Patrick Harvie has accused the Scottish Conservatives of having a “damn nerve” after they claimed the Scottish Government were on course to miss a target to install 30,000 electric car-charging stations.

Douglas Ross’s party has urged ministers in Edinburgh to follow the lead of Rishi Sunak after he delayed a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years until 2035.

The Scottish Government has already warned that pushing back the deadline will risk Scotland’s target for net zero by 2045.

However, on Sunday morning, there was some confusion over the Prime Minister’s car postponement when Defence Secretary Grant Shapps claimed that there had been no change. 

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Figures from ChargePlace Scotland, the charging network owned by the Scottish Government, showed 169 chargers had been added between October 2022 and August 2023.

Meanwhile, separate figures released by the Scottish Government earlier this year said there were almost 4,000 charging stations across Scotland as of June 2023.

Ministers have previously acknowledged that 30,000 will be needed to meet the anticipated increase in demand for electric vehicle charging points, which the Tories have suggested could take until 2042 – 12 years after the deadline. 

The Herald: Generic image of electric car charging

“I think they've got a damn nerve, to be honest,” Mr Harvie told the BBC’s Sunday Show when asked about the criticism.

He said the rollout would be hampered by last week’s announcement from No 10, as businesses would be put off by the uncertainty.

“You need not just public charging points,” the Active Travel minister said, “Which we have been rolling out, but you need all sorts of other organisations to start installing their own charging points as well. 

“You need industry to invest and now without that sense of when policy change is coming when regulatory change is coming, why would they bother investing in the UK, given that lack of clarity?”

He said many of the levers that would impact on the rollout lay with the UK Government. 

“Ofgem, that's the UK energy regulator, makes decisions about where grid upgrades are going to happen, that's for charging points, that's for shifting to electricity for heating as well.

“There are all sorts of reasons around decarbonisation and why we need those grid upgrades, but it's the UK that makes those decisions. 

“The biggest missed opportunity in all of this is to change the way the energy market works around those grid upgrades. 

“How do we pay for them, but also the pricing? At the moment, Scotland is generating this cheap, green abundant renewable electricity, but that cheapness of generation is not being passed on to billpayers because the UK sets an artificial link between the retail price of gas and electricity.

“With a Prime Minister who was genuinely committed to making Net Zero affordable for people, that's the announcement he would have made last week, break the link between gas and electricity prices, you make zero emissions heating and electric transport more affordable.”

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The Scottish Green party co-convenor said the Tory party was “creating a new wedge issue.” 

“We know that the population as a whole has very few people who are outright climate deniers. People want to do the right thing. They want climate action. They see the urgency of the planetary emergency that we're living in at the moment.“

“We're now seeing outright climate denial on a scale we haven't seen before and the Tories love it,” he added. 

Mr Harvie was also asked about direct action by groups like Just Stop Oil and This is Rigged, and whether he thought it was time to break the law on the climate emergency. 

“I have immense empathy with anyone who struggles with this question, and many people have found themselves effectively feeling disempowered and thinking that the only way they can take some power into their hands is to take part in direct action,” the minister said. 

“I'll never condemn that,” he added. “It should be peaceful direct action. I've taken part in peaceful direct action myself in the past.”

“The only thing that is going to prevent people from taking ever more desperate action is the government bringing the urgency to this that it demands. 

“The Scottish Government is determined to but we're being held back by a UK government that is saying climate change is our next wedge issue in the next front in the culture war.”

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Appearing on the BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg show, Mr Shapps claimed that 2035 was “always the end date for the sale of petrol and diesel cars.”

He said the move related to hybrid cars. 

It was then pointed out to him that in March, when he was transport minister, he had said, “our path which is 2030 will see the end of new petrol and diesel.”

Mr Shapps replied: “Of pure petrol and diesel by 2030. That was always the policy. 2035 has always been the final phase out.”

He said: “What’s changed is the sequencing. So in 2030 you can still sell a non-hybrid car under the current plans – that’s the change.”

But the UK Government's own announcement makes clear there has been a change. It reads that “Under revised plans, the Government will: Move back the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years, so all sales of new cars from 2035 will be zero emission.”