My Column

We need flair to clean up not flares

  • Date: Monday 24th February 2020
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The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has released the latest figures over environmental compliance amongst businesses in Scotland and the report makes for interesting reading.

The compliance assessment scheme measures whether businesses are meeting the conditions of their environmental permits and simplifies it for us by rating them from ‘excellent’ to ‘very poor.’

Interesting as it is, it’s a long report with many facts and figures, so I’ve done the hard work and summarised the findings so you don’t have to.

The good news is that Scottish business environmental compliance was up from last year and now sits at over 90 per cent.

This increase is a positive step in the right direction for Scotland, and it will be music to SEPA’s ears knowing that its One Planet Prosperity strategy is making a real difference.

The strongest sectors in the country should come as no surprise, as distilling and brewing companies topped the list with nearly 96 per cent compliance.

Scotland’s leading brewer, Glasgow-based Tennent Caledonian are more than doing their part with a record-breaking five years of ‘excellent’ ratings.

The brewers are also one step ahead as they are proactively working with SEPA to become carbon neutral by 2025.

As a country, we are of course renowned for our exceptional whisky, but we are also known for big industries like oil and gas, as well as construction, all of which can have a detrimental impact on the environment.

The data produced by SEPA is especially interesting as it highlights some of the country’s worst offenders.

In a way, it calls out the companies that continue to worsen their environmental damage and rightly so, as we as the public deserve to know which business sites are not doing their part.

Industrial business sites in particular have drawn negative attention to themselves with ‘poor’ ratings with the likes of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited in Mossmorran and Grangemouth’s INEOS Forties Pipeline being guilty of this.

However it would be unfair to fail to mention that most of our industrial businesses, such as those in the non-renewable energy and chemicals sector, have actually achieved a 90 per cent rate of compliance.

Worryingly, both sites which have been mentioned in the findings are petrochemical sites and have been non-compliant for several years.

What’s more, there has been a record number of complaints over the plant in Mossmorran to SEPA from residents living close by.

Those who live in the area are constantly complaining of ‘flaring incidents’ which are affecting their quality of living which is completely understandable.

I know for a fact that I would not be comfortable living in any proximity to one of these sites.

These reports highlight that there is still major work to be done within these industries to reduce the pollution and environmental impact they are having our nation.

Yes, the results are better than last year’s ratings meaning that improvements are being made, but it’s going to take longer for certain sites to comply.

The annual results show us just how important it is to have these regulations in place to ensure that businesses are called to task.

Of course, these businesses and industries are vital to our economy – we would struggle massively without them - but they also have a responsibility to comply and play their part.

We are fortunate then to have SEPA, as one of their many roles is to support Scottish business who recognise the economic and environmental opportunities of sustainability.

Tennent’s is a prime example of how working with SEPA can attract the kind of attention a brand wants. Its ambitious plans to be carbon neutral by 2025 was applauded by all.

The support is there for businesses, which is why it is disappointing to see sites like Mossmorran and Grangemouth not achieving the desired results.

If more help is needed, then SEPA need to look at how they can support industrial businesses like the sites mentioned to achieve realistic targets.

It’s a reminder for all that we each have to make an effort and strive to make a difference to become sustainable in business and our lifestyles.

Businesses looking to improve their compliance should look at Tennent’s and follow in its footsteps. If they do, I’m optimistic that by next year results will be even greater.

 

SIDE

I was disappointed to read that the Home Office has announced proposals to replace European free movement with an Australian point based system, containing a minimum salary threshold, in a bid to crack down on the immigration of low skilled EU workers into the UK. The contentious move will no doubt put an end to the ready supply of EU workers that many British businesses have relied on.

While the government want to ‘encourage people with the right talent’ it hasn’t gone down well with British businesses bosses. Complaints from Scottish business leaders have flooded the media, bemoaning the lack on consultation with them on the new plans, which could leave many struggling to fill jobs and potentially force them to implement cutbacks.

It’s an understandable stance, given that for many companies to maintain their EU worker numbers on the newly increased salary threshold of £25,600, it would mean having to massively increase turnover or face a severe squeeze on profits.

However, I was pleased to read that this legal step change has sparked a potential opportunity for Scotland, based on the possibility that it may re-join the EU in the near future. Last week a British watchmaking business became the first England based business to decide to shut up shop and move its operations north of the border. The co-founder of the business said the company’s values are ‘much more in line with Scotland that the rest of Britain right now’. The firm has moved from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire to Perth – where it plans to recruit new workers. Let’s hope this is a growing trend that will help bolster the Scottish economy.

 

LAUGH

Scots are famous for their warm welcome and friendly demeanour. However, visitors to some of Scotland’s top tourist attraction, including Edinburgh Castle, could be greeted with a decidedly colder welcome very soon!

Gas heating is set to be eliminated from all Historic Environment Scotland buildings by 2032. The organisation which manages more than 300 properties, including Stirling Castle and Linlithgow Palace, aims to be ‘net-zero’ by 2045 in line with the Scottish governments target.

Other initiatives set to be activated in a bid to lower the carbon footprint of the historic properties include the creation parking hubs where it has clusters of properties to reduce visitor vehicles and the introduction of low carbon ‘district heating’ systems.

A very worthy cause but let’s hope that tourists remember to pack their scarves and gloves for their next trip.

WEEP

It seems that national pride is at an all-time low amongst Scots living abroad. It was tough to read that less than half of Scotland’s diaspora view the nation as entrepreneurial. Shockingly only 35 per cent said Scotland was progressive and 29 per cent felt it was outward-looking. The survey took responses from more than 1,000 people working in 74 countries. The diaspora was identified as those who were born in Scotland or have worked, studied or have family connections in the country. This is a serious issue for Scottish business as the global Scottish community can be vital to any home grown businesses looking to expand through export markets. They can be vital in providing in-market knowledge, expertise and potential networking opportunities.

It seems there is still much work to be done in convincing our own about the benefits of investing in Scottish businesses before we can persuade others.

 

 

 

 

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