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Paris, Place and Politicians: Recognising Scotland’s Environmental Policymakers



With the world’s governments discussing climate change in Paris, the CSPP looks at how Scotland’s politicians are promoting environmental conservation and sustainability. Several of these were recognised at the recent RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards. 

Thinking Global, Acting Local

With the COP21 Climate Conference underway in Paris, global debate is currently focused on climate change, conservation and sustainability, as changing conditions are predicted to put many of the planet’s habitats under increasing strain. Such issues also resonate in Scotland, where concerns over resource use, environmental conservation and carbon emissions are discussed widely. Indeed, the desire of many in civil society for a strong international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions was highlighted at a large gathering in Edinburgh last Saturday 28 November.

With governments of more than 190 nations meeting in Paris, the climate conference also highlights the key role that politicians play – along with business, civil society, and communities – in shaping the response to environmental change and degradation. These matters are of key concern to the Centre for Scottish Public Policy. We adopt a dual focus on the importance of “people” and “place”, recognising that individual and societal wellbeing is shaped by multiple factors, including the local environmental quality of both our urban and rural areas. Many of our members undertake important work on these issues, feeding this knowledge into the Centre.

The Nature of Scotland Awards

In the context of these considerations, it is important to encourage politicians of all parties to take environmental quality and conservation seriously, and to recognise those who do. For this reason the CSPP was pleased to support the Politician of the Year category at the RSPB’s Nature of Scotland Awards, which were held last month. Our Chair, Professor Richard Kerley, was a shortlisting panel member and presented to award to the winners. Ahead of the evening, he explained why we should recognise the efforts of decision-makers who support our environment:

“We are all aware that our countryside and those parts of our urban environment that sustain flora and fauna of all forms and scale need to be defended, protected and enhanced. We look to citizens, campaigners, and campaigning organisations such as the RSPB to do this”.

“However, we also need politicians in all spheres of government to channel and legislate in support of our environment. That is why the Centre of Scottish Public Policy is delighted to support this award”.

Politician of the Year

On the night, two winners of the Politician of the Year Award were unveiled. One was Martha Wardrop, a Green Councillor for Hillhead in Glasgow, who convenes Glasgow City Council’s Energy and Carbon Working Group. She is also a sessional worker with Renfrewshire Environmental Trust, delivering environmental education workshops with schools, youth groups and community groups.

After winning the award, she wrote, “I am honoured and absolutely delighted to have received the award in recognition of my work as a councillor. I hope it will inspire people across Hillhead and beyond to get more involved in activities which support nature conservation and safeguard our environment”.

The other winner was Paul Wheelhouse, SNP MSP for the South of Scotland. He was elected in 2011 and has held ministerial posts for Environment and Climate Change and is currently Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs. On the night of the award he stated that it “meant a lot to him”, while Richard Lochhead MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) tweeted that the award was “well deserved and recognition of leadership in tackling wildlife crime”, among other issues.

Also shortlisted for the award were:

Sarah Boyack (Labour MSP for Lothian). As Scottish Labour’s Environmental Justice spokesperson since August 2015, Sarah has dedicated her parliamentary career to support and promote Scotland’s rural communities, our nature heritage and unique biodiverse landscape.

Ian Duncan (Conservative MEP for Scotland). Ian was elected to the European Parliament in May 2014. Previously, he’d served for seven years as Head of the Scottish Parliament’s European Office in Brussels, after posts as Secretary of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Head of Policy with the Scottish Refugee Council.

Alyn Smith (SNP MEP for Scotland). Alyn is Honorary Vice President of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Scotland's animal welfare charity. The post is voluntary and unpaid. As an MEP animal welfare and agriculture are two key areas of his work.

Reflections

As the RSPB states, the Nature of Scotland Awards aim to “recognise and celebrate excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in Scottish nature conservation”. The negotiations in Paris remind us of the important role politicians must play in promoting policies to support the sustainability of our environment, and the quality of the places upon which our wellbeing depends. The CSPP will continue to work with our members and partners to highlight such issues, and recognise the work of politicians seeking positive change for both people and place across Scotland. 

 

       
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