Land and river management groups representing more than 90,000 jobs claim their livelihoods could be torn apart if the SNP takes on Green party manifesto pledges in a new coalition.
Their concerns are set out in an open letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signed by a dozen organisations including Loch Ness Rural Communities and moorland groups covering Grampian, Tayside and regions all over Scotland.
It was sent while talks continue between the two political parties at Holyrood on a potential deal which could put Green MSPs into the Scottish Government.
Backed by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the wide range of members told Ms Sturgeon: “We have no evidence available to us which enables us to trust the Scottish Green Party to commit to protecting jobs as part of any so- called Just Transition.
“No concrete solutions have been offered, to date, for the people at the sharp end who are making a living in rural and coastal Scotland but could potentially stand to lose much if Green policies are delivered. We also understand the concerns amongst workers in the oil and gas sectors whom we have also communicated with.
“The Scottish Greens’ election manifesto commitments will tear some sectors, such as game and angling, apart. They have not endeavoured to engage with workers in all sectors or heard the steps signatories have already taken to help Scotland on its climate journey and what these organisations can do in the months and years ahead.”
‘Protect their interests’
The groups claim they respect the government’s “right” to hold talks with Greens on a closer working agreement but say they are unable to participate while “major questions” hang over jobs.
The letter goes on to make claims about national food security, planting trees “in the wrong places” and “punitive” rules on fishing.
Their collective view is Green party priorities will “devastate” fragile communities already dealing with the pandemic and fall-out from leaving the EU.
“We ask you to provide solemn assurances to signatory parties that Scottish Government will not sacrifice our members’ livelihoods and futures in any power sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens and that you will protect their interests and what their vocation means to them, their families and the cultural heritage of Scotland,” the letter adds.
The signatories are:
- The Scottish Gamekeepers Association
- National Sheep Association, NSA Scotland
- SGA Fishing Group
- The Game Farmers Association (UK)
- Scottish Field Trials Association
- Moorland groups covering Angus, Grampian, Southern Uplands, Tayside and Central, Tomatin, and Speyside
- Loch Ness Rural Communities
The letter to Ms Sturgeon claims to represent sectors supporting 93,800 jobs and 6,750 members.
In a series of blunt statements, group leaders set out what they worry will happen to their sectors.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg claimed Green party plans would cause “untold harms”.
Lianene MacLennan, speaking for the regional moorland groups, added: “Our members are deeply concerned that the Scottish Greens are given too much sway over major decisions. Keeping the boots-on-the-ground people who can deliver is more vital than ever as the country tries to rebuild from Covid-19. The people the Greens would want to remove give so much to the land, the economy and to community wellbeing in remote Scotland.”
‘No limits’ on ambition
Ms Sturgeon announced the SNP-Green discussions during a statement on May 26 about her government’s plans for the first 100 days in office since the election.
In parliament, she said: “As we embark on this process, we are setting no limits on our ambition. So in that vein let me be clear that while this is not a guaranteed or a pre-agreed outcome, it is not inconceivable that a co-operation agreement could lead in future to a Green minister or ministers being part of this government.”
Scottish Green Party environment spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “The vast majority of people in rural communities want to see investment in jobs to restore Scotland’s natural environment and tackle the climate emergency. The Scottish Greens manifesto contained bold plans to do this, and we recommend that the signatories of this letter read it.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our investment in tourism and the rural economy has increased to £1.12 billion, including £613 million in ongoing support for farmers and crofters.
“We are supporting economic activity in rural and island areas which supports thousands of jobs and livelihoods. That includes aquaculture, which generates millions for the Scottish economy – and support for businesses in the wider seafood supply chain, which we helped through a £7.75 million package earlier this year in response to the issues they faced following Brexit and Covid-19.
“We must tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, and there will be opportunities in all of this for rural industries and workers to secure green, clean and new jobs. That is why delivering a just transition is a central part of our journey to net zero and becoming a climate resilient nation. Rural communities will be at the forefront of this and we will work with all partners and sectors to support them to benefit from the activity we plan as part of our green recovery.”