THERE’S something almost of Grimms’ Fairytales about the tensions climate change is throwing up in society. If you want a location in which to set the fairytale, then welcome to the unlikely city of Aberdeen.

Fairytales are always about impossible compromises, intractable dilemmas: if you walk deep into the woods you’ll meet a monster, but if you stay outside the woods some wicked stepmother or evil king will destroy you.

What could me more intractable than the question of whether we destroy communities and individual lives in order to save humanity from climate change? It’s almost akin to that infamous quote from a US army major during the Vietnam War: “To save the village, we must destroy the village.”

Are we, in order to try to save humanity from the very real horrors of climate change, prepared to destroy swathes of our society? What could be more grim - in the literal and fairytale-sense - than such a dreadful proposition?

In the necessary shift from oil and gas to renewable energy - and it is necessary, existentially necessary - are we prepared to throw thousands on the scrap heap, along with their jobs and communities?

Read more Neil Mackay

Why the carbon footprint of Scotland’s richest far outstrips the poorest

The Greens had one job in government and they failed

If we are prepared for that step, then it’s likely we’ve already lost the fight against climate change. We cannot mitigate one human evil by perpetrating another.

There was a stark reminder of this dilemma at the weekend. My colleague Martin Williams highlighted plans by the trade union Unite to strong-arm any new Labour government into protecting North Sea energy workers during the transition to net zero.

Unite, Labour’s biggest backer, wants £6.6billion spent over the next six years to ensure that during the transition jobs aren’t just protected, but created. The investment will save 30,000 posts - seeing workers in old fossil fuel industries move into new employment in green energy. Unite believes the plan will also create an additional 6000 jobs by 2030.

Unite has diverted money intended for Labour’s election fund in order to spend £100,000 in six key Scottish consistencies - areas like Aberdeenshire North, and Alloa and Grangemouth - demanding ‘no ban without a plan’.

In other words: you can’t just shut the oil and gas industry without laying the ground for a replacement green energy industry. Any jobs lost in the old dirty industries must be replaced by jobs in new clean industries.

To think otherwise is madness. If I could wave a magic wand and make the oil and gas industry disappear today I’d do so, but only if I could wave my magic wand once more in order to make a new green energy industry materialise.

People must be taken along with the green transition, not terrified of it. Why would anyone in areas highly dependent on oil and gas jobs support climate action unless they’re convinced their communities won’t suffer?

Do we want a repeat of what Thatcher did to mining towns? During the ill-fated reign of the SNP-Green government little or nothing seems to have been done to ensure any transition is fair.

The Herald: Net zero is a laudable aimNet zero is a laudable aim (Image: free)

Over a decade, Scotland’s oil and gas industry has shed around 40% of its jobs, falling from 117,900 to 74,100. However, the number of people employed in green industries has risen by just 2500 - rising from 23,200 to 25,700, according to figures from from Offshore Energies UK and Experian.

That’s political indolence and failure of the worst order. Indeed, one would be forgiven for asking: what was the purpose at all of having Green ministers in government, if this is the inadequacy the administration had to offer?

SNP ministers are forever pontificating about their commitment to the environment and how dedicated they are in their fight for Scotland. Every words seems a lie when set against the figures above.

Politicians have talked endlessly about a green transition for years, yet our renewable energy industry is still in its infancy.

Equally, unnecessary failures have bedevilled almost every green policy that’s appeared lately. In either messaging or execution, environmental policies have been disastrous.

When heat pumps were first broached, the government did nothing to assuage fears that households would bear the financial brunt. On the deposit return scheme and highly protected marine areas the failure to take the necessary interested parties along was the defining reason for failure.

This is pitiful and very dangerous politics. Does our government really want to take action on the climate, or is it just playing? If it really wants to take action, then the oil and gas industries have to be phased out quickly, but that can only happen if there are replacement jobs.

We cannot ask individuals, families, communities, towns and cities to fall on their sword so the rest of us can feel pleased with ourselves for taking action on the climate.

To me, the transition to net zero is one of my main political priorities. I want to see good policies and an end to the oil and gas industry. But I won’t vote for any party which would protect the environment through savaging ordinary people.

Indeed, governments risk fuelling both climate denial and political extremism unless they get the balance right. If politicians fail to protect areas dependent on oil and gas, then dangerous voices will emerge.

Read more

Roz Foyer: Failure to devolve power casts a shadow over Holyrood

Neil Mackay: It’s toxic … the inside story of the Greens in meltdown

Parties opposed to climate action will take power. In Europe, the far-right is already making political in-roads in places and among groups feeling threatened by green policies.

It doesn’t need to be like this. Investment in green jobs doesn’t just mean alternative employment for energy workers so their livelihoods aren’t lost, and the environment protected. It means we gain energy security. What, after all, caused such financial pain these last few years? The cost of dirty energy.

Nobody is looking for a fairytale ending. Indeed, fairytales usually end quite badly if you read the original stories rather than the Disneyfied versions. But we can, at least, get a relatively happy ending.

If our governments apply some intelligence - perhaps using up their political capital on concrete ideas rather than culture wars - the green transition doesn’t need to be unjust, we can transition fairly by creating jobs not crushing them.

Who wants to save the environment by destroying fellow citizens? Fairytales have very simple morals at the end, such as two wrongs never make a right.