In its Just Transition Plans, the Scottish Government will have to implement, but also go beyond, the recommendations of the Just Transition Commission
The Partnership’s views on the reports of the first Just Transition Commission, the proposals from the Scottish Government for just transition planning and a second Commission
As the COP in Glasgow approached, the urgency of action on climate change and the central place of just transition were at last being embraced widely in Scotland.
Since 2016, when Friends of the Earth Scotland and STUC set up the Just Transition Partnership, it has moved from being a concept used mainly by trade unions as they orientated to the climate crisis to routine use by governments and even corporations, although often without respecting its core content.
The Scottish Government announced in its Progamme for Government of September 2021 a change of gear regarding planning for a just transition: “We will work to ensure that no one is left behind – establishing a just transition plan for every sector and region, and promoting a net-zero economy which provides opportunities for all”. It published its National Just Transition Planning Framework at the same time. These steps are welcomed by the Partnership.
In considering how to move forward with this agenda, an important reference point for the government is the work of the Just Transition Commission. The Partnership considers that these are important but that it should also draw on the more comprehensive positions proposed by the Just Transition Partnership, presented in its manifesto asks for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. This summarised the outcomes of four years of joint work drawing on the insights and principles of the trade union and environmental movements and supporters in universities and think tanks.
The reports of the Just Transition Commission and the SG response
The Commission was set up in 2019 and produced an interim report, a Green Recovery report and, in March 2021, its Final Report. It had the opportunity to create a road map by which the country’s climate change targets can be achieved justly, ensuring a distribution of costs and benefits which will make our economy more equal, protect workers and improve the lives of the poorest. Its remit included advice on how to maximise ‘the economic and social opportunities that the move to a net zero economy by 2045’ through addressing, for example, regional cohesion, equalities, poverty (including fuel poverty), and labour market inclusion.
The work of the Commission presented many useful proposals and detail on the sectors which it examined and it is welcome that it covers the whole of the economy and a wide view of the justice and equity issues at stake. The Partnership urges implementation of all its recommendations. However it believes that they did not add up to a comprehensive plan for just transition. This is reflected by the Commission’s introduction to its report which starts by saying that it covers only some of ‘the key challenges that need to be addressed if we are to deliver a just transition here in Scotland’. It says that it will ‘consider what arrangements may be needed to maintain momentum behind this agenda” which does not appear to reflect the urgency of the responses needed to the climate emergency; nor the lack of momentum around this agenda to date.
For example, the Commission did not address the scale of investment needed and how to direct that to deliver the key elements of a Just Transition Strategy. It likewise did not consider the need for a significant extension of public ownership to achieve these ends – in transport and retrofitting as well as the energy system. Many of issues and positions advocated in the Partnership’s manifesto are not reflected in the Commission’s reports.
The Scottish Government’s response to the Commission’s final report
The Scottish Government published ‘Just Transition – A Fairer Green Scotland’ on 7 September 2021, the same day as its Programme for Government. It sets out its initial responses to the 24 headline recommendations of the JTC’s Final Report. There are many more detailed recommendations in the JTC final report to which no response is given. The Scottish Government says that it accepts and will implement the recommendations of the final report. However the actual responses given in some cases leave that open to question. There is no reference in this paper to the Interim Report or the Green Recovery report of the Commission.
The document also contains ‘A Vision for a Fairer Greener 2045’ and a ‘National Just Transition Planning Framework’. This is presented as the Scottish Government’s response to the call from the Commission to develop a consistent and ambitions approach to planning a just transition. It proposes that each Plan will act as a guiding document for public and private sector activity, contributing to 8 National Just Transition Outcomes. These plans will be a big step forward if, as stated, they will be evidence-based and co-designed, drawing on inputs from trade unions and affected communities, and implemented thoroughly.
Proposals for a second Just Transition Commission
In the context of the roll-out of the Just Transition Plans, the Scottish Government is proposing to establish a second Just Transition Commission, tasked with providing:
- Scrutiny and advice on the just transition plans, including the implementation of the Just Transition Planning Framework;
- Advice on monitoring and evaluation;
- Engagement with those with those most likely to be impacted by the transition;
- Engagement and collaboration with other sources of expertise, including relevant Scottish Government advisory bodies and relevant programmes of work; and
- Publication of an annual report to reflect on Scotland’s progress”.
The Partnership agrees that these are important tasks. They are different from the tasks of the original commission, with a new emphasis on scrutiny of the work of others, analysis of outcomes, evaluation and assessment of progress. The Partnership believes that the new Commission has to be fully independent and properly resourced and calls for the following:
- The Secretariat must take direction from the Commission and be fully independent of Government. If staffed by civil servants, they must be seconded to this work.
- The secretariat’s staffing and funding must be based on an assessment of the anticipated workload, drawing on a work plan for the published remit.
- The members of the Commission should have expertise and competences relevant to the tasks in the remit.
- Depending on the assessment of the work plan and their role in it, consideration should be given to remuneration of Commission members.
- A majority of members of the Commission should represent key stakeholders in a just transition – i.e. affected workers and communities, trade unions and environmentalists. Business representation should be a minority of the Commission.
- The Commission should be established by statute and report the Scottish Parliament.