Guest blog from Matthew Aitken
How can we, as individuals, have the greatest impact in the fight to tackle climate change? Not overfilling the kettle and or leaving the television on standby are great but I would like to do more. What is the best way?
The real changes happen at the national and international level at least in part through changes in our laws. Effective legislation can ensure that we, companies, farmers, politicians, in fact everyone, alters the way that we live to protect the environment. But how can I have any influence on this?
During the summer the call went out for people to join Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) in a mass lobby of the Scottish parliament. SCCS is a diverse coalition of organisations (including Oxfam, Christian Aid, RSPB and many others) campaigning together on climate change. SCCS was looking for people to come to parliament, meet their MSPs and request that they write to government ministers to ask them to include challenging climate change measures in the budget and climate change plan. Here was the opportunity not to be missed!
To have the most effect at the lobby I decided that a little preparation might pay off. I sent personal emails to each of our MSPs (we have eight) telling them that I would be at the lobby and asking them if they would meet me. These were followed up by Tweets and, after hearing from a few who hoped to be able to make it, another round of emails to thank them and, to those that had not replied, to ask them again.
There was a gathering before the lobby with folk from around the country with the SCCS team who offered some lobbying tips and details of what specifically they wanted us to ask our MSPs. These were to write to the relevant ministers to ask them to:
· Increase spending on energy efficiency
· Allocate 10% of the transport budget to active travel
· To have a 50% target for renewable energy across all sectors
· Include compulsory low carbon farming measures in the climate change plan
Contrary to what some seem to think, it isn’t daunting meeting your MSPs – it is more like a chat with a purpose. I was able to assure them that this was something that really mattered to me. I had, after all, had to get up particularly early and travel around two hours to Edinburgh so that we could be at Holyrood by 10:00 am. This is not something that I do lightly!
The meeting room where the lobby took place was hectic. Scores of constituents (grouped by regions) were meeting dozens of MSPs. It wasn’t a relaxing place. Just two of our regional MSPs were there initially so, in addition to chatting to them, I was back onto social media to ask others to join us.
We met four of our MSPs (Colin Smyth, Claudia Beamish, Rachael Hamilton and Oliver Mundell) and they all listened to our concerns and were very receptive. Most were happy to take the actions requested.
After the lobby, I wrote to thank those that attended (and to remind them of the actions) and to ask the ones that hadn’t been able to make it, if they would take SCCS the actions. One of the MSPs (Joan McAlpine) did so.
Was it a successful lobby? We’ll have to wait and see what actually goes into the budget and climate change plan. However, I am happy about having taken a rare lobbying opportunity and used it to make as much impact as I reasonably could.
Matthew Aitken joined the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland mass lobby of Parliament on 29th September - calling on MSPs to take positive action on climate change in Scotland.