Candidates face climate change heat at Lochgilphead hustings

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Forget Brexit, never mind independence, and even the NHS can be shelved when it comes the single most important issue in the UK general election on December 12.

And that, according to youthful campaign group ‘Time for Change Argyll’, is quite simply climate and the environment.

Worried about climate change and degradation of habitats and species, the group organised an event at Lochgilphead High School advertised as an environmental hustings.

All four Argyll and Bute candidates turned up to face an audience approaching 90 people.

With Ardfern-based wildlife guide and photographer Philip Price in the chair, the candidates were asked to give their view on environmental issues and their parties’ stance on the various strands of environmental policy.

First to speak was Labour candidate Rhea Barnes, who said: ‘We are on the precipice of environmental disaster. The time to act is now.’

She added: ‘While act as individuals towards zero waste, we are at the mercy of our neighbours, and big business runs rampant in Scotland.’

She claimed that Labour would aim for zero net emmissions by 2030 and invest £10 billonover the next decade in the restoration of habitats.

Lochgilphead Hustings Part One

Lochgilphead Hustings Part Two

Conservative candidate Gary Mulvaney said the Conservatives would invest £1 billion to invest in other countries’ efforts to ‘go green’. He said: ‘The Conservatives are very focused on a green revolution. Next year we welcome the world climate change conference to Glasgow, and I would welcome Time for Change Argyll to go along.’

He added: ‘Things will only change if we in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, the UK and internationally work together.’

‘There is no Planet B,’ said Alan Reid, candidate for the LibDems.

He continued: ‘We should put Brexit and independence behind us and concentrate on combating climate change.

The LibDems, he said, would plant 60 million trees annually, invest in habitat recovery and make a ‘massive investment’ in public transport.

SNP candidate Brendan O’Hara began by saying that it was ‘undeniable’ that the world was in a climate emergency.

He added: ‘I am pleased the Scottish Government has set challenging climate change targets, and I don’t think the UK government is doing enough.

Mr O’Hara talked about the ‘abundance of renewable energy’ we have in Argyll, from wind and wave to tidal power.

He continued: ‘Energy decisions are being taken by a Westminster government still in thrall to the nuclear industry and devotees of fracking.

‘There is an opportunity for cleaner, greener energy. It won’t be easy, but doing nothing is not an option.

A clearly passionate audience fired all kinds of questions at the candidates ranging from cycle routes, oil production public transport, CO2 emissions, renewable energy and the ongoing Climate Strike campaign by young people.

With subject matter straying regularly beyond reserved Westminster matters into devolved areas of responsibility, the chair clearly came to the conclusion that it was pointless to make any distinction, though the candidates struggled at times to match their Westminster briefing notes to Holyrood issues.

The chair wound up proceedings by thanking the audience, the candidates and Time for Change Argyll, adding that he respected the fact that when they didn’t know the answer to a question, the candidates admitted it, rather than trying to waffle.

The UK general election takes place on Thursday December 12. Remember to cast your vote.