Nicola Sturgeon urged to 'rip up' deal with Heathrow Airport before COP26 starts

Nicola Sturgeon has been challenged to tear up a deal her Scottish Government signed with Heathrow Airport before the start of the global COP26 summit later this month.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has stated that if the First Minister does not "rip up" the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with the London airport before the start of the climate change convention on October 31, global leaders would not "take seriously" her commitment to tackling climate change.

He made the challenge as he addressed a virtual conference of Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats. The new leader of the party in Scotland said he wanted to offer "new hope for the climate emergency with fresh ideas for every part of the crisis facing our planet".

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Additionally, he called for a new "railcard entitlement" so that everyone could benefit from significantly reduced train fares, and argued that powers of air passenger duty, which are being devolved to Scotland, should be used to increase charges for those who fly more often.

Mr Cole-Hamilton says he wants to offer 'new hope' to help tackle the climate emergency (file image). Picture: Getty Images.Mr Cole-Hamilton says he wants to offer 'new hope' to help tackle the climate emergency (file image). Picture: Getty Images.
Mr Cole-Hamilton says he wants to offer 'new hope' to help tackle the climate emergency (file image). Picture: Getty Images.
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He made the calls as he challenged the First Minister to cancel the "contract" her government had signed with Heathrow.

In October 2016, the Scottish Government formally backed a third runaway at that airport as it signed an MOU linked to the benefits it believed this could bring to Scotland.

With regard to that, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "I have three words for Nicola Sturgeon – ‘rip it up’. Rip up your contract in support of a third runway at Heathrow. And do it before COP26 lands in Glasgow.

"Because unless you do, First Minister, I can't take your commitment to the climate emergency seriously, and neither should the watching world."

He said the Scottish Government had recently "admitted" climate change targets cannot be met "if everyone flies as much as they used to".

But he said calls from ministers for aviation to fall by a third from pre-pandemic levels were "just a statement" when the "Scottish Government holds a contract with the single biggest polluter in the entire United Kingdom – that's Heathrow airport".

Mr Cole-Hamilton also said: "The SNP talk the language of environmentalism but their economic policy is predicated on maximum extraction of fossil fuels from the North Sea and 75,000 extra flights between Scotland and London by 2040."


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He attacked the Scottish Government over its record on the NHS, as he called for ambulance waiting times to be published weekly.

And he made his clear his opposition to "deceptive plans" from the SNP administration to establish a new National Care Service. Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "Unlike the NHS it won't offer care that is free at the point of delivery. And it does so to hide what it truly is – another SNP power grab."

He announced the creation of a new Liberal Democrat Commission for a Just Economy, to be chaired by former MSP Lord Purvis. This will make recommendations to next year's party conference to "reset our liberal vision for Scotland" with a focus on areas such as social justice and human rights.

The conference was his first since taking on the job of Scottish Liberal Democrat leader in August. He said: "I've been told that I am currently doing the toughest job in Scottish politics. Well, I'm already loving it – and I'm just getting started."

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