SCOTLAND will not meet its ambitious target of being net zero by 2045 without a more empowered local government sector, with better access to the skills and capital it needs to play its full role in this energy revolution.

The Scottish Government also needs to set out a comprehensive roadmap that gives local government detailed guidance on how it wants the sector to make its full contribution to net zero.

These are the over-arching conclusions the Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee reached at the end of a year-long inquiry into the role local government and its sectoral partners should play in Scotland’s net zero journey.

With their democratic credentials, local knowledge and capacity to lead by example, councils are uniquely well-placed to foster the fruitful partnerships we need at a local and regional level, as part of what must be a collective national effort to reach net zero.

Through all our evidence-taking, including visits across Scotland, we were impressed by the leadership and good practice many councils and their local partners are modelling, as they strive to make the transition an everyday, grassroots reality.

However, the next few years will be incredibly challenging, with unprecedented and often highly-technical demands being made on resources and skill sets, against a challenging financial backdrop.

The net zero transition will be far more economically sustainable in the longer-term but in the run-up to 2045, additional resource is needed. Our report says the Scottish Government should provide additional financial support to councils in future budget cycles to help pay for this.

However, no amount of government funding is realistically going to bridge the gap between the current reality and our national net zero ambitions. Private investment at scale is needed in many sectors, in particular for the decarbonisation of transport and of heat in buildings.

The Scottish Government and its agencies need to work with local government on an investment strategy that will increase investor appetite and lead to deals being agreed. We think there is an important role for the Scottish National Investment Bank in this area: it should be working to help bring together local government and investors in public-private co-financing.

We also want to see all councils taking a more consistent approach to net zero planning, budgeting and target-setting. And we want them to set targets covering all emissions in their area, because even in areas where Councils do not have direct control, they can still have influence.

Finally, there is potentially a huge role for local communities in the net zero transition. We will not get there without their enthusiasm and knowledge and by empowering them to be partners in change. To their credit, many councils get this. Net zero should not be something imposed on local communities, but something that people and groups can help shape, lead and deliver.

Edward Mountain MS is Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee