By Mike Robinson, former Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland

TEN years ago today, the Scottish Parliament passed the most stringent climate legislation in the world, following the largest civil society campaign Scotland had ever seen.

That campaign began back in 2006. The scientific evidence for climate change was growing almost daily, but there didn’t seem to be any sort of society-wide co-ordinated response. The issue just seemed too big and diffuse. So, in 2006 I helped establish Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) – the largest coalition ever formed in this country. We very purposefully tried to recruit as diverse a group of willing members as possible and by 2009 we had over 50 organisations, including most of the leading environment and humanitarian charities, the churches, and several unions, health and community groups, who in total represented over 2 million supporters in Scotland.

Over the first three years we co-ordinated 21,000 responses to the government consultation and broke a number of records for public and MSP engagement. We helped set up a cross-party group on climate change, brought together three of Scotland’s main religious leaders for a joint press conference, and won cross-party support, which is why the commitment remains so robust today. It was a massive concerted effort. The headline ask was an acknowledgement of the need to act urgently, enshrined in a 42 per cent cut in emissions by 2020; at the time, this was widely viewed as unachievable.

Despite this gargantuan effort however, with only weeks to go before the final parliamentary vote, the Scottish Government was still only prepared to offer a 34 per cent cut by 2020, and many amendments were still being contested daily.

Encouragingly many of our key asks were also reflected in industry comment. SSE boss Ian Marchant, for instance, persuaded by the church commitments, handed the then Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson, a copy of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”– because of course the answer to the ultimate question is 42.

With co-ordinated pressure from media, civil society, academics and industry, SCCS presented a compelling case for action. Eventually, on the Monday night before the debate the Government finally swung behind the 42 per cent, and the Bill was unanimously passed.

The Minister for Finance and Infrastructure, John Swinney reflected after the Stage 3 debate: “Many of the non-governmental organisations... have worked together under the Stop Climate Chaos banner to send to Parliament, and the people of this country, a coherent and co-ordinated message that we should consider and, frankly, be inspired by.”

There have been many positives since the passing of the Act which SCCS has campaigned around, and from which we have all benefited. These include an increase of public spending on active travel, commitments on energy, peatland, electric vehicles, even air departure tax (ADT). Perhaps most significantly it also led to the establishment of the Scottish Climate Justice Fund in 2012, another world first. There’s also been thousands of green jobs, more of our electricity coming from clean renewables, instead of dirty fossil fuels, and swathes of people lifted out of fuel poverty thanks to better energy efficiency measures.

And yet here we are 10 years later, in the midst of a stated climate emergency. That’s why the new Climate Change Bill making its way through the Scottish Parliament right now needs to dramatically increase the urgency for action. We no longer have the luxury of time, as several scientific reports have made shockingly clear in recent months.

The young activists taking part in school strikes are a reminder that it is well and truly down to our generation to tackle this issue once and for all. And quickly.