Johnson and Sturgeon playing to political base as planet burns, claims Davey

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has accused Scotland’s First Minister and the Prime Minister of playing to their own political base instead of focusing on the climate crisis.

Speaking during a visit to Scotland, Sir Ed attacked both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson, as well as their respective parties, for “behaving like children” instead of “focusing on the fight to save the planet from burning”.

“I think both of them (Scottish and UK governments) have got a greater record talking about it than they have acting on it,” he said.

He added: “My overall take, when I look at what the UK Government is doing and what the Scottish Government is doing, I’m afraid, despite all their talk, Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon seem more interested in playing to their base rather than focusing on the fight to save the planet from burning.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Scotland can be rightly proud of the action we have taken so far to respond to the climate crisis.

“The First Minister was one of the first leaders in the world to declare a global climate emergency, we have already halved our greenhouse gas emissions and we have set some of the most ambitious legally binding targets of any country in the world to get the rest of the way to net-zero.

“Crucially, we are ensuring that we do this with the principles of a just transition at its heart, making sure our journey to a net-zero and climate-resilient society is fair and leaves no-one behind.”

The Lib Dem leader also raised the disagreement between the two sides on freeports, which have been opposed by the Scottish Government in favour of its own green ports initiative.

The UK Government proposals would see different tax and customs rules imposed in selected areas around ports in a bid to improve the local economy.

The Scottish Government proposals would impose fair work responsibilities on the businesses operating within the zones, along with requiring a commitment to fighting climate change.

Scottish Trade Minister Ivan McKee announced last month that the proposals would move forward north of the border.

Speaking about the dispute around freeports and green ports, Sir Ed said: “You’ve got Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak playing to their own crowd, you’ve got Sturgeon et al playing to their crowd.

“All they’re both doing is conspiring to undermine the potential for new manufacturing and new green jobs in Scotland.”

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon awkwardly shaking hands outside Bute House
The Lib Dem leader attacked both the Prime Minister and First Minister (Jane Barlow/PA)

“We’ve got one offer from the UK Government, different offer from the Scottish Government and the fact they can’t agree is getting in the way.”

He added: “All I’d say to them is ‘can you bang your heads together? Can you sort yourselves out? You’re actually undermining the economy of Scotland’.

“They’re behaving like children frankly.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Whilst we were prepared to work with the UK Government, and had a joint draft green port bidding prospectus ready to launch in March, we have been clear that we are not prepared to implement a port model that did not include a firm commitment to fair work and net-zero conditionality.

“After six months of delay on their part, the UK Government’s eventual port offer did not reflect this – nor did it provide fair set-up funding for Scotland to that offered for the UK Government’s favoured Freeport model for England, or indeed recognise the vital role the Real Living Wage plays in secure pay and employment contracts.

“The Scottish Government therefore had no option but to progress plans to further develop a green port model which meets the specific needs of Scotland’s economy.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Johnson said: “The Prime Minister believes it is vital for all parts of the UK to work together on our shared priorities such as tackling climate change – we’ve already cut emissions by 44% over the past three decades and brought forward the date to remove unabated coal from the UK’s energy mix by a whole year, as well as being the first major economy to legislate to reach net zero by 2050.

“Cop26 is a massive undertaking by the whole of the UK, there is a role for all the first ministers and we are working closely with the Scottish Government.”