Will Nicola Sturgeon publicly reject the comments of her chief economic adviser on those who want a Green New Deal?

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The Scottish government yesterday broadly adopted the deeply depressing, profoundly conventional and neoliberal suggestions of the commission that it appointed to advise on recovery from coronavirus that reported in June.  A good analysis, aptly describing this as a blueprint for the recovery of Scottish capitalism, is available here.

That Commission was headed by Benny Higgins.To put him in context, he is the former boss of Tesco Bank and current chair of Buccleuch Estates, Scotland biggest feudal landowner. To suggest that he might have a particular view of what is in the best interests of Scotland is, in that case, to only be fair.

But, in an interview with the Times he has has made it very clear that although he claims that his report was “unequivocally politically independent” this is anything but true. He is noted as saying:

You have got the ideological zealots who would throw economic growth and jobs under a bus to achieve a much narrower set of objectives around their own focus.

I’m referring to people like Friends of the Earth and certain parts of the green movement.

I think the recovery for Scotland has to be green, it has to be fair and it needs to be inclusive, but it needs to have economic growth.

A wellbeing economy needs growth to pay for itself.

And his evidence is:

A market economy is well capable of responding to environmental change and delivering wellbeing.

BP has demonstrated there is a way forward where you can focus on environmental change and wellbeing.

It takes some chutzpah (a word of which I am sure Higgins would approve) to be so crass and think you can get away with it.

First, BP is still producing oil that will burn our planet to extinction, and is relying on so far unproven technology to make the claim that it might become carbon neutral. In other words, it’s continuing to threaten life on Earth without having a clue how to reconcile its own existence with our wellbeing. If Higgins is not aware of that then he should not be making the claims he does.

Second, to claim that we are dependent on growth as he defines it is simply wrong. The financially engineered, fossil fuel driven growth of modern capitalism is what is driving us to extinction and there is not a shred of evidence that it can continue into the future and be reconciled with continuing human life on earth.

Third, if he wants to talk growth then it is growth of the state sector that he should have been promoting, but did not. We do need more care, education, social housing, sustainable transport infrastructure and so on. But we do not need more long haul holidays, heavy weight cars, monoculture farming, junk fashion and much else, all designed to fuel the inexorable demand for an interest return to banking.

And fourth, talking green and about growth in the way he does is simply impossible: carbon and temperature targets (let alone those required to secure biodiversity) cannot be reconciled with the sort of GDP growth his report envisioned. We can do more for each other, without a doubt, but only in a radically transformed society and it’s the height of in difference to the fate of humanity to pretend otherwise.

So, the obvious questions have to be asked, the first of which is why is this person advising Nicola Sturgeon?

And since he is, what does that say about her priorities?

And, what hope can anyone with the slightest concern for the planet have of the SNP in that case?

I know that there are many with strong green convictions, and sound left of centre principles, who support the SNP. But for how long can that continue when  its leadership aligns itself with the interest of the Scottish landed gentry and the old forces of traditional Edinburgh financial capitalism in this way? The sentiments Higgins, no doubt honestly, proposes are alien to most Scots, I suspect.

No wonder so many think that at the very time independence looks to be possible the SNP is in crisis. Based on this evidence, its current policy positions are, liertally, unsustainable.