Environmental funding in Scotland’s Budget falls short of what is required to tackle the “climate and nature emergency”, campaigners have said.
WWF Scotland said that while spending in key areas had been increased, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes had failed to produce a “transformational budget”.
The organisation spoke out after Ms Forbes insisted that tackling the climate emergency was one of the key priorities in her tax and spending plans for the coming year.
The draft Budget for 2022-23 promises almost £2 billion of funding to decarbonise homes, buildings, transport and industry across Scotland.
This includes £336 million for energy efficiency, low carbon and renewable heating, and a record £150 million to go towards the infrastructure needed to encourage people to walk and cycle more.
There will be £1.4 billion for decarbonising the rail network, Ms Forbes said, while £69.5 million will be invested in woodlands.
With the Scottish Government also having pledged a £500 million Just Transition fund to support the north-east of Scotland – where much of the oil and gas industry is based – the Budget also contains the first cash as part of that, with £20 million being spent in 2022-23.
Here Ryan Crighton of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce said: “This is just 4% of the total. We have been hearing a huge amount about accelerating our path to net zero, something which businesses in the north-east are fully committed to, therefore 4% doesn’t feel like stepping on the accelerator.”
The Finance Secretary, however, said the Scottish Government was “absolutely committed to meeting our statutory climate change targets and delivering the net zero society we not only want, but need, to see”.
But Fabrice Leveque of WWF Scotland said while funding for areas such as home heating and walking and cycling infrastructure was welcome, the overall package “falls short of the transformational budget needed for the climate and nature emergency we still face”.
The campaigner added: “In the years ahead, the Scottish Government will need to continue to increase investment to green our homes and ensure that rural support is transformed to deliver for climate and nature.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the Budget showed his party was “working for Scotland”.
A co-operation agreement with the SNP means Mr Harvie is now a junior minister in the Scottish Government, and he insisted: “This budget delivers progress on key green policies to tackle the climate emergency and end child poverty, including investing £2 billion to tackle the climate emergency and doubling the Scottish Child Payment, giving £20 a week to over 400,000 children and their families.
“It’s clear the pandemic continues to pile pressure on budgets, inflation and the NHS. That’s why a just transition and a green recovery from the pandemic are needed if we are to build a fairer, greener future that leaves no-one behind. This Budget is our first step towards that.”