Talking about sustainable development for the first time in a major speech, McConnell said: “The gap between the haves and have-nots is not just an economic issue – improving quality of life demands environmental justice too. At the moment there is a real injustice in that people who suffer the most from a poor environment are those least able to fight back.”

“We must all take responsibility for the world in which we live and I am determined that government will lead by example,” said McConnell. “Good government can affect real change and greater determination from all Scottish Ministers will see real improvement on Scotland’s environmental record.”

He also outlined early action to be taken by the Executive, including:

  • action to make the spending decisions that arise from the Scottish Parliament’s budget more sustainable;
  • action on recycling;
  • action on renewable energy; and
  • encouraging businesses to become ‘good neighbours’ and publish information on their environmental records.

He added that there would be a new Spending Review mechanism to ensure genuine consideration of environmental impacts of spending decisions. Departments within the executive will need to demonstrate the contribution their spending proposals will make to achieving sustainable development objectives.

“I am not making new spending commitments; I am making new commitment on our spending,” said McConnell. “I want to take the lead on recycling and see our rate of progress on this increase.”

“We must now bring all this to bear throughout government,” the First Minister added. “The public sector in Scotland has a purchasing power of around £5 billion per year – we should use this tool where possible to support indigenous recycling industries. The Executive itself is making progress and has set targets to increase the amount of office waste recovered to 50% by March 2002. I now want to see all public bodies setting targets for recycling, waste minimisation and resource consumption.”

The new approach will also affect industries – McConnell wants to see an increase in the number of Scottish businesses publishing corporate responsibility reports. He also announced that Scotland would be increasing its target of generating 18% of energy from renewable sources by 2010, hopefully towards 30%.

Friends of the Earth Scotland praised the speech as the “most significant environment speech by a Scottish politician in the past decade”.

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