The Edinburgh RIC Meeting on 26th August 2020 was introduced by Willie Black and Graham Campbell
The introductions were followed by a discussion.
N – Covid-19 appears to have led to some decentralisation of the economy. There is evidence from England that small town centres have done better than large city centres. Could this be the same in Scotland?
There is a problem with converting offices into homes. Building specifications for offices are lower than for homes. Converted offices could quickly become slums.
G – This is true of large specifically designed offices. However, in Glasgow many offices are themselves converted homes above shops or other offices. There needs to be overall planning.
W – when working as an electrician in York Place in Edinburgh found that 200 call centre workers were employed in a building that used to be a home.
There is also some evidence of fightback. In Falkirk residents have just forced Scottish Power to a meeting to lower electricity costs for 700 council houses.
R – Despite the renewed calls for nationalisation, the bosses are fighting back. This was shown revealed in today’s headlines directed at the Scottish government’s nationalisation of the Ferguson shipyard. Yet only Ferguson has the capacity to produce the hydrogen powered ferries needed for a more sustainable future.
The Scottish government used the EU guidelines to stop any nationalisation of the BiFab yard at Methil. Yet it has the capacity to produce wind turbines (now being given to an overseas contractor) also needed for a more sustainable future.
We need a transformative agenda.
P – There have been two recent surveys. The first found that
80% of North Sea oil workers would like jobs in the renewables industry.
However, the second, conducted by Platform, found that very few of the oil workers they interviewed knew of Just Transition.
We need to be able to put forward solutions that make sense. There is also a need to break from the centralised bureaucratic model based in Edinburgh or Glasgow. The logic of sustainable Green development is for research, production and distribution to be decentralised.
SM – is there a case for a Renewable Energy Fund?
SB – Waterpower must be part of the solution.
There has been a reluctance amongst trade union leaders to address the issue of a Just Transition.
G – the debate is still in its early stages. During the last general election, Corbyn, the Greens and to some extent the SNP put forward a Green New Deal. However, it still lacks much specificity, although Commonweal have done a lot of good work. It needs to be linked to an overall industrial strategy.
Other issues that need to be addressed are a reduced working week, mire local ownership, and time limits on fossil fuel extraction.
W – the provision of district heating requires 20,000 skilled jobs, but there is no Scottish government commitment to training or retraining.
Scot.E3 (Employment, Energy and Environment) organised a fringe meeting at the STUC conference. Scot.E3 is a rank and file group mainly working in the oil industry.
When it comes to the provision of universal housing insulation there is the precedent of the conversion of nearly every Scottish home to North Sea gas in the 1970s.
Two recent articles in Source Direct pick up on some of these issues – you can read them here and here.