Shropshire Star

Tory MSP accuses Sunak of bringing environment into ‘culture wars’

Among the changes, the Prime Minister announced a delay to the ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years.

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Rishi Sunak

Scottish Tory MSP Maurice Golden has criticised the Prime Minister’s watering down of climate pledges.

Writing for the Times, the north east list MSP said the announcements made last week from Downing Street were “regressive”.

Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday England would delay the ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years, moving the target from 2030 to 2035.

Maurice Golden
Scottish Tory MSP Maurice Golden was writing in the Times (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Sunak was criticised by environmental activists, and some in his own party, following the Downing Street announcement, which also saw him weaken the plan to phase out gas boilers from 2035 – so households that will struggle the most to switch to heat pumps will not have to make the change – and scrap the requirement for energy efficiency upgrades to homes.

Scottish Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan said the Scottish Government would be “urgently” assessing its own climate pledges as a result of the announcement.

Writing in the newspaper, Mr Golden said: “I understand fully why it was done from a political perspective, but it’s a regressive move that isn’t only damaging environmentally but economically and socially too.

“It drags net zero into the territory of culture wars.

“The way the changes were framed and delivered will polarise communities and create a binary environment where you’re either for climate change initiatives or against them.

“I thought we had moved past that years ago, not least when the UK showed considerable ambition in becoming the world’s first big economy to set its net zero target in law.

“Seeing the pathway to that ambition being watered down is deeply regrettable.”

The shift, Mr Golden claimed, “didn’t only annoy the green lobby”, pointing to businesses already in the process of making changes to meet the targets.

“Policy changes like this erode trust in the government, a trust that was already vulnerable thanks to the brief period in office of Sunak’s predecessor. And this announcement will hurt UK plc too,” he said.

He added: “On Tuesday I’ll be speaking as part of a Holyrood debate on the climate emergency.

“It’s not a comfortable position for me to be criticising my own party on this matter.

“But the climate crisis is far bigger than any of that, and it’s imperative that governments in both Edinburgh and London start doing considerably better.”

Mr Golden also criticised the Scottish Government, accusing it of making “a mess of a series of other climate change initiatives, such as enforced replacement of boilers and a despicably poor infrastructure of electric vehicle charging points”.

He added: “They failed on biodiversity, woodland creation, green jobs and, worst of all, the creation of a genuine circular economy that could be worth £3 billion to Scotland.

“So let’s not take any lessons from the SNP when it comes to the UK government’s net zero approach.”

Fellow Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser saying on X, formerly Twitter, he “fundamentally disagrees” with Mr Golden on the issue, but added that “at least in @ScotTories our MSPs are permitted to dissent from the Party line without facing sanctions”.

While a spokeswoman for the party said: “We support the Prime Minister’s announcement, which set out a pragmatic route to achieving net zero that is affordable for hard-working families, while keeping us on track to meet international targets.”

While Ms McAllan said on the same site: “Add Tory MSPs to the list of those condemning the PM’s climate climb down.

“Although just as with Truss’ disaster budget, Douglas Ross falls into line.”

Downing Street and the Scottish Tories have been contacted for comment.

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