Argyll group presses for political climate change

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Our politicians are unlikely to neglect issues of an environmental nature – as long as ‘Time for Change Argyll and Bute’ is there to offer the occasional prod, that is.

The group kept up momentum last month as members followed up a meeting with the region’s MP with a similar virtual discussion involving Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.

A report earlier this year to the UK government by independent Climate Change Committee urged Ministers to seize the opportunity to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change. The UK-wide Climate Coalition campaign group, however, wants to push that bit harder and urged supporters to lobby MPs as part of ‘The Time is Now’ campaign to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the UK’s recovery from coronavirus.

Freya Aitchison

In Argyll, the ‘virtual’ meeting with Brendan O’Hara MP in early July was followed by a similar discussion between Time for Change Argyll and Bute and Michael Russell MSP on August 19, with some 47 constituents joining in from places including Lochgilphead, Ardfern, Dunoon, Tighnabruaich, Iona, Tayvallich, Furnace and Oban.

One of the founders of Time for Change alongside her brother Rowan is 22-year-old Freya Aitchison from Tayvallich, who said: ‘We were really pleased that Michael Russell seemed to be as concerned as we are about the climate crisis and the issues it brings, and we will be continuing the conversation with him into the future, as we have been doing with Brendan O’Hara.

‘We started off by telling Mr Russell how worried we are about the big picture of the climate crisis, and set out our core demands as a group, which are:

  • Apply a “Net-Zero Test” to all decisions
  • Support the most vulnerable and bring about a just transition
  • Unleash “moonshot” scale investment with urgency and ambition to match
  • Recover and protect biodiversity
  • Seek and support participation and human-centred democracy

Our specific questions covered topics such as the short-term nature of politics; the Wellbeing Economy; how the [Scottish Government’s] Just Transition Commission will lead to a final full stop on oil and gas extraction in Scotland; the importance of biodiversity in forestry and how we can protect our ancient woodlands while also planting new trees; the agri-environment scheme; and community renewable energy opportunities.’

Michael Russell MSP

Mr Russell said: ‘I think the climate emergency is not only real but pressing and I want to see that attitude pervading politics and all of life, even if at the moment most attention is on COVID.

‘The problems at the Rest are an indication of things to come and we must take significant, effective and prompt action on climate and on biodiversity. No-one is going to do it for us – all of us are going to have to take actions ourselves.

‘I have provided the group with some information since the meeting and will be maintaining a dialogue with them.’

Freya continued: ‘What we got out of it was that we should go to Mr Russell with specific questions that he can take action on and he will help us.

‘Brendan O’Hara has recently signed in support of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which we are very excited about. And we also plan to work more closely with the council as they reconvene their Climate Change Environmental Action Group.’

Time for Change Argyll and Bute certainly seems to be gaining popularity and plans to be in regular contact with our MP, MSPs and government at all levels.

Freya explained: ‘Time for Change isn’t really a campaign, it’s just the things that we should all be thinking about if we want Argyll – and the world – to be a recognisable place for our children and grandchildren to live in.’