At COP26, we march for more than just Independence

by Mike Picken

I very much welcome the change in direction by All Under One Banner (The National, 3 November) in recognising that the primary purpose of the COP26 mass demonstration on 6 November is about climate justice and the Global South, and not just another independence march that their previous publicity seemed to suggest. 

Saturday’s demonstration has been called as part of worldwide day of action for climate justice by the COP26 Coalition uniting climate activist groups in Scotland, the wider UK state, and across the world in demanding more, much more, from our governments. 

The demonstration’s climate justice demands on the COP26 delegates have been agreed by the Coalition and include “We need Real Zero not Net Zero”, “Keep it in the Ground” for fossil fuels with no new investment or infrastructure,  the call to “Reject False Solutions” of “unproven technologies”, and the need for massive solidarity and a wealth transfer from Global North to Global South by the cancellation of debts and reparations for the damage done both in emissions and the legacy of colonialism.

In this context, AUOB’s new slogan for “Climate Action Now” is vacuous and inadequate – it is something that Boris Johnson can say he is in favour of!

Of course it is the case that under independence, Scotland would be better able to deliver the long term demands of the climate justice movement than by being currently saddled to the UK state.  Many climate activists recognise this and that’s why the COP26 Coalition has recognised that an Independence contingent on the COP march is welcome, alongside other contingents of indigenous peoples, workers and trade unions, youth, faith groups, Extinction Rebellion and many others – around 20 in all. 

However, we do also need to recognise that time is fast running out for the future of people and planet and we cannot wait around for the independence of one small wealthy country or the stalling of governments across the world before we get serious action on climate. 

The Scottish Government of the SNP and now the Scottish Greens is pinning its hopes on a “Net Zero” by 2045 strategy.  But as a recent report by the Corporate Europe Observatory backed by Friends of the Earth International has shown, so-called “Net Zero” is a “Big Con” being used by governments and major corporations to refuse to take action now for fear of upsetting vested short term capitalist interests. 

The Cambo Oil Field development is a classic case of the need to refuse new extraction of fossil fuels.  The journey of the SNP and First Minister from supporting maximum oil extraction to an element of scepticism is welcome, but not sufficient!

Sheltering behind the UK government’s authority to make the legal decision needs to be challenged.  The Cambo oil field development must be stopped as Scotland’s frontline over climate action! 

The Radical Independence Campaign has been part of the COP26 Coalition and argued in a newspaper adverts in Sunday’s edition of this paper, that “It’s Scotland’s Oil – Keep it in the Soil!” should be the primary slogan that unites both the independence and climate movement. 

This demand combines the longstanding slogan first raised by the SNP in the 1970s with the need for action on Cambo to refuse the development.  That demand extends beyond mere constitutional politics and requires a mass movement prepared to enforce the will of the Scottish people on those in both Westminster and Holyrood. 

The assembly point for the Independence block at the Lord Roberts statue was decided not by AUOB but by the COP26 Coalition to enable us to reflect on the legacy of British (and Scottish!) colonial exploitation that now hinders the Global South’s ability to respond to climate change. 

I hope that as many Independence supporters as possible will join behind the RIC banner on 6 November to put maximum pressure on both UK and Scottish governments to do all they can to prevent the Cambo development going ahead.

This was originally sent as a letter to The National ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

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