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THE UK Government’s announcement of hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licenses as part of a promise to max out fossil fuels in the North Sea is incompatible with the Scottish Government’s vision for a just transition. And a liveable planet.

As part of our series looking at the economic frameworks, we look at a just transition this week. Timing is everything.

The Scottish Government considers a just transition a framework to achieve a systematically different, fairer and greener Scotland, supporting the Scottish Government to achieve a wide set of policy goals.

If there is such a thing (there isn’t) as a policy silver bullet, the Scottish Government thinks it has found it. So what is a just transition?

There is no common definition. The concept of a just transition appears in the Paris Climate Agreement, which highlighted the connections between the creation of quality jobs within an overall framework for tackling climate change.

The Climate Justice Alliance take a broad view of a just transition, suggesting that racial justice and a move towards local consumption and production form part of the transition. Policies tend to be spread across the three pillars of sustainable development; the environment, the economy, and society.

Europe’s just transition focuses on the most carbon-intensive regions. If Scotland were still in the EU, it would have been the area that received the most support from the EU. Another wonderful Brexit bonus for Scotland!

Despite the differences in scope and depth of the views of a just transition, there is universal agreement that a just transition is the process of facilitating a socially just transition to a post-carbon society. So, granting 100s of new licences for oil and gas is as anti-just transition as you can get. Westminster has scuppered Scotland’s just transition.

On Monday evening Màiri McAllan Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero & Just Transition, said: “Maximum extraction is incompatible with net zero.” With one visit to Scotland, the UK Prime Minister can unpick all of the positive work carried out by the Scottish Government.

SCOTONOMICS would argue that granting any new licences for extraction in the North Sea is “incompatible with net zero” and would encourage the Scottish Government to make that statement. We would also add that net zero is insufficient as a policy or a process to achieve meaningful climate targets.

While on the topic of oil and gas within a just transition, it is important to state that Scotland extracts more oil than it currently needs. The move by the Conservative administration is not about powering Britain but about powering the rest of the UK with resources taken from Scotland.

The National:

The Scottish Government’s silver bullet

According to the Scottish Government, a just transition covers a variety of social interventions to support jobs and livelihoods especially focused on carbon-intensive regions and industries. Despite this relatively narrow definition, the Scottish Government has taken a much broader approach to just transition within many of its strategy papers.

The just transition covers the whole country, the economy, and much of society. It even includes elements of international social justice! The Scottish Government’s just transition is transformative. The only problem is that it does not have its finger on the trigger.

READ MORE: Scotonomics: Why does the economy work for so few people?

Overall, we would argue that the Scottish Government focuses disproportionately on the possible positive outcomes of a just transition, ignoring much of the evidence and lived experience from previous economic transitions under neoliberalism.

The Scottish economy has undergone similar transitions in the last half a century, including major economic and social upheaval as Scotland deindustrialised in the 1980s and 1990s. The more recent digital transformation of the economy continues at a pace, increasing precarious work and inequality.

During those transformations, Scotland and the UK as a whole have seen income and wealth inequality increase, the number of well-paying "good jobs" reduce, and significant damage to the environment. How will this transition achieve goals that proved elusive during previous economic transformations? There is no attempt to answer this most pressing question in the work carried out by the Scottish Government.

Is independence the silver bullet that will deliver a just transition?

Under the devolved settlement, Scotland lacks legislative powers to implement a just transition.

Without control of most aspects of energy policy, employment law and industrial relations, immigration, asylum and visas, trade and industry and most aspects of transport, how could any government possibly implement a framework focused on jobs and the energy sector?

As part of the UK, the Scottish Government has taken on all of the responsibility of delivering a just transition but has little authority.

But surely things would improve with independence? Under current Scottish Government proposals, for perhaps a decade after the transition period, the Scottish Government would continue as a currency user, not a currency issuer, and would therefore not possess the necessary fiscal options or monetary tools to transition the economy in any meaningful way, shape or form. Currently, the Scottish Government lacks the power to transform the economy. Upon independence, it will refuse to take back that power.

READ MORE: Climate activists spray Scottish Parliament building with red paint in oil protest

The Scottish Government’s just transition is a broad and ambitious plan to transform Scotland’s economy, environment and society in a way that tackles poverty, levels up communities and regions across the country and leaves no one behind.

However, this admirable and grand ambition is unlikely to be achieved. As part of the UK, a transformative just transition would only be possible with the UK Government's full support. Yesterday’s announcement shows where the real power lies.

Read SCOTONOMICS's full report on Scotland’s Just Transition here.

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