HALF of the Scottish public doesn’t think the Edinburgh government is doing enough on its net-zero goals – and eight in 10 think its carbon-neutral target is sooner than it actually is.

The news comes from polling conducted for the Scottish Government into the public’s knowledge of the climate crisis and the actions being taken to address it.

Released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the polling from BMG Research suggested that a plurality of Scots – 49% – do not believe the Government is doing enough to achieve net-zero emissions.

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This contrasts with 27% who said it is doing enough, 8% who say the Government is doing “more than enough”, and 16% who did not know.

At local government level, the results are worse. A majority of Scots – 53% – said their council was not doing enough to achieve net-zero emissions. One-quarter said their council was doing enough, while 4% said they were doing more than that, and 18% said they did not know.

Big business fared the worst in the polling, with 67% of people saying it was not doing enough to help in the push for net zero.

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Mary Church, the head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said that big business had been “rightly identified as untrustworthy on this issue and failing to do enough to tackle the climate crisis”.

“People can see that big polluters are blocking progress and peddling greenwash via technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen,” she added.

Of all the sectors listed in the survey, including small business, individuals, and communities, only charities were thought by a plurality to be doing enough to help achieve net-zero targets.

The Scottish Government has said it hopes to achieve net-zero emissions nationwide by 2045. Asked if they could name that year, a massive 79% of respondents predicted it was sooner than that. Just 7% of people correctly said 2045.

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According to the National Grid, net-zero emissions means “achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out”. Asked if they were confident of the phrase’s definition, just 30% of Scots said that they were.

A plurality – 48% – said they thought they understood the term but were “not very confident”, 17% said they had heard the term but were unsure of its meaning, and 3% said they had never heard it before.

The polling further found that climate change (15%) ranked third on Scots’ list of policy priorities, after the economy and health and social care (both on 24%). Education (10%) and housing (7%) also ranked in the top five. The constitution was not listed as an option.

Among trusted sources of information on climate change, universities and research bodies were listed highest. A total of 58% of Scots said they trusted information on the issue from these sources.

The Scottish Government (48%), known teachers or lecturers (47%), charities (33%), and local councils (29%) made up the top five most trusted sources of climate change information.

A total of 8% of Scots said they did not trust any sources at all to provide reliable information on climate change. This rose to 14% in the highest age group (64+), but was just 2% for people aged 14-17 and 3% for people aged 18-24.

Further generational divides revealed in the survey included that a majority of people aged 18-34 said they understood the Scottish Government’s climate change policy, while just 35% of people aged over 64 said the same.

It was especially stark in a section on participation in climate change initiatives and projects. Willingness to engage with Scotland’s Climate Week sat at 42% for people aged 14-24, but fell to just 15% for people aged 55-64, and 14% for those aged 64+.

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Elsewhere in the survey, people were asked what proportion of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions they thought was produced by each of eight sources: transport, industry, buildings, agriculture, forestry, power stations, and waste management.

The survey found that people consistently underestimated transport’s contribution to the country’s greenhouse emissions, while overestimating the contribution of power stations and waste management.

Church, from FoE Scotland, told The National: “The Scottish public clearly understand the need for far greater action to address the climate emergency. People are increasingly seeing with their own eyes the devastation wrought by heatwaves, flooding and extreme weather both at home and aboard. 

“The Scottish Government must urgently scale up their plans to cut climate pollution within the next decade. That means delivering a rapid and fair transition away from oil and gas to a renewable-powered economy with decent green jobs and affordable energy for all. 

"There is simply no more time to waste tinkering around the edges of the system. Nothing short of system change is needed to tackle the multiple environmental and social crises that are on the verge of engulfing us.”

The National: Maggie Chapman said she was pleased to see a focus on immigration policy. Photograph: Jamie Simpson

Maggie Chapman, the Green MSP from the north east Scotland list, said the polling showed how "vital it is to have Scottish Greens as part of government so that we can continue to influence policy and decision making, raise awareness and ensure everybody can play their part in protecting our planet".

She added: “These are real actions with real impacts in plain view, all of which contribute to even greater awareness and understanding of what can be achieved with green policies, and how much more can be done if we had the powers to do more as an independent nation.”

The polling from BMG Research asked a total of 1782 people for their views on climate change issues. Of these, 1502 were aged 18 or over and 280 were aged 14-17. The fieldwork was conducted between March 21 and April 3, 2022. The full polling release can be found on the Scottish Government's website here.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has legislated for some of the world’s most ambitious climate change targets and we will be a net-zero nation by 2045. We are already more than halfway to net zero and continue to decarbonise faster than the UK average, leading the way in key delivery areas such as energy efficiency and tree planting.

“However, the recent heatwave was a reminder of the urgency of the challenge to reduce emissions. To help accelerate progress towards net zero, we will be publishing an updated Climate Change Plan next year, setting out the policies needed to keep pace with our targets.

"In the meantime, action like our £1.8 billion investment to cut energy bills and improve energy efficiency in our buildings, free bus travel for under-22s, and banning single-use plastic products will help tackle climate change while meeting the needs of the people of Scotland.”