Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Bickering into the recess

AS ever the winter solstice is a time for reflection.

The global financial contagion was predictable as the end of the 18-year trade cycle always ends rash speculation with a painful 'corrections'. Woolworths' staff, Lloyds TSB and HBOS employees are the obvious high street victims. However, Scotland's natural resources can create a new economy that is less in hawk to hair-brained money raising schemes and based on manufacture, growing and building resilience in local communities.

The parliamentary session bickered into the recess with the opposition determined to paint it black.
For example the forestry consultation launched by Environment Minister Mike Russell has been sorely misrepresented. Forestry workers, encouraged by their unions and opposition New Labour MSPs have cried fowl. Clearly they believe consultations which were a sham under Labour apply under SNP Government. We must plant more trees to soak up CO2, putting the huge national forest estate to work. Let's all have our say.


I WAS delighted to support the Evanton Community Company that seeks to buy the woods on the edge of the village for local uses. Their application, the 100th under land reform legislation, is a second slice of Evanton sought for community uses.

When I was in Kiltearn Community Council before 2003 we set out to buy the old garage site in the centre of the village which took several years from our first steps. Thanks to dogged hard work from local volunteers the site was secured earlier this year. Let's hope the woods can be secured more quickly. But from what I've seen the complex processes are bound in red tape, not tinsel.

Much of the political inheritance from the LibLab Executive is flawed laws that need post-legislative review. Not only does the community land purchase need attention also the landlord and tenant system in farming is not working as Angus McCall and the SFTA continue to show. Meanwhile clearing up the mess after ten years of prevarication and botched crofting reform, the SNP government is getting little thanks for offering solutions.


EVERY sector in Scottish life must play its part in the deep cuts we need in greenhouse gas emissions.

Our historic Scottish Climate Change Bill is also out to consultation and it will reach the committee I serve on next month. If the UK government took some early actions they could help us achieve 80 per cent cuts by 2050. I am slightly heartened by news that the energy regulator Ofgem said last week that it would do a U-turn and help SSE and other companies to speed the transmission of electricity generated from our on and offshore wind, wave and tidal power to markets in the south.

Another climate change contribution would be to make modern life viable in scattered Highlands and Islands communities. I have been conducting a widespread consultation on super broadband. However the low power of current broadband or its absence for many people has dominated the returns.

I will lobby BT, Ofcom and Jim Mather our Economy minister in the New Year.

Internationally, vehicle manufacturers demanding government bail-outs should be given binding conditions to double average miles to the gallon within three years.

Brown, Merkel and Obama can give the world the best Christmas present since internal combustion engines accelerated climate change. BMW, Vauxhall, Ford and the rest must sign up or else.

Simple technological changes can end greenhouse gas guzzling and save essential vehicle users a small fortune. Will the leaders of the G20 have the guts?

A merry Yule and a healthy, greener New Year to you all.

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