Greens urge First Minister to reverse cuts to climate change fund

Nicola Sturgeon faced criticism over cuts to funding for new projects to fight climate change, despite having declared a “climate emergency”.

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said the Climate Challenge Fund reduction is a “serious mistake” and called on the First Minister to reverse the cuts.

The fund was set up a decade ago to support projects encouraging people to reduce the impact of climate change by actions such as cutting waste and using greener transport.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Harvie highlighted research published in The Ferret which found funding for new projects had been cut from £5 million in 2018/19 to just over £2 million in 2019/20.

The number of new projects has dropped from 65 to 22 in the same period and 43 projects recommended for funding in the latest financial year were turned down due to lack of funds.

“Total funding is at it lowest level ever level, funding for new projects has been slashed in half,” Mr Harvie said.

“43 projects recommended for approval by the independent grants panel have been turned down.

“These aren’t just numbers, these are people – people committed to taking climate action and being leaders in their communities.”

He said if his party, which the minority SNP Government relied on to pass its tax and spending plans for 2019/20, had realised these cuts were part of the budget they would not have given their support.

“Now that the First Minister has declared a climate emergency, why is the Government sacking our first responders?” Mr Harvie added.

“This is a serious mistake. Will the First Minister step in and replace the lost funding for the communities that have been affected by this cut?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Yes we have to look at all of these things in light of recent developments around climate change.

“I give an undertaking to the chamber today that not only in terms of the Climate Challenge Fund, or the wider Sustainable Action Fund this sits within which has had an increase in budget this year, that we will will look carefully at all of these things so that we can be satisfied that we are living up to our responsibilities.”

She said the Climate Challenge Fund is the only one of its type in the UK and the 22 new projects funded this year are in addition to ongoing funding for the 65 new projects given money last year, totalling £8 million.

She said there were always a large number of applications for the fund and it is “very competitive”.