Social Justice and Sustainability

The ‘Referendum Challenge’ by Scottish Environment LINK asked organisations campaigning for the varying constitutional options in the referendum debate to state how their preferred option will best meet LINK’s 10 environmental aspirations. This is an extract from the Red Paper Collective’s response.

Combating climate change and protecting the environment are a key part of our ‘vision’ for Scotland. We believe that the general principles we start from of a more equal, democratic society are important in creating the kind of sustainable growth with social justice that is necessary for a proper Just Transition to a low carbon economy.

In a world of globalisation, where countries are so interdependent, and where casino capitalism led to the financial crisis that the poorest are now being expected to pay for, it is hard to see how Scotland becoming independent, in and of itself, could be argued to be more likely than either the current settlement or further devolution to provide better options for promoting long-term sustainable development.

The various ways in which being part of the United Kingdom can offer some form of needs-based redistribution of wealth and/or can spread out the costs of socially useful investment, (for example in energy policy) mean that Scotland could be swapping a partnership that could, with the right political will, work well for an uncertain new arrangement that could see us economically weaker and therefore less likely to be able to invest in the necessary areas for a sustainable future in energy, recycling and efficiency (competing in a race to the bottom on corporation tax and working conditions). If Scotland were to become a low tax, low wage economy, it would seem unlikely to be providing the kind of leadership necessary to support effective and urgent action to safeguard the planet for current and future generations. However, the same can be said for the UK and with the present UK government’s policy this is a very real threat to the sustainability of our environment and economy.

While the varying forms of extended devolution/ independence offer different options of economic and other levers, political will is an absolutely key factor. We would want any new powers to be used for people, not profit.

A concrete example of the kind of policy that could address environmental concerns and at the same time address issues of local empowerment, economic development and inequality would be developing cooperative and community renewables schemes. These would be alternatives to the current “Klondike” where multi nationals are gaining huge subsidy at the expense of electricity customers and the profits are being exported to Paris, Bonn and Madrid rather than kept in the Scotland. In the context of the current debate we would argue that both the correct powers and the correct political will are necessary to address the challenge.

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