The 2020-2021 Scottish Budget was announced last Thursday (6 February 2020). Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes set out the Scottish Budget, with a focus on tackling the climate emergency and protecting public services.
From increased investment in low carbon transport to funding for peatland restoration and forestry, the Budget sets out spending plans to help deliver the transition to net-zero. Key elements include:
- £20 million for peatland restoration with a commitment to invest more than £250 million over 10 years
- Investment of more than £64 million to support the commitment to plant 12,000 hectares of forestry, with the aim to reach 15,000 hectares by the mid-2020s
- £40 million for an Agricultural Transformation Programme
- £1.8 billion of investment in low carbon infrastructure which will help reduce emissions
- Increased investment of £270 million in rail services and an additional £16 million in concessionary travel and bus services, taking total investment in rail and bus services to around £1.55 billion
- Increased investment of £5.5 million in active travel
- A new £120 million Heat Transition Deal and a total investment of £151 million in energy efficiency
CIEEM is pleased to see that the vital role of nature-based solutions in tackling the Climate Emergency is recognised. We welcome the commitment to significant levels of long-term funding for peatland restoration, which will enable the delivery of large-scale restoration.
The funding outlined to deliver the ambitious tree planting targets needs to be carefully directed so that the right trees are planted in the right places. We would like to see native woodland form a significant component of the ambitious tree-planting targets and ensure that we do not deliver these targets using commercial plantations of non-native species such as Sitka spruce.
We are surprised that there is no mention of the role of the marine environment in tackling climate change.
Further information on how the money invested in the Agricultural Transformation Programme will be spent would be welcomed to ensure that payments deliver for the public good and are aligned to benefits to biodiversity.
There has been a long-term decline in funding for biodiversity in Scotland. We would like to see this addressed so that the ongoing loss of wildlife in Scotland, as identified in the State of Nature 2019 Report, is halted.
Although there are small increases in the budgets for Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Environment Protection Agency, these do not overcome the significant historic declines in funding.
We welcome mention of new environmental principles and governance arrangements and the forthcoming environment strategy in the Budget. Any environmental governance must include an independent and well-resourced environmental watchdog.