The SNP’s Net Zero Secretary’s decision to delay her government’s crucial blueprint to cut harmful emissions in Scotland has been branded “very disappointing” by independent climate advisers.

Mairi McAllan has confirmed that the Scottish Government will delay its climate change plan being published, pointing the finger at the UK Government’s reversal of net zero measures in September.

The Net Zero Secretary confirmed she was pushing back the publication of the document, as exclusively revealed by The Herald.

Ministers said they would table the updated climate change plan by the end of November after failing to meet eight out of the last 12 annual emissions targets.

Scotland has committed to reach net zero by 2045, but has also set a legal target of cutting 1990 levels of emissions by 75% by 2030.

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But the failure to hit annual targets has left the strategy off-track, with ministers admitting that more work was needed to get progress back on track.

Ms McAllan said that the Prime Minister’s announcement in September to roll back some UK-wide policies such as a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, has forced her government to take more time in bringing forward the key strategy.

She said: “Scotland has some of the world’s most ambitious climate change targets for emission reductions and we are already halfway to net zero. However, we have always been clear that the hardest part lies ahead.

“Regrettably, the UK Government’s recent actions have only made that job harder still, not least when it comes to our homes and transport.

“While we are working to make our homes greener and easier to heat and reduce our reliance on petrol and diesel cars, the UK Government is reneging on its own commitments, creating huge uncertainty for businesses and households.”

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Ms McAllan added: “A fair and just transition will bring enormous benefits – a greener environment, cleaner air, new sources of economic vitality, greater energy security and healthier lives. That is why it is important that we take the time that is needed to get this plan right.

“We will continue to work with stakeholders to produce a plan that is fair and just for everyone, and addresses the difficulties presented by the UK Government’s policy reversals. While it is regrettably not possible to do this by our own November deadline, we will progress in line with our statutory commitments.”

But the chief executive of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises both the UK and Scottish governments on policy, said the move was “very disappointing”.

He added: “We agreed to push back the CCC’s annual Scottish progress report to review the Scottish Government’s new climate change plan – due at the end of this year.

“Now it seems we’ll have nothing to review.”

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Mr Stark said he was “not sure why the PM’s September speech on net zero would require delay by the Scottish Government”.

He said: “We looked at it in detail - the biggest policy changes were about English buildings.”

Mr Stark acknowledged there are “impacts for Scotland from the change in the date of the phase out of sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans”, but pointed to “potentially positive impacts from a UK-wide strategy to accelerate grid infrastructure etc.”

He stressed that “these are reasons to go faster”.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said that delaying the climate change plan was “deeply troubling”.

He added: “Instead of kicking the climate can ever further down the road, we need to see our political leaders, both in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, focus on how to quickly and fairly decarbonise our economy: funded by making the biggest and richest polluters pay for their damage while protecting the pockets of the poorest households.

“Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference; and every delay in cleaning up our act costs lives.”