Climate action in Scotland stepped up

Flares from the Mossmoran chemical plant, 7 October

Extinction Rebellion Scotland (XRS) have launched three weeks of action to highlight opposition to the climate and ecological crisis across the country.  Other campaigns are stepping up activities as Scotland and Glasgow gears up for continuing action through to the COP26 in November 2021.  Mike Picken reports.

Following a period of reflection and divergence over the summer months, Extinction Rebellion Scotland (XRS) has formally separated its activities from those of Extinction Rebellion in the rest of the UK. It has launched a series of actions based on Scotland’s distinctive issues and demands. 

XRS activists are increasingly sceptical about the value of continuing with the large scale actions carried out largely in London by XR, most recently in September.  Instead they are planning local and distributed activity across Scotland to highlight demands on government, big business and fossil fuel industries. 

The next three weeks will see a series of focussed activities under the heading “Scotland Rebellion 2020”.  The “three pillars” and focus of the actions are:

  • 5 October to 10 October: Government
  • 12 October to 18 October:  Big Finance
  • 19 October 25 October: Fossil fuel
  • 26 October: Simultaneous actions making the connections between the three pillars.

Protest actions will be local and will aim to increase awareness of the importance of the ecological crisis as well as to spread disruption.  One of the sources of tension within XR structures across the UK state is the recognition by Scottish activists of “the intersection of global crises – climate breakdown, Covid-19, racial injustice and poverty”.  The Black Lives Matter movement which exploded over the summer raised key issues about the linkages between ecological action and the Scotland’s legacy, as part of the United Kingdom state, in the colonial period and the ongoing interrelationship between racism, capitalism and the ecological and Covid-19 crises.

Oil and gas major target for action

 A further distinctive feature of the XRS campaign in Scotland will be a focus on rebelling for wildlife – particularly ‘rewilding’: ending the exploitation of Scotland’s huge natural environment, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, with a focus on ending ecological depletion, opposing species extinction, demanding land reform and opposing commercial exploitation, including the Tories’ favourite sport of grouse shooting that results in the carnage of the slaughter of over a quarter of a million wild animals every year in Scotland.

Oil and gas industries remain a key target. The huge fields in the North Sea continue to be massive contributors to UK and global carbon emissions and in Scotland employ around 200,000 people, directly and indirectly, representing over 10% of the Scottish economy.  Both the Scottish and UK governments continue to support investment in the exploration and extraction of oil and gas. They have no proposals for an effective Just Transition supported by the workers to enable the closure of these industries.  Boris Johnson in his speech at the online Tory Party Conference witters on about  wind and other renewable energy sources meeting future energy needs, but his government continues to work with big business to exploit the existing oil and gas reserves and fails to develop the massive alternative jobs plan  for the UK or for Scotland.  

While the primary responsibility belongs to the UK Tory government, the Scottish SNP government had tried to talk about a ‘Green’ recovery from the pandemic but still remains wedded to its longstanding support for a big business led approach including continuation of the oil and gas industry over the decades ahead.

Mossmorran

On 4 October just before XR Scotland began its action there were massive unscheduled flares at the Mossmorran Plant in Fife, prompting over 380 formal complaints. This plant, jointly run by Shell and ExxonMobil, is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in the whole of Europe. Flares can be seen as far away as Edinburgh some 20-30 miles away. For years it has routinely vented burning gas hundreds of metres into the air causing massive disruption to local communities with air pollution, noise and light.

 According to left wing journalist and former SNP MP, George Kerevan, the independent environmental regulator, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has had its board stuffed by the SNP government with supporters of big oil and has failed to enforce any serious action against the plant. Originally set up and backed by Labour governments, the Mossmorran plant promised thousands of skilled jobs that have never materialised and a campaign from the local community and involving direct action,  is building up to demand that it be shut down immediately.

On the wider issue of Scotland and the need to close down the global oil industry, the environmental campaign organisation of rank and file trade unionists in Scotland – Scot E3 (Energy, Environment, Employment) – is organising an online public meeting on Friday 9th October (register here http://www.ewjf.org.uk/programme/)

Just and green recovery

The pandemic has prompted a broad coalition across Scotland’s environmental and civil society movement demanding a “Just and Green Recovery” from the crisis, rather than one dominated by the Tories’ and SNP support for big business.  The Just and Green Recovery campaign was supported in a letter to the First Minister by a declaration of over 80 trade unions, environmental campaigns and other groups.  Among the many local initiatives across Scotland building up in recent weeks is the ongoing demand for free public transport in Glasgow, spearheaded by the ‘Get Glasgow Moving’  campaign.

Building for COP26

November 12-16th 2020 will see a major series of online events to demand global action, set up for the original date when the Glasgow COP – the UN Climate Change Summit – was due to take place.  Organised by the UK COP26 Coalition and backed by the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland campaign, the gathering, called ‘From the Ground UP: Global Gathering for Climate Justice’,  promises to be a vibrant and important part of the global campaign to pressurise governments to take the COP process seriously and implement the Paris agreement to limit temperature growth to less than 1.5degC by 2030 by immediate action.  Further details will be released shortly but climate and ecological activists in Scotland and worldwide should put these dates in their diaries now and mobilise for key and major discussions.   

COP26 itself takes place in Glasgow in November 2021 and will be a major focus of actions and campaigns.

Closing Down Big Oil

ScotE3 Online meeting Friday 9th October 7pm

Register here:  http://www.ewjf.org.uk/programme/ (part of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival)

A participative discussion on the key question of how we end the extraction of hydrocarbons and move to a sustainable economy. A Scot.E3 speaker will provide some background on North Sea Oil and Gas, Andy Georghiou will talk about INEOS and we hope to have a Standing Rock speaker from the US.

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