Highlands and Islands Greens
Highlands and Islands Greens

Greens Disappointed that MSPs Across Parties Back More Pollution and More Climate Change

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

Greens were today highly critical of the attitude of other parties over their refusal to face up to the reality of climate change pollution and the environmental consequences of a massive increase in air travel, following a parliamentary debate about the economic benefits of the Air Route Development Fund.  (ARDF)

Greens made it clear that they were not against flying, but held a position that levels of aviation needed to be more sustainable in order to reduce Scotland’s excessive impact on the world’s climate — rather than debate the issue, some MSPs resorted to unfounded petty attacks on the Green Party.  Greens pointed out that the economics of the ARDF did not stack up to scrutiny and that other priorities such as ferries and rail travel to other parts of the UK and Europe should be put first. (1)

Eleanor Scott, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Instead of promoting air travel where more sustainable alternatives exist, MSPs should focus on safeguarding the genuinely lifeline services to our islands.  Instead of encouraging people to take themselves and their spending power out of the North and abroad, by calling for yet more cheap flights, they should be supporting the local economy.

“What we are saying is that aviation is recognised as the fastest growing source of climate change pollution and the Executive’s aim of trebling air travel and expanding airports further is unsustainable in the long term.  We agree with the Executive that an international approach is required to stem pollution from air travel — but we need to ensure that policy in Scotland is working in the right direction, not making the problem worse.

“Ministers argue that increasing direct routes increases tourism but opening a direct link between Glasgow and Dubai exports cash and tourists — so the economic case simply does not stand up.  Of course aviation is a necessary part of our transport system, especially our vital internal lifeline services which should be supported — but the truth is that as a society we have to face up to the pollution that it causes and seek to minimise it as much as we can.  To ignore that is irresponsible.  Our agenda is about managing air travel sustainably.”


(1) Research by Friends of the Earth, published in August 2005 and based on data from the Office of National Statistics, found that the net economic impact of aviation was a cost to the Scottish economy of around £1·4bn in 2004.  While over 1·5 million incoming visitors used Scottish airports in 2004, bringing around £866m into the Scottish economy, nearly 4 million trips were made by Scots travelling out of the country, spending over £2·1bn overseas.  Put another way, for every £1·00 spent by visitors in Scotland, nearly £2·50 was spent overseas.

Environment groups WWF, Friends of the Earth and Transform Scotland argue that the economic benefits are questionable, and the environmental costs considerable.

Problems the groups highlight include:

  • the lack of independent verification of Executive claims on economic impacts;
  • that the research which exists suggests that aviation actually damages the Scottish balance of trade;
  • the UK aviation industry is already highly subsidised by the taxpayer;
  • the aviation sector is currently the fastest-growing source of climate change emissions.

The groups called on the Scottish Parliament to:

  • recognise that further airport expansion will result in an economic drain, not an economic boom, for Scotland;
  • end financial support for expansion of non-lifeline air routes, including the RDF;
  • ensure that the forthcoming National Transport Strategy places strict limits on the aviation sector’s climate emissions.

Recent research by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has found that, if the current expansion in aviation is allowed to continue, the UK government will find it “virtually impossible” to hit its targets for reducing climate change emissions.  Since the RDF is contributing to the aviation expansion in Scotland, it would appear to be incompatible with delivering the ‘Scottish Share’ of reductions in climate change emissions.  (www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/aviation_tyndall_summary.pdf)

(2) Executive Debate on “Economic Benefits of the Air Routes Development Fund” 0915 Thursday 19 January:

That this Parliament endorses the success of the Air Route Development Fund (ARDF) in bringing direct Scottish air links to Europe, North America and within the UK; notes the economic advantages that have flowed to the Scottish economy and the reduced need for short haul flights through hub airports; supports the development of a European regime that tackles the environmental impact of aviation emissions; further supports work to improve rail journey times between Scotland and London in order to reduce the reliance on domestic short haul flights, and looks to the further use of the ARDF in developing Scotland’s international connections.

(Tavish Scott supported by Margaret Curran)

Green Amendment:

Delete from “endorses” and insert:

Questions the success of the Air Route Development Fund (ARDF) in bringing sustainable development benefits to Scotland; questions the economic advantages that have flowed to the Scottish economy from the ARDF; supports the development of an international regime that reduces overall aviation emissions; notes that promoting expansion of aviation undermines existing emissions targets and that projected growth in aviation would necessitate cessation of economic activity in other sectors in order to achieve targets; notes that the net cost of aviation to the Scottish economy was £1·4bn in 2004 and that the UK accounts for 87% of tourist visits to Scotland; further supports work to improve rail journey times between Scotland and London in order to reduce the reliance on domestic short haul flights but notes the lack of progress in this respect, and condemns the further use of public funds for the ARDF.