Major changes are urgently needed to decarbonise Scotland’s economy in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, a stark new report has warned.

The publication, released by the Just Transition Commission, highlights that such a move would also benefit those who need it most and would secure jobs.

In its report, the independent expert advisory commission said: “It will be an unjust transition if it is not an investment-led recovery.

“We can build a clean, value-generating economy for the future. But we need to deliver at pace.”

It said it is looking for “early indicators of serious ambition to show that transformational change will be achieved”, adding: “Scotland’s decarbonisation transition is already underway, in the context of widening inequalities post-pandemic and a growing cost-of-living emergency.

“Government policy needs to redress these inequalities, not widen them.”

The group said annual net-zero investment will need to have grown more than five-fold by 2030, and encourages the Scottish Government to propose expansions to fiscal and monetary levers in its review of the Smith Commission in order to finance the just transition.

Major investment is needed in the country’s energy transmission and distribution infrastructure, the report says, and calls for a clear “energy road map” to make the most of new supply chains for clean generation and transmission.

It also highlights the rising number of households living in fuel poverty as the cost of living crisis continues, and says urgent action is needed to make homes more energy efficient in a bid to bring down energy bills.

The value of high-quality, affordable public transport is underlined by the group, especially for those on lower incomes.

It said: “The rapid improvement and broadening of mass public transport must be a priority for government, in order to deliver a much higher quality of service and well-paid, secure employment for transit workers.

“Continued failure here guarantees locking-in and worsening existing inequalities as we decarbonise.”

Farmers, crofters and local communities should be protected by future agriculture support as they reduce their carbon emissions, the report adds.

Professor Jim Skea, chair of the commission, said: “Today’s report is about the practicalities of delivering a just transition for Scotland.

“We have identified strategic opportunities, risks and roadblocks, and the actions required to address these.

“Scotland’s approach to tackling these complex challenges has already attracted interest and admiration around the world. This ambition now needs to be matched with action from Government, and across society, that materially enhances the livelihoods and well-being of people across the country as we decarbonise rapidly and at scale.”

SNP Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead said: “I am pleased to see the first report from the Commission and want to thank the Commissioners for their work to date. This interim report sets out the imperative and challenge of delivering a just transition, providing valuable advice on how to approach our forthcoming Just Transition Plans.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that, as Scotland transitions its society and economy towards a net zero future, the actions we take are fair to individuals, communities, businesses and regions. A just transition is about seizing the opportunities from our economic transformation, ensuring those benefits are equally shared and securing a fair future for workers in existing industries.

“That is why our spending plans over this Parliamentary term prioritise investment in net zero and the just transition. We are increasing spending on heat in buildings, active travel and peatland and woodland restoration, as well as investing heavily in the development of our renewable and clean energy sectors. Capital spending on programmes will also increase by over half a billion pounds over the next three years, to speed up the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience across Scotland.

“In addition, we are directly financing the just transition with a ten-year, £500 million Just Transition Fund. The Resource Spending Review, published in May, commits us to increasing our efforts to leverage private sector investment in the just transition to net zero, so that we can make better use of limited public funds.

“This report comes at a crucial time in our transition, as the Commission rightly identifies, and at a period when many are struggling with the cost of living crisis. It is vital that Scottish Government prioritises the interventions than can ease that burden in the short term and deliver the transformation needed for a fairer future. We will be considering this report in our policy making, particularly looking ahead to our first Just Transition Plan – the Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.”