Watchdog criticises Scottish climate report delay

Mairi McAllan
Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan says the government needs more time

A watchdog has described a delay in the publication of the Scottish government's climate change plan as "very disappointing".

A draft form of the document was due to be considered by MSPs this month.

But Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan said more time was required after Westminster altered its policy over the sale of new cars and the phasing out of fossil fuel boilers.

By law the plan does not need to be finalised until 23 March 2025.

Holyrood is required to have 120 days to scrutinise the draft plan before the deadline.

Ms McAllan said: "While we are working to make our homes greener and easier to heat and reduce our reliance on petrol and diesel cars, the UK government is reneging on its own commitments, creating huge uncertainty for businesses and households."

She said it was important Holyrood ministers took the time required to "get this plan right".

Ms McAllan added: "We will continue to work with stakeholders to produce a plan that is fair and just for everyone, and addresses the difficulties presented by the UK government's policy reversals.

"While it is regrettably not possible to do this by our own November deadline, we will progress in line with our statutory commitments."

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has defended his climate policies

Chris Stark, chief executive of the UK Climate Change Committee, said the delay was "very disappointing".

He warned it would mean the independent body's Scottish Progress Report, due at the end of the year, would have "nothing to review".

Mr Stark also said he was unsure why the UK government's policy changes would mean the publication of the Scottish report had to be postponed.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, he said the altered plan to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, as well as changes to the UK-wide grid infrastructure, would impact Scottish policy. But he added they were reasons to "go faster".

The Scottish government has set a legally-binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the date set for the UK as a whole.

The last update to the climate change plan was published in December 2020. A year later, after ministers announced they aimed to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030, the UK climate change committee said the plan lacked detail.

The watchdog warned last year that Scotland had lost its lead over the rest of the UK on tackling climate change.

North sea
North sea

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sparked anger among climate activists and the Scottish government by changing the UK government's climate targets.

The Tory leader has pushed back a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035.

Mr Sunak also watered down a plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035.

But he said the UK government remained committed to meeting international climate targets, and to reaching net zero - negating greenhouse gas emissions - by 2050.

Scottish Office minister Lord Offord said the UK government's changes would make the transition more affordable at a time when households were under pressure.

The governments at Holyrood and Westminster have also clashed over Mr Sunak's plan to award licences for oil and gas projects in the North Sea annually.

There is currently no fixed period between licensing rounds - but this would change under a bill announced in the King's Speech.

Ministers said projects would have to meet net zero targets and claimed the policy would "bolster energy security".

However, First Minister Humza Yousaf said the move would "fly in the face" of climate obligations.