THIS Christmas was tough for a lot of people in the Grangemouth community where I grew up.

Only weeks before, just as families were starting to plan for the holidays, it was announced that hundreds of jobs at the oil refinery were being put at risk by Ineos owner Sir James Ratcliffe and his executives.

To make matters worse, only a few days later, and only 11 days before Christmas, Italian-owned Versalis announced that a further 135 jobs at a local plastics factory were also at risk with hundreds more in the value chain also potentially affected. It was a shameful way to treat workers and the worst time of year to be doing it.

All of this means there is a huge sense of uncertainty hanging over the town. It is something a lot of people are talking about. Everyone in Grangemouth knows somebody who is employed directly or indirectly by these sites.

I used to be able to see, hear and even smell the refinery from my childhood bedroom window. My parents had lots of friends who worked there. People I went to school with had parents who worked there. It was a big part of my life and, even now, many years later, I only live a few miles away from it.

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I know how much anxiety the announcements have caused for those workers and for their families. That is why I have been working with trade unions, government ministers and other stakeholders to make sure that local voices are heard and to push for a sustainable future for the site.

At heart, behind these announcements and their consequences are human stories. But they also underline the urgent need for change and for an economy that invests in the people and skills we have in communities like Grangemouth.

The just transition can’t be a slogan, it has to provide real jobs and opportunities.

With the climate breaking down around us, and with technological and market changes putting oil and gas jobs in longer-term decline, we have no choice.

We have a strong foundation and a growing momentum to build on. Scotland is blessed with an abundance of resources that any country would envy, and there has been a quiet revolution in green jobs happening across our country.

The National: ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm

A recent study by Fraser of Allander underlined the remarkable scale and the pace of change. It found that in 2021 alone, Scottish renewable jobs grew by more than 50%, with particular growth in both the onshore and offshore wind sectors and in home heating.

It came right on the heels of a report by Skills Development Scotland that identified a £90 billion surge in planned green investment in Scotland over the next three years, which will create or secure 77,000 green jobs.

This is the just transition in action. These are real jobs that are offering real safety and security to real families. For communities like Grangemouth, this kind of change can’t come soon enough.

There are whole areas of Scotland that saw jobs and hope ripped away by the loss of industry and the economic vandalism of the Thatcher years. Some still bear scars, some have only just recovered and others have never had the chance.

The cut-and-run approach of successive Westminster governments meant that whole generations of workers lost their incomes, their stability and good well-paid opportunities that were once on their doorsteps.

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It was a political choice that led to avoidable poverty, inequality and personal pain for a huge number of people. We can’t let that happen again, not in Grangemouth or anywhere else.

Following the news, my Scottish Green colleague Mark Ruskell has called for a summit to discuss the future of the nearby Mossmorran petrochemical plant and to ensure a transition that has workers, unions and local people at its heart.

Some of the most talented engineers and workers in the world are right here in Scotland, many of them in sites like Mossmorran and Grangemouth. We must work with them and harness their abilities if we are to build a future that is worthy of their skills and experience.

One of the most visible themes of 2023 was the extreme weather and environmental chaos that we are living through.

It’s what led to record temperatures around the world as well as the huge wildfires in the highlands, the devastating riverbank-bursting floods in Brechin (below) and the long standstills on some of our northern roads over the festive period.

The National: The river South Esk overflowing during a previous flood in Brechin (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Nobody benefits from this kind of climate breakdown. The year ahead must be one in which we double down on the important work that is being done and we prioritise people and planet.

That means breaking from the failed climate-wrecking policies of Westminster and working with trade unions, industry and others to continue the growth in renewables and use the powers available to us to ensure we are doing all we can for communities like mine.

We need to see that commitment from all levels of government everywhere. The COP28 climate conference underlined the huge gap between rhetoric and delivery on the world stage. We have to be better than that and can’t let Downing Street’s climate hypocrisy drag us down with it.

It was my community that shaped me. We cannot let them down. I want future Christmases to be full of positivity and optimism about the opportunities in Grangemouth and across Scotland, and the future that we are building together.