As the peak of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic passed I worked with colleagues at Friends of the Earth Scotland and elsewhere to draft a letter to the First Minister about what a just recovery should entail.
The letter was initially signed by 82 civil society organisations from across different sectors of Scottish life.
Signatories from charities, trade unions and community groups set out 5 steps for a recovery that enabled the building of a fairer, greener and more equal society.
The letter went on to provide the foundation for a coalition campaign through 2020 and 2021.
31st May 2020
The First Minister
The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House
Edinburgh EH1 3DG
Dear First Minister,
Scotland’s Just and Green Recovery from COVID-19
Representing a broad range of Scotland’s civil society, our organisations wish to meet with you to discuss our emerging vision of how Scotland can lead a radical response to the double crises of climate change and Coronavirus.
Across the world, communities, institutions and governments are engaged in an unprecedented global effort to save lives and protect the most vulnerable.
As Coronavirus and climate chaos tear apart people’s lives globally we are seeing pre-existing inequalities laid bare and exacerbated, as the poorest suffer worst.
Massive upheaval to people’s daily lives is our present reality and immediate future. Yet a simple return to business as usual is both unrealistic and undesirable.
As Scotland moves past a peak of infections our attention is turning to what comes next.
You have stated the need for a recovery that cuts climate emissions by “building a fairer, greener and more equal society”, an aim that we strongly agree with.
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare how inequality is lethal to human life, but it has also shone a light on acts of solidarity and cooperation and centred the vital role of public services, key workers and unpaid carers. Amidst a global threat to human rights and democracy, this crisis has also brought forward the possibility of an economic revival that ensures resilience to future crises, including the climate emergency.
The recovery from Coronavirus is a rare chance to markedly accelerate the repurposing of government away from the prioritisation of economic growth and towards goals of wellbeing and sustainability, ending inequality and environmental destruction. This is a time for system change.
These are the steps we believe must be followed to deliver a just and green recovery:
- Provide essential public services for people, not profit. Expand public ownership of public services and boost investment, including in social care, strengthen the NHS and cradle-to-grave education, and create zero-carbon social and cooperative housing instead of buy-to-let.
- Protect marginalised people and those on low incomes by redistributing wealth. Provide adequate incomes for all instead of bailouts for shareholders, significantly raise taxes on the wealthy, ensure all public workers receive at least the real Living Wage and strengthen health, safety and workers’ rights, including access to flexible home working. Investigate and mitigate the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and social distancing on women, children and young people, disabled people, LGBTI people, people of colour, key workers, unpaid carers, private renters, and those on lower incomes.
- Provide new funds to transform our society and economy to meet Scotland’s Fair Share of climate emissions cuts and greatly enhance biodiversity. Create and protect jobs in sustainable travel, renewable heat, affordable local food and energy efficiency, with ambitious green employment opportunities for young people and support for retraining where whole industries are affected. Put measures in place to ensure all government programmes tackle inequality, public health and the just transition away from fossil fuels, excluding rogue employers, tax avoiders, major polluters and arms manufacturers from bailouts.
- Strengthen democracy and human rights during these crises. Withdraw new police powers, surveillance measures and restrictions on protest as soon as possible. Enable full scrutiny of planning and policy decisions. Create an independent Recovery Commission founded on participatory democracy to engage and empower communities, trade unions and civil society. Introduce fundamental human rights into Scots law so that safety nets are always in place for the most vulnerable.
- Offer solidarity across borders by proactively supporting an international Coronavirus and climate emergency response that challenges the scapegoating of migrants, centres on the worst affected, bolsters global public health, development and environmental bodies, and ensures equitable access to COVID-19 treatment. Use the UN climate talks in Glasgow to push for robust implementation of the Paris deal, platforming the voices of indigenous and frontline communities and advancing climate finance and global debt cancellation. Ensure coherence between all domestic policy and global sustainable development outcomes.
Decisions made in times of crisis have long-lasting consequences. After the 2008 financial crisis, inequality grew and climate emissions spiralled. We want to see this moment seized for the common good, not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Civil society has a central role to play in helping to shape Scotland’s future in this unprecedented time. We look forward to meeting with you to address how we can realise a truly just and green recovery.
Alison Stuart – Director, Aberdeen Climate Action
Almuth Ernsting – Co-Director, Biofuelwatch
Susan Matthews – Convenor, Cairngorms Campaign
Zarina Ahmad – Climate Change and Environment Officer, CEMVO
Jackie Brock – CEO, Children in Scotland
Sally Foster-Fulton – Head of Christian Aid Scotland, Christian Aid
The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown – Convener, Faith Impact Forum, Church of Scotland
Representatives – Climate Camp Scotland
Claire Williams – Director, Cloudberry Communities CIC
Robin McAlpine – Director, Common Weal
Craig Anderson – Regional Secretary – Scotland, Communication Workers Union (CWU)
Nick Gubbins – Chief Executive, Community Energy Scotland
Dr Benjamin Twist – Director, Creative Carbon Scotland
Isla Scott – Divest Strathclyde
Linda Pearson – Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland
Jo Gibb – Steering group member , East Linton Melting Pot
Mary Sweetland – Chairperson, Eco-Congregation Scotland
Foysol Choudhury MBE – Chair, Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council
Bill Ramsay – President, EiS
Zarina Ahmad – Climate Change and Environment Officer, EMEN
Yolanda Cowen – Extinction Rebellion Aberdeen
Representatives, Extinction Rebellion Scotland
Nick Cullen – Director, Food for Good coalition
Dr Richard Dixon – Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland
May East – CEO, Gaia Education
Ellie Harrison – Chair, Get Glasgow Moving
Scott Tully – Glasgow Calls Out Polluters
Representatives – Glasgow Mutual Aid
Liz Murray – Head of Scottish campaigns, Global Justice Now
Hannah Martin – Co-Exec Director, Green New Deal UK
Representatives – Halo Trust
Alison Lomax – Director, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust
Anne Thomas – Secretary, Highland Cycle Campaign
Simon Anderson – Senior Fellow, IIED
Professor Gregor Gall – Director, Jimmy Reid Foundation
Anne Funnemark – Campaign Director (interim) , Jubilee Scotland
Roz Corbett – Policy Officer, Landworkers Alliance
Sonja Coquelin – Chair, Living Rent
Deirdre Duff – Climate Campaigner, Medact
Morag Watson – Director, Natural Change
Pete Ritchie – Director, Nourish Scotland
Liam McCabe – President, NUS Scotland
Anthony Johnson – Lead Advisor, Nurses United UK
Mrs Nicky Bull – Chair of Trustees, Operation Noah
Jamie Livingstone – Head of Oxfam Scotland, Oxfam Scotland
Maddison Bromfield – Co-president, People and Planet Society Edinburgh
Sue Laughlin – People’s Health Movement Scotland
Clare Symonds – Chair, Planning Democracy
Gabrielle Jeliazkov – Lead Campaigner – Just Transition in the North Sea, Platform
Peter Kelly – Director, Poverty Alliance
Joshua Msika – Convenor, Prospect James Hutton Institute Branch
Lauren MacCallum – General Manager , Protect Our Winters UK
Elizabeth Allen – Clerk to General Meeting for Scotland, Quakers in Scotland
Max Wiszniewski – Campaign Manager, Revive: the coalition for grouse moor reform
Mike Robinson – Chief Executive, Royal Scottish Geographical Society
Alistair Dutton – Director, Scottish Catholic International Aid Foundation
Professor Gregor Gall – Editor, Scottish Left Review
Pete Cannell – Convenor, Scot.E3
Jane Salmonson – Director, Scotland’s International Development Alliance
Lynn Jamieson – Chair, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Philip Revell – Convenor, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network
Angus Hardie – Director, Scottish Community Alliance
Fiona Garven – Director, Scottish Community Development Centre
Most Reverend Mark Strange – Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church
Logan Steele – Communications Secretary , Scottish Raptor Study Group
Janet Fenton – Organiser, Secure Scotland
Martha Myers – Zero Waste Hub Coordinator, SHRUB
Ben Carpenter – CEO, Social Value UK
Jo McNamara – Chair, Sustaining Dunbar
Representatives – Scottish Youth Climate Strike
Robert Palmer – Executive Director, Tax Justice UK
Graeme McMeekin – Acting Director, Tearfund Scotland
Cathy Ratcliff – Partnerships Director , Thrive
Anne Thomas – Director, Transition Black Isle
David Somervell – Convener, Transition Edinburgh
Olga Bloemen – Co-Director, Tripod: Training for Creative Social Action
Carlo Morelli & Lena Wånggren – Scotland president & Scotland vice-president, UCU
Lilian Macer – Convenor, UNISON Scotland
Dr Nick Hepworth – Director, Water Witness International
Cat Hobbs – Director and Founder, We Own It
Dr Gemma Bone Dodds – Trustee WEALL Scotland
Sarah Dolman – Policy manager, Whale and Dolphin Conservation
Catrina Randall – Network coordinator, Young Friends of the Earth Scotland