Scotland and the Net Zero Farce

Rishi Sunak’s Net Zero u-turn is turning into a political debacle as he tries desperately to weaponise the new anti-climate populism. Yesterday’s announcement were an abject act of political opportunism, both naked and ridiculous, yet still might have some appeal such is the absurd nature of the debate about responses to climate breakdown. When ‘solutions’ to climate crisis are already firmly placed on individuals and households, rather than on society, the economy and the corporations responsible, then it is easy to create a narrative in which the only solution is going to be costly.

Feeding ‘legitimate concerns’ about the cost of changing cars or installing new heating systems the government fed-into existing narratives about a top-down environmental elite enforcing ridiculous solutions onto the impoverished masses against their will. This despite the record that there’s widespread public support for measures to combat climate change – and even a modicum of political leadership could feed and inspire that support. Instead you have craven corporate shilling.

The announcement quickly turned into farce, with even mainstream media outlets baulking at the ridiculous spectacle of Sunak announcing that he would defeat entirely fictional threats and policies no-one has proposed …




It’s an exercise in bad Gaslighting, or what Steve Banner called ‘Flooding the Zone’ ie flood the public discourse with so much shit and disinformation so that no-one can tell the difference.

The announcements came just days after the appointment of Claire Coutinho as ‘Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero’, who was a senior fellow to the oil-funded right-wing think tank Policy Exchange in 2021. It’s all so naked and predictable.

The consequences for Scotland of the abandonment of the most basic and useless climate measures are also particularly dire. For years an unholy alliance told Scottish campaigners that they should wait for a UK-wide bottle return scheme (DRS). In fact environmental campaigners argued that the UK government could have avoided the clash with Scotland by working with the devolved countries to deliver a unified deposit scheme years ago. Instead Westminster repeatedly delayed its own deposit scheme, which was only coming into force in 2025 – seven years after it was first promised by ministers. Now it’s been abandoned completely.

None of this was necessary and now we are left with nothing at all instead of a groundbreaking scheme the same as can be seen across the rest of Europe.

Nor – as presented – was this unpopular, here or in the rest of Britain. The latest consultation in 2021 for a DRS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed widespread support, with 83% of respondents in favour.

Across the UK, consumers get through an estimated 13bn plastic drinks bottles a year. Only 7.5bn are recycled. The remaining 5.5bn are landfilled, littered or incinerated. Each day UK consumers use 38.5m plastic bottles.

For all of the hand-wringing and arm-twisting, the ‘one nation’ ‘single market’ arguments have been reduced to farce. Years of Scottish policy development and investment have been trashed for the idea of a better UK scheme, which doesn’t know exist at all because of the naked political opportunism of a failed and toxic political party with no support in Scotland. This is what happens when you are tied to a polity with different values and goals than your own. In further dark irony it’s not clear whether the abandonment of the petrol and diesel car targets (‘Rishi Sunak’s climate retreat threatens Humza Yousaf’s net zero targets‘) will be forced on Scotland, despite no consultation with any of the devolved governments.

Ecology and democracy are under simultaneous attack by this legislation. Scotland’s ability to make policy are relentlessly undermined.

Alok Sharma’s Tears

But there are a few other stories being told by Sunak’s desperate government.

First there’s the story of Britain as a great global leader ‘over-delivering‘ on climate change. At the UN Climate Change Summit in New York the following comments were made from the floor:

“The U.K. claims to be a global leader for the 21st Century. Watering down climate commitments and disincentivizing the industries of tomorrow for cynical short term political reasons is not leadership, it is cowardice.”
– Tom Carnac, former Chief Political Strategist for the UN Climate Change

“No G7 Country has yet ‘over delivered’ on climate. On the contrary there is a lot more action needed, specifically from them. Is turning away from climate action in 2023 really leadership?”
– Simon Stiell, the UN Executive Secretary on Climate Change

“This action is a disgusting betrayal of vulnerable people around the world, not to mention economic vandalism. The Prime Minister is an ignorant politician who shows contempt for vulnerable people and the future of the planet.”
– Mohamed Adow, the Director of Power 
Second there’s the story that climate solutions are only about individual actions. The onus and the burden is on YOU. This neatly avoids talking about system change, corporate responsibility, or capitalism. “It’s your fault and it’ll cost you!” This is the most pervasive myth of our time regurgitated on every ridiculous media outlet for eternity.

Third this entire narrative avoids talking about social and collective change. Instead of talking about re-designing cities to prevent the need for cars or implementing mass active travel schemes and public transport, instead of talking about district heating or mass-scale insulation and housing upgrades, we talk about electric cars and boilers. We need to-redesign society not just de-carbonise it. Electric cars, good as they are, replicated the myth that nothing much will really have to change.
Everything is closed down by these stories.

The significance of the DRS scheme is not really about another constitutional spat (as presented), it is much more fundamentally about shifting to the “polluter pays principle” and that is what business hated about the scheme.

In a way Sunak’s latest is like a continuity of the politics of Brexit, slaying imaginary demons and righting fictional wrongs. The Seven Bins Saviour has now created a precedent for abandoning ideas pulled from the fever-dream of his tabloid imaginary. As a host of experts have spent the day explaining this is not just bad within the very narrow-band of ‘business’ or the ‘economy‘ but also disastrous for us all. As Kevin Anderson puts it: “The nonsense of Net-Zero revealed again on BBC Radio Four where Suella Braverman says it’s ok to weaken 2030 climate goals as we’ll still meet Net Zero 2050. The climate doesn’t care about net zero 2050, only total emissions …”

We are in a very much worse place than yesterday, being toyed with by an elite of desperate Tories happy to trade all of our futures for their short pathetic time in office.



Comments (29)

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  1. 230921 says:

    Yes, the dominant narrative does exploit the fact that we’re extremely limited in what we can do as finite individuals, households, and real communities to effect the deep structural changes to our society that (if our current science is to be believed) we need to make if we’re going to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

    The problem is that, while we can think globally, we can only act locally. That’s the absurdity that lies – and has always lain – at the heart of human existence. To think otherwise, to think that we as individuals, households, corporations, and governments, have any global agency or control of the global situation (‘mastery over nature’) is the classic definition of ‘magical thinking’. All we can have and all we may hope and work for is solidarity in our moments of shared adversity.

  2. Lordmac says:


    1. 230921 says:

      Perhaps the more salient question is: Could and would an independent Scottish government do without it? Or would it too bow to popular demand as measured by the opinion polls?

    2. Alan C says:

      No need to shout. Fully loaded articulated lories can cope with steep hills so I wouldn’t worry about your bus.

    3. Niemand says:

      The charging station point is actually a very good one. We need many, many more of them. A friend took a long, several hundred mile trip recently in his electric vehicle, his first. It took many hours longer than normal mainly because of the wait time to charge at service stations – not so much the charging time itself (though that was an issue with his vehicle, a cheaper one) but the queue to start charging. He admitted he would not do it again at the moment and he is very committed to the cause.

      There was a good article in The Guardian recently about trying to find charging points in a rural area. The person had an app that told them where the points were but when they got to the only one remotely nearby, it wasn’t working.

      I believe it currently costs about £2000 to get a proper charging point fitted to your house.

      All this can be sorted but it will take time.

      1. John says:

        Two points to your post:
        1)No one is being forced to buy a new EV from 2030 – you just will not be able to buy a new petrol/diesel/ hybrid car . You can still purchase a second hand car of any type and run it or delay your own personal purchase of a new EV car a bit longer.
        2.If the charging infrastructure is not in place whose fault is this?
        Last point- is it worth upsetting car manufacturers and all other potential business by changing strategy at short notice for what is basically a short term political gain?

        1. Niemand says:

          No and I agree with what you say, Sunak is causing confusion and all because he thinks there is votes in it. The charging point thing is down to government of whatever hue or jurisdiction. I don’t know who is directly responsible for putting them in nationally or locally, national or devolved government. Do you?

          But I am a details person and time and again I am aware of how things fail and fail badly because the details have not only not been addressed, they had never been thought about properly. So the detail is not some annoying ‘doomster’ talk, it is hugely important. And you have to build confidence – this is the important point. People are being out off because they know there are not enough charging stations and cannot see when that will improve. So they then say, we are going to need oil for a while yet and dismiss people shouting about electric cars. It is not an illogical position.

          1. 230922 says:

            According to the UK government’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, it’s the market that’s ultimately responsible for putting in charging points in response to consumer demand.

            The UK government’s role is to facilitate and regulate the market by setting the overall vision for the charging network, defining outcomes and measuring and monitoring progress in realising that vision, providing the legislative, regulatory, funding and support frameworks required to deliver a well-functioning, competitive market, and making targeted interventions where and when required.

            The role of devolved governments/administrations is likewise to facilitate and regulate the market more locally by setting out a strategy and a policy framework for the charging network in their respective jurisdictions, defining outcomes and measuring and monitoring progress in the implementation of those policies, and to collaborate with the UK government to ensure a cohesive network across the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

            The role of local government is to develop and deliver even more locally tailored local EV charging infrastructure strategies that provide scaled, commercially sustainable, public charging provision that aligns with their own wider transport and energy decarbonisation policies, ensure local chargepoints are inclusively designed and accessible to residents, businesses, and visitors, and ensure that the planning processes for the installation of chargepoints are efficient, fast and easy to navigate for chargepoint operators.

            It’s down to the chargepoint operators themselves to tender for, provide, and operate the actual charging infrastructure.

            So, basically, motorists and transport operators will buy their electricity in the same way that householders and businesses currently do, from commercial suppliers, and government will facilitate and regulate that activity.

          2. John says:

            As I said if people do not wish to switch in 2030 because of lack of charging points they will delay buying a new EV or upgrade to a second hand hybrid/diesel/petrol.
            To extend the ability to purchase a new petrol/diesel vehicle for another 5 years will just prolong time people drive these cars further into the future for what gain?
            Or put it another way – the more charging points and the lower EV car priced the more you encourage people to switch but to put back the switchover date for NEW CARS (sorry for caps but this point is being lost) the more you encourage people to drive diesel/petrol.
            There is a difference between two points – one is a market situation which has arisen through government incompetence the other is government encouraging fossil fuel consumption.
            Climate scientists virtually all agree now that the quicker we transition away from fossil fuels the less severe and rapid will be the effects of climate change.
            This also ignores the impact on market confidence of government switching policy at such short notice especially when the switch is obviously for Sunak trying to get a short term boost to avoid being deposed as Tory leader in next few months.

          3. 230923 says:

            What lack of charging points, John? Every home is a charging point. Charging is only a problem for long-distance journeys, for which there are better forms of transport like bus and rail.

            I know that many people who live in tenements and the like can’t use their homes as a charging point. But I’ve always wondered why urban dwellers need cars anyway. I suppose that Middle Scotland, having experienced the luxury of car ownership for several generations now, is reluctant to give up the exclusivity of a private car and share space with other public transport users.

            The biggest disincentive to changing from combustion-driven cars to battery-driven cars is mostly to do with habituation; people are used to the old technology and resist switching to the new because of the change in habits (‘disruption’) this will entail. This is especially true of Middle Scotland, who seem to live lives of quiet desperation, resigned to dissatisfaction, and accepting of/surrendering to the habitual circumstances in which they find themselves, lives that are frustrated, passive, and apathetic, unfulfilled and unrealised.

            A good kick up the *rs* and a wee hurl and some crak on the omnibus owre the Dalveen Pass is what they need.

          4. John says:

            Reply to 230923 re lack of charging points – it is Niemand who keeps bringing up lack of charging points. Having moved into a new property in last 2 years I was informed that it’s is not quite as simple as plugging the car into a 3 way plug – there are modifications that cost required.
            I would add two things:
            1)It is 2023 – there is seven years yet to get the infrastructure in place. It may require some catching up but in 21st century this should not be beyond us.
            2)even if there is insufficient infrastructure come 2030 then people can continue using their existing cars or upgrade. Why do we need to renew our cars every 12-24 months – it is pure vanity.
            I have a horrible feeling that if conversion date is put back 5 years this will just encourage inertia and lack of action and we will be having the same discussion around 2035 date.

          5. 230923 says:

            Yep, I agree; we should be able to built sufficient charging infrastructure to facilitate our demand for exclusive travel. It’s either beyond us (which wouldn’t suprise me given the sluggish nature of our bureaucracy) or there’s a lack of political will on our part to press on with that building.

            And, yes; people could continue to use their old fossil-fuelled cars beyond the ‘cut-off’ date if they wanted, but what penalties might government impose in the form of fuel-tax, exclusion zones, etc to deter them from doing so?

            And, yes; shifting the ‘cut-off’ date to 2035 might just be kicking the can five years further down the road.

            I don’t need or have a car, so it’s not an issue for me. Millions of others do, which are millions of votes the political parties need to take into account when they’re formulating their policies in the lead-in to an election.

          6. Niemand says:

            I mean charging points are totally crucial to the whole changeover.

            Even if you could just plug your car into a home socket (which you can’t), how many could do that? And then leave it plugged on over night to charge? The answer is not very many at all. It isn’t the answer.

            I get the point about 2030 etc but I am just surprised this crucial issue is not higher on the agenda as at the end of the day we need people to actually change their vehicles to electric, not get mired in the politics of it all.

  3. John says:

    Mike – exactly right about government and business offloading responsibility onto individual citizens.
    Obvious question that no one has asked Sunak – these were climate policies in Tory party manifesto yet know he states we are not prepared with infrastructure or financially to implement – who is responsible for this farce?
    The same party in government who after 13 years of government have managed to give us the holy trinity of record high taxes, record high debt and the poorest public services in living memory. Some feat – no surprise electorate in Scotland have rejected these chancers at every election since 1950’s.
    Hell mend them.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    And such politicians are continually dodging critical questioning, if Chris Packham: Is it Time to Break the Law is any guide:
    Packham interviewed John Gummer, who blustered about the rule of law, but the British Empire has no codified constitution: there is no lawful way of democratically reconstituting it as there is in almost any other nation. Therefore the British state lacks legitimacy (it’s still a hereditary theocracy deriving its political norms and conventions from the medieval era of totalitarian monarchs, hence the Henry VIII powers employed after Brexit). And its modern rulers are still pursuing the Tudor War Against Nature today.

    1. 230922 says:

      It’s true that the UK isn’t locked into a codified constitution; its constitution is just the law of the land, the sum of the legislation by which, through our courts (including out courts at Holyrood and Westminster), we regulate our social interactions and which constitutes the ‘establishment’ or state itself. The uncodified nature of out constitution enables it to evolve continuously and impedes the ability of any party to seize control of the state by locking us into a code that reflects and promotes that party’s particular ideological or material interests. Our uncodified constitution is one of our democratic ‘checks and balances’ against tyranny, in other words.

      The only legitimate way to influence the ongoing evolution of our constitution is to go to the court that has competence over the law you wish to change, where you or your elective representative can plead your case for that change. In a genuine democracy, we would all have an equal voice in those courts an none would be privileged under any other (i.e. the courts would operate as far as they possibly could under the condition’s of a Habermasian ‘ideal speech situation’), which of course is far from the case in our political practice.

      Our task as democrats is not to impose our own particular ideological interests or authority on society generally through a codified constitution; it’s rather to petition the courts to reform their law-making processes to ensure that it approximates as far as possible to an ‘ideal speech situation’, a situation in which citizens and their representative can evaluate each other’s claims solely on the basis of reason and evidence in an atmosphere of equality; that is, an atmosphere that’s completely free of any nonrational ‘coercive’ influences, including both physical and psychological coercion.

      We could seek to impose such a democratic regime on society by seizing the power of the courts and using that power to lock us into its code. But that would be to defeat the purpose of democracy, which must operate through dialogue and consensus rather than through dictat and coercion.

  5. Caligula says:

    Not sure what the glass return scheme is about – most people here use the glass bin out of duty, without getting paid for it.

  6. Wul says:

    Man, I hate that Compulsory Car Sharing! And that effing Beef Tax!

    1. Yeah I was forced into a Vauxhall Astra with four others just the other day, ended up in Carlisle

      1. 230923 says:

        A fine city!

      2. 230923 says:

        Our (Tory) Council has replaced much of its obsolete fossil-fuelled fleet with electric school buses, pool cars, gritters, flatbeds, lawn mowers, tractors, and vans. It’s also replaced all petrol-driven tools, like strimmers and temporary traffic-lights, with battery-powered equivalents.

        Stagecoach, one of the main public transport providers in Dumgall, is also replacing its diesel buses, as and when they reach the end of their lives, with electric buses, which are great. They’re a lot ‘lighter’ and less smelly than the old combustion-engined vehicles, and they’re so quiet you can converse with your fellow travellers without having to shout. The only downside is that you can’t always hear them coming (maybe they should be fitted with warning bells like trams are) and they lack the arousing ‘throb’ that an idling diesel engine pleasantly conveys through the seats.

        BTW Isn’t the whole point of having a private car is that you DON’T have to share it?

        1. John says:

          You obviously don’t recognise satire.
          Rishi Sunak only invented the compulsory car sharing policy so that he could be seen to overturn it – hence the satirical comment.
          Private ownership is not mutually exclusive to car sharing.
          Car sharing can be a rewarding experience (depending on who you share with obviously).There has even been a comedy series based around car sharing!

          1. 230923 says:

            Of course, they’re not mutually exclusive. The whole concept of ‘car-sharing’ is premised on that of private ownership. It’s also premised on the exclusivity of private ownership: car-owners get to choose whom they share their cars with; bus-users don’t get a choice in who else gets to ride the bus with them.

        2. John says:

          I believe most regions are doing the same with electrification of busses ets as Dumfrirs & Galloway. I also believe that a lot of regions in Scotland, have more onshore windmills than Dumfries & Galloway to help provide the electricity required to supply these vehicles

          1. 230923 says:

            I’m sure they are, and good luck to them.

            I’ve no idea how much energy Dumgall generates compared to how much it consumes in comparison to other countries in Scotland. Could you share the figures on which you made your comparison?

            I suspect, however, that we’re fairly energy efficient doun hame here. I often wonder whether we’d in fact be self-sufficient in energy if we withdrew from the economic union that is the National Grid.

          2. John says:

            Reply to 230923 post of 24/09 at 10.14.
            My comments about lack of onshore wind turbines in Dumfries & Galloway are based on 3 observations:
            1)Visual – I travelled up and down M6/M74 from Wales to central Scotland on a monthly basis over 2 years. I was struck by absence of wind turbines in Dumfries &Galloway in stark contrast to the other Scottish regions I travelled through.
            2)When I visited the website outlining windfarms and generating power in Scotland there was little of significance operational in Dumgall though there are a few proposed.
            4)When I googled onshore wind and Dumgall I found a lot of groups opposed to building them .
            This along with fact that there is a Tory administration in Dumgall made me realise how 1 & 2 had arisen.
            Lastly I do think that your continued references to how Dumgall could do this and that on its own always brings to mind the comedy film ‘Passport to Pimlico’!

          3. Niemand says:

            Though I hate to say it, when it comes to the national grid union, I do think we are ‘better together’

          4. 230923 says:

            We’ve forty-four onshore windfarms (operational, under construction, or planning consented) and one offshore. The offshore winfarm off the Galloway coast is in fact the only commercial-scale, operational offshore wind farm in Scotland. You can’t see much of Dumgall from the M74.

            As of 2021, Dumgall was the third largest generator of onshore windpower in the UK, behind Highland and South Lanarkshire. It was also the fourth largest generator of hydro-electricity in the UK. It was the fifth largest generator of electricity from all renewable sources in the UK. (Source: UK Dept. of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, September 2022)

            Until February 2023, Dumgall had a SNP/Labour coalition government. The SNP subsequently formed a coalition government with the Lib-Dems. We’ve only had a minority Conservative government down here since March, when the SNP/Lib-Dem coalition couldn’t get its proposed budget passed. No party has overall control of our government; not quite the ‘ideal speech situation’ that’s conducive to good democracy, but it’s getting there!

            There has indeed been a lot of opposition to onshore windfarm development in Dumgall. But that’s true of onshore windfarm development across Scotland generally. I personally don’t mind them; windfarms, like horses, make a landscape look more beautiful.

            And what on earth are you doing, driving up and down the M74/M6 on a monthly basis when there are perfectly good train and coach services? Sheer denialism!

          5. 230923 says:

            I’ve just heard back from [email protected] that Dumgall is a net exporter of renewable energy. We contribute more electricity from renewable sources to the National Grid than we take out. And by a good bit, apparently; though that’s probably because we’ve many fewer industrial consumers taking power from the Grid than in most other communities in Scotland.

            (Someone’s burning the midnight oil at Scottish Renewables. I didn’t expect a reply to my enquiry until at least tomorrow morning. Of course, maybe [email protected] is manned by AI.)

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