Environment Speech

Fiona Sinclair

This is the speech that Fiona Sinclair was not able to deliver at this year’s Alba Party Conference.

Telling the truth is a revolutionary act – deceit has been used by the powerful throughout history, to promote their own message and, through this, their own interests.

In no other political field is the telling of truth so important, because upon it depends our health, our wealth and, ultimately, the future of our planet.

One in four of us can now expect to suffer from cancer; neurological diseases and disabilities are on the rise, as are endocrine and autoimmune disorders, but our political betters would have us believe that these are all consequences of poor lifestyle and diet. I know that that’s baloney – but then I’m a lifelong environmentalist, and have decades of knowledge acquisition to draw on.

We don’t live in a laboratory, so proving which particular chemicals are causing which particular disease is very often impossible. There are over 100, 000 chemical compounds now in existence – and that number grows every single year. The testing regime is wholly inadequate, even in the most highly regulated countries on the planet.

We know that dioxins, which are produced when carbon is burnt in the presence of chlorine, are the most toxic of all chemical compounds. They are a known byproduct of waste incineration. They cause cancer, birth defects, autoimmune disorders, endocrine disorders

You’d think that the political classes, particularly in countries with socialised health systems, would be desperate to clean up industrial processes and to save money by doing so. But unlike me, you wouldn’t have been part of a delegation of community groups fighting plans for incinerators in Scotland who were given a 15 minute meeting with the then Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Richard Lochhead. My membership of the SNP predated Mr Lochhead’s, so he could perhaps be forgiven for inviting the delegation to tell him what we would do, if any of us had his job. I looked along the line of campaigners and I knew I was best placed to offer him this advice. He blenched.

This isn’t just about knowledge and truth – it’s about having the guts to speak truth to power, however many civil servants are lined up to stop that getting through to a politician, so that the political establishment can continue to maintain plausible deniability – howsoever implausible it is to people like me.

According to Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, announcing more CCS schemes at the same time as approving 100-plus new oil and gas drilling licences is like ordering a truckload of cigarettes for someone giving up smoking.

‘Why carbon capture and storage will not solve the climate crisis any time soon’: The Guardian.

I know that handing the profits from new oil fields to oil corporations won’t make our energy any cheaper, we will be subsidising its extraction and any research and development to capture and store the carbon emissions from industrial fixed points, like waste incinerators.

I also know that a Professor of Geological Science isn’t lying, when he says that carbon storage in depleted oil wells is not to be relied upon, because these are natural and not uniform in structure. I respect the opinion of those scientists promoting carbon capture and storage, who caution against the development of new oil fields, as does the International Energy Agency, because it would be like giving a truckload of cigarettes to a nicotine addict. Business as usual for the petro states and oil cartels – and who cares that it will blast past the current trajectory of 2.7 degrees of global warming, leaving the hope of restricting this to 1.5 degrees in the dust.

If you’ve met an older man who can scarcely breathe because of mesothelioma, who insists that you take his money to run an environment group in the SNP, because he trusts you, because you’ve spoken out for the environment. If someone you love is rushed to hospital because air pollution has caused a life-threatening asthma attack. If you’ve interviewed the scientist whose clinical research revealed that the very high rates of lung cancers around the Clyde were the result of the use of asbestos in the shipbuilding industry, not because of smoking. If you’ve interviewed the farmer who took a waste disposal company to court because they claimed that his cattle were suffering because they ate ragwort, rather than because they were exposed to toxic emissions – If you care to know, you know to care.

Compromise can’t be achieved in a five minute speech – it needs discussion across policy portfolios.
In good faith, good conscience can marry with good politics. And wouldn’t that be a good thing?

The Resolution for Conference


Conference recognises the immense environmental challenges facing the world today and the interlocking nature of the three main challenges of climate change/ global warming, pollution and biodiversity loss. It is clear that such challenges will not be met within the UK, to the detriment of the people of Scotland and the wider world. Therefore, Conference calls for the creation of a policy working group on the environment: to draft policy resolutions for Conference and National Council; provide Briefing Papers and policy discussion papers for the party and its spokespersons; and, more generally, to research and advise upon environmental issues, supported by employees of the party and its NEC. Now, more than ever before, it is essential that the Alba Party develops well researched and credible policy on the environment.

These points, made by Robin McAlpine, in his critique of the expansion of oil developments into new oil fields west of Shetland, are as sensible as they are trenchant. We will always need oil – for petrochemicals and the products made from them, such as pharmaceuticals – but we cannot afford to continue to burn an irreplaceable natural resource. There is a transition – it will not happen overnight.

 – `And its totally unnecessary. If we were independent tomorrow, oil revenue would pour in for probably two more decades as we wind down what we’re currently doing. ‘Just stop oil’ isn’t accurate. The fight is ‘just stop any more oil that slows down decarbonisation and keep it to the amount we need to get us from here to there’. And that’s not two weeks.

So worried about the finances of an independent Scotland and think oil (which everyone else knows goes up and down in value all the time) is the solution? Fine. But we do not need to drill a single extra hole in the North Sea to get that effect. If you’re clever you shut the fuck up about ‘more oil’ and just accept that the 20-year transition off oil sees us comfortably past a short-term referendum.

Fourth, this is strategically idiotic. By miles and miles the core demographic support for independence is people under 50, so if people over 50 (this stuff isn’t coming from youngsters) think they can win them over with ‘more oil’, they are delusional. Meanwhile if someone could show me these conservative old people I keep getting told will start supporting independence if only we are more morally compromised, could you do so soon? Because I’m starting to think you’re literally making them up.`


“Three interconnected planetary crises: climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution
are putting global economic and social well-being at risk”

 – `Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA), highlighted that we have already gone beyond the safe planetary boundary for chemical pollution. Pollution has been identified as the third planetary crisis, alongside climate change and biodiversity loss, and the three are all interconnected.`


`No company is prepared to underwrite a CCS project for the life of storage, leaving that risk to taxpayers.`

Stop Cambo Header


Industrial scene

 `Proposals under consideration include a potentially massive new field called Rosebank, which campaigning group Uplift said could receive an effective subsidy of £3.75bn under the windfall tax.`


 “The number one priority that we have is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources,” said Dr Greg Mutch of Newcastle University.


“… scientists told the Observer that using CCS in this way was a dangerous gamble, and that calling off any proposed new development of oil and gas was a safer way to meet the net zero commitment”


Further references here: