The Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has been in the public gallery of the Commons watching an urgent question on Extinction Rebellion, which saw the former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, demand that the government declare a climate emergency and introduce a green new deal, among other measures.
Miliband, who was the energy and climate change secretary under Gordon Brown, said the protesters were correct.
The truth is the planet is warming far faster than we are acting. Climate change is not some theoretical future prospect, but is with us here and now.
Responding for the government, energy minister Claire Perry rejected the idea of a climate emergency – “I don’t know what that would entail” – and said she had reservations about the Extinction Rebellion protests.
While she was glad such arguments were being heard, Perry said, “they have caused disruption for many hundreds and thousands of hard-working Londoners and they have required a heavy policing presence”. She added:
I worry that many of the messages we are hearing ignore the progress that is being made, and as such make people fearful for the future rather than hopeful.
But speaking for Labour the shadow energy minister Barry Gardiner, who also holds the international trade role, likened the protesters to the Chartists, suffragettes, and anti-apartheid movement.
All of those victories were won by citizens uniting against injustice, making their voice heard. And Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers are doing just that.
Nicola Sturgeon is to give a “detailed and substantive” statement on Brexit and her hopes for a second independence referendum to the Scottish parliament on Wednesday, even though a fog of confusion surrounds the UK’s future with the EU.
With that in mind, her spokesman again hinted Sturgeon will reject demands for greater urgency from pro-independence hardliners and insist a referendum can only take place when Scottish voters are ready for one.
That presumes Brexit takes place; Sturgeon has recently put heavy emphasis on the quest for a second EU referendum, giving that precedence. Speaking to reporters after she hosted a Scottish government cabinet on Tuesday morning, her spokesman implied stopping Brexit remains uppermost in the first minister’s mind:
The first minister will give a detailed and substantive statement setting out a path forward for Scotland amid the ongoing Brexit confusion at Westminster. The first minister will take time to set out her thoughts on that front and in doing so she will seek to strike an inclusive tone.
[It] will obviously touch on Scotland’s future and it will touch obviously on her thoughts on independence and how that relates to where the country currently finds itself.
The phrase “inclusive tone” is widely seen as code for appealing to middle ground Scottish voters unpersuaded of the case for independence or the need for an early poll.
In June 2016, fresh from the resounding rejection of Brexit by Scottish voters in the EU referendum, she promised draft legislation on a new independence vote. This time there will be no draft bills or supporting documentation, Sturgeon’s spokesman confirmed, implying she is far from readying the country and the civil service for another constitutional conflict.
The timing of Sturgeon’s statement is also a live issue. Although she has been promising to update Holyrood for two years on her plans for a second referendum, ever since the Scottish National party lost 21 Westminster seats in the snap 2017 election, the further postponement of the article 50 deadline lightens the pressure on her.
Her opponents think the statement is timed entirely to coincide with this weekend’s SNP spring conference in Edinburgh, where Sturgeon faces a very restless party membership. Party hardliners, including some SNP backbenchers, want her to call a second independence referendum quickly, in a bid to exploit the chaos around Brexit and Theresa May’s ailing premiership.
A further delay would be consistent with Sturgeon’s previous statements; earlier this year she stressed the need for “clarity” and “calm consideration” of the impacts of Brexit in an interview with the US broadcaster PBS.
Source: The Guardian