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Climate change threat deepens as focus is on referendum

This opinion piece is almost 10 years old

Deborah Long says environmental activists are looking beyond the referendum to the much bigger issue facing humanity: climate change

Deborah Long
Deborah Long

There has been concern about the potentially divisive effects of the independence referendum; with people forced into the binary camps of yes or no as every political event is viewed through the prism of the so-called “IndyRef”. Thankfully, Scotland’s environmental non-governmental organisations generally take a more sanguine view.

The referendum has ignited political engagement in Scotland – and despite the inevitably opposing campaign positions, many have been brought together in serious conversation.

Scottish Environment Link’s members do not a have a collective view on the best outcome for the referendum, rather we have sought to inject environmental-thinking into the debate, pressing each campaign to take our Referendum Challenge and highlight what a yes or a no would mean for Scotland’s environment.

Those working in the environment sector have a naturally long-term view. Foresters and other landscape-scale managers think in terms of centuries.

Our precious deep-sea habitats, which have taken thousands of years to form, remind us the complexity of life which sustains us has been evolving long before the concept of a nation state

And our precious deep-sea habitats, which have taken thousands of years to form, remind us the complexity of life which sustains us has been evolving long before the concept of a nation state.

The politics of the environment therefore lend the independence referendum a bit of perspective. A pithy sound bite from a Link colleague sums it up well: “it’s how we deal with climate change, not constitutional change, which really matters."

Of course we also recognise the opportunities in an uncertain political terrain and important new agendas are gathering welcome momentum.

The land reform review and community empowerment bill are leading examples, both could bring about more equitable and environmentally successful management of our land. The Westminster versus Holyrood question is not irrelevant, but only deeper devolution will ensure Scotland’s communities are resilient to climate change and geared towards more sustainable production and consumption.

Scotland can and must play its part in tackling our most pressing environmental issues and start to better respect the value of our natural world.

This vision is different from blind ideological optimism or the short-sighted economic growth agenda, which we have collectively campaigned against.

Instead it starts from awareness of the biggest challenges for Scotland right now: unsustainable consumerism and the long-term environmental consequences of over-development and intensive modes of production.

Just as Scotland is its people, Link is its members. Our 37 members and our members’ members (all 500,000 of them) are individuals who will make their decision at the ballot box and carry the environmental torch up to and well beyond Thursday 18 September.

Deborah Long in chair of Scottish Environment Link