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A just transition for Torry

Speech delivered by Benji Brown, Climate Camp Scotland, at the Save St. Fittick's Park rally at the Scottish Parliament (pictured), 12th January 2023. Up to date information about the campaign can be found on the Friends of St. Fittick's Park website.

The fate of St Fittick's park matters first and foremost to the people of Torry. But it also matters to all of us who care about climate and environmental justice. I was lucky enough to spend a week in St Fittick’s Park as part of a climate camp earlier this year, and I can understand why it’s being so fiercely defended. It provides a vital sanctuary for people and nature. Yet this precious green space and wetland could now be bulldozed, against the wishes of the local community, to satisfy the whims of corporate energy giants. Any pretence of a Just Transition is rapidly falling away to expose the reality: The very same energy companies which caused this mess are being entrusted to get us out of it. 

Communities and workers are being sold short in this corporate-led energy transition. While the Scottish government promised a £500 million Just Transition fund for the North East, An opportunity to redesign our energy system with environmental & social justice at its heart has been captured by the oil & gas industry. Expensive techno-fixes such as blue hydrogen and carbon capture are diverting resources away from real solutions - such as publicly owned renewables, free public transport and mass insulation programmes -  and allow oil companies to retain a stranglehold over our energy system.

St Fittick’s is a national test case for a Just Transition: Will Scotland’s post-oil economy prioritise the needs of workers and communities? Or will it be designed to protect the profit margins of private companies, the same companies who underpay their workers and pocket millions in unearned wealth? Take BP, who is a partner for Aberdeen’s new hydrogen hub, and made nearly £5 billion in the first three months of last year. They are planning to invest billions more on fossil fuels than green energy in the years ahead. We’ve had enough of this hypocrisy - polluters must pay for the damage that they’ve caused. Pay their workers, who have staged wildcat strikes at refineries and petrochemical plants over stagnant wages amid a cost-of-living crisis. Pay frontline communities, who have experienced devastating losses from fires, floods, and other climate disasters. And pay to fix this mess - of gross inequality, mass extinction, and climate breakdown on an unimaginable scale.

Paying lip service to Just Transition is not enough. We can’t just swap oil rigs for wind turbines - we need a radical redistribution of wealth and power to workers and communities. It’s time to fundamentally change how our economy operates and build energy democracy, empowering communities across Scotland so that they have a real stake in the energy transition and in decisions that affect them. The Minister of Tom Arthur has the power to prevent St Fittick’s park becoming yet another sacrifice zone, and send a powerful signal about the type of country Scotland wants to be. This can be a turning point in Scotland’s journey towards a more just and sustainable future. I hope he makes the right decision.

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