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Election letters 2019 / Council has its hands tied behind its back on climate change

Good luck to local council election candidate Stewart Douglas with his demands that the SIC declare a climate emergency  (Open letter to SIC: Failure to act on climate change is no longer viable; SN, 24 October 2019).

Being a Scottish Green Party member it is certainly something very close to my heart but I know from my own communications with the SIC, the evaluation of how the SIC view Shetland’s unique situation and also being a realist, it’s a demand that’s a bit of a waste of time as the SIC cannot make such a declaration.

To do so would require some political support and the accompanying strategy for immediate transitioning away from its partnership with the oil and gas industry and seeking new opportunities.

Contrary to this, the SIC has pledged its support for continued oil and gas interests and revenues for as long as possible, which I believe is projected as far as 2050, a date many experts believe could be 10 – 15 years past the earth’s climate tipping point.

This alone ties the SIC’s hands behind its back, and any climate change declaration, however desired by many, would just be meaningless words resulting in embarrassment as little or no action becomes noticeable by its absence.

In addition, there are other serious climate impacting circumstances that disproportionately effect Shetland, making us probably the worse carbon emitting community in the UK, and in fairness to the SIC, almost entirely out of their control or ability to change.

These include our external and internal ferries, which are the vital blood flow of our communities, and the way we light and heat our homes and industry.

Oh, there are things Shetland could do such as fund replacement internal ferries with hydrogen powered vessels or fixed links using the Shetland Charitable Trust’s ‘rainy day nest egg’, but that organisation seems to be run by a little group of folk who seem to just want to sit and count it and don’t appear very charitable, so not something the SIC can influence.

The rest, such as external ferries, land reform (to allow better and more productive and locally sustainable use of the land) and serious reforms to the Scottish planning system to cut the barriers of red tape, are all in the hands of two remote governments who have more on their plates to bother with than small island communities.

So if Stewart Douglas or any other supporter of an SIC climate emergency declaration disagree with my take on this, I’d love to hear why this declaration is seen as essential in the much needed change in Shetland’s carbon direction.

Vic Thomas