Edinburgh Council needs to be bolder over climate and cost-of-living crises – Adam McVey

The two most pressing issues facing Edinburgh residents are the cost-of-living crisis and climate change.

The cost-of-living crisis has been driven by the high price of energy (Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
The cost-of-living crisis has been driven by the high price of energy (Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

If there’s failure to act decisively on both issues, life in our Capital will get tougher for folk and their families. Since May, from opposition, SNP councillors have already secured millions of pounds in direct help to support people through spiralling energy prices. This money has made Edinburgh one of the most supportive cities in terms of helping residents through the crisis.

We also tried to ensure meaningful action on climate change through a progressive and bold business plan but the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem administration voted every single SNP idea down. So much for the collaborative approach claimed by these three parties.

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I know many in the city will be disappointed the council is moving so far away from the radical action needed to prevent climate catastrophe, and many more in the Capital are simply struggling to get through winter due to worries about skyrocketing bills.

This week, the council will consider the next steps of what to do with the energy company it owns. Cities making big steps, like Edinburgh’s twin city Munich, are doing so in part by using publicly owned energy to drive down carbon emissions and keep bills affordable.

Last February, the SNP-led budget allocated hundreds of thousands of pounds for the council’s energy company to invest in projects. This was an opportunity to start creating genuinely publicly owned energy for the benefit of the city, following good examples like Aberdeen Heat and Power, as well as Midlothian Energy closer to home.

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SNP-led councils across Scotland are driving bold and ambitious solutions to climate change, setting a course of action that will also help give stability for essential residents' needs. Edinburgh could boast similar leadership until recently so what level of ambition is there now in the Capital city of Scotland?

The proposed plans for the energy company encapsulate the problem. Climate change is no longer a driving force in the council’s programme. As well as rejecting all SNP proposals on climate change, and dismissing Green councillors’ ideas too, the administration is offering nothing substantive on the way ahead. Their proposed plan for the energy investment we passed in the budget is simply to fritter the money away and waste more of it on consultants. A resounding lack of leadership, innovation, and foresight.

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The point of the energy company isn’t to solve every problem. But it can be a catalyst to positive change that can help deliver on the two most pressing issues facing our city for the foreseeable future. During a cost-of-living crisis, the need for this has never been more apparent.

The SNP will again propose a constructive alternative plan. To use the money already allocated to secure the knowledge, experience, and funding we need to deliver game-changing projects. Whether solar, district heating, insulation, wind, or any other project. Energy for Edinburgh can be a driver for change. It needs vision, leadership, and an appetite to be bold.

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The alternative is a commitment to failure which we will not accept. We’re calling on the administration to think again. To back our plan that can deliver something that makes a real difference. To work with us and put the city first.

Adam McVey is Edinburgh’s SNP group leader