.5 billion of cuts passed on from Westminster to vital services by the SNP government since 2011 is heartbreaking. While we should absolutely focus on the effects on key goods and services, we should also remember the damage this austerity budget to less well known, but still essential, areas of government expenditure.

The SNP government has a choice, though. Instead of passing on cuts to vital services, it could choose a different path; one where large and small services funding is protected. Because if we continue to chip away at the foundations upon which we base our climate change policy, we risk leaving ourselves unarmed for the challenges facing us tomorrow.