Only independence can make STUC's 367,000 green jobs a reality

A new report by the Scottish Trades Union Congress lays out how Scotland’s transition to a low-carbon economy could create up to 367,000 green jobs … but only if the right policies are adopted.

The report presents a new vision of Scotland's potential, calls for a ‘fundamentally different approach’, examines how decarbonisation could transform different sectors of the economy and suggests ways to maximise job creation.

It says the right policies would create the highest number and best quality jobs, highlighting ‘the positive potential, depending on investment levels and time periods for delivery’.

However it warns that if the wrong policies are adopted it would be possible for Scotland to decarbonise without significant domestic job creation - and that any jobs which were created could be ‘primarily precarious and under-paid’.

The report may not put forward a specific argument for independence but there’s no doubt that independence would be essential to help Scotland fulfil the potential it describes

It suggests, for example, that ‘very ambitious’ roll-out of renewable energy could create up to 70,000 Scottish jobs - or less than 9,000. The difference depends on the policies put in place by governments.

The report may not put forward a specific argument for independence but there’s no doubt that independence would be essential to help Scotland fulfil the potential it describes.

The STUC today supported a motion that the Scottish parliament should have the power to hold a referendum on Scotland's future with or without Westminster consent. It also restated its view that Westminster should not attempt to block indyref2 if a majority of pro-independence MSPs are elected next month.

The overarching recommendations in the STUC's report on green jobs clearly state that ‘the scale of public investment recommended exceeds what the Scottish government alone would be able to access under current rules’.

And the commitment to public sector investment needed to reach the highest job targets is certainly beyond the level the current Westminster government would be likely to enact.

The report suggests a range of potential new jobs sector by sector. It includes:

Energy: 30,000 - 95,000 new jobs over more than 15 years in zero carbon energy (including renewables, hydrogen and storage) - but that would be reduced to 16,000 without the right policies.

Buildings: 61,000 - 136,000 jobs over more than 10 years in decarbonising buildings and broadband, plus a further 22,000 - 37,000 jobs over 3 years in building new social housing.

Transport: 26,000 - 60,000 jobs over more than 10 years in upgrading and expanding transport (railways, metros, EV charging and batteries, cycle and walking infrastructure, and zero-emissions freight & shipping), with a further 11,000 - 13,000 ongoing jobs in operations.

Manufacturing & Industry: 5,000 - 9,000 jobs new and ongoing jobs in manufacturing (including steel, CCS and re-manufacturing), alongside protecting existing employment numbers in chemicals and refining.

Waste: 17,000 - 23,500 jobs new and ongoing jobs in circular economies and waste management.

Land-Use: 17,000 - 43,000 jobs over 12+ years in nature restoration, reforestation and sustainable farming.

The report notes that countries that implement ‘more deliberate industrial strategies for decarbonisation, including public investment and/or local content rules - for example Denmark, France, Turkey, and Taiwan in relation to renewable energy - appear to be more successful at ensuring local job creation’.

Scotland is rich in natural resources, which gives it enormous potential in renewable energy, but being part of the UK holds it back from reaching that potential

And it says many examples of those industrial strategies it cites come from countries bound by EU state aid rules (including France, Spain, and Denmark). The EU state aid regime was removed from the UK by Brexit from 1 January, 2021.

Scotland is rich in natural resources, which gives it enormous potential in renewable energy, but being part of the UK holds it back from reaching that potential.

There was a 57% fall in investment in UK renewable energy in 2017 because the Westminster government banned renewable subsidies for onshore wind and cut subsidies on solar power. The number of people working in solar power in Scotland fell by 50% between 2016 and 2017, when the cuts were imposed.

Scotland generated the equivalent of 97.4% of its electricity consumption from renewable sources in 2020. Onshore wind delivers about 70% of capacity, followed by hydro and offshore wind as Scotland's main sources of renewable power.

Scotland has 25% of Europe’s entire offshore wind power resources, 25% of Europe’s tidal energy resources, and 10% of its wave energy potential. In 2018, Scotland accounted for 24% of the UK’s renewable energy generation.

Yet the STUC  report highlights that employment in Scotland’s low-carbon economy has fallen in the last five years.

STUC general secretary, Rozanne Foyer, said: “This research highlights that it is not too late for Scotland to create significant numbers of green jobs, but only if we take a fundamentally different approach.’

The Scottish government committed last September to a ‘national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs’. It says that it will over the next five years create a £100million Green Jobs Fund.

While the Scottish government should use the powers it has to move STUC report closer to becoming a reality, the ’fundamentally different approach’ the report calls for cries out for the powers that will only come to Scotland through independence.

An independent Scottish government could implement the public investment required, it could introduce public ownership to ensure the transition to a carbon zero economy benefits the people of Scotland, it could allow us to foster a stronger, beneficial relationship with the EU and it could free Scotland from policies imposed by Westminster which hold us back from reaching our full potential to create green jobs.

Believe in Scotland founder Gordon McIntyre-Kemp said: 'The transition from oil and gas to renewables offers Scotland a huge opportunity and the STUC report is right to highlight the potential for new, green jobs if we harness the amazing natural resources we have. We should be world leaders in this field.

But Scotland needs the ability to take control of those resources and of the economic levers we need to maximise their benefits for the whole country. We can't trust Westminster to take the action and implement the policies needed. Only independence can give Scotland the powers needed to create the number of jobs this report shows is possible.

By Richard Walker