I’ve been struggling to articulate the creeping malaise I’ve felt about politics for the past few months, and that came to a head with the recent meltdown in the Scottish Government, then the announcement of a general election at Westminster. If you’re not keen to read about politics, look away now.

Six weeks ago, it was announced that the Scottish Government was to abandon its “world-leading” goal to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030. Put simply, instead of improving things, our politicians are making matters worse – but perhaps not in the way you think. Surprised?

I’m conscious of the environment and invested in sustainability. Thanks to my far-sighted mentor Mike Gilmour, I worked on one of the first zero-energy housing developments in Scotland, which he designed along with Prof. Gokay Devici. That was fifteen years ago, and ten years before that the subject of my honours thesis was the salvage and re-use of scrap materials.

However, I’m critical of politicians who set unachievable carbon reduction targets – which scientists acknowledge couldn’t be met. That’s known as greenwash. Humza Yousaf did the right thing by acknowledging that the 75% target for 2030 wouldn’t be met; the Greens are much diminished by continuing to suggest that the targets should have been retained. The longer they insist, the more naive they sound and to me it comes across as hypocrisy, phonyism and pomposity.

By withdrawing support for Humza Yousaf and the Scottish Government, the Greens sided with the people who have blocked the fitting of carbon capture equipment at Longannet and Peterhead power stations, who have held up pumped storage hydro developments in the Highlands, and have objected to onshore wind developments.  In Mike Gilmour’s words, which paraphrase the US president Lyndon N. Johnson, you need to decide whether you’re inside the tent pissing outwards, or outside the tent pissing in. The way to make progress is to take part and to take people with you – to win them over to your way of thinking. The Greens are firmly outside the tent.

The concept of “de-growth” which they promote goes against everything we need: more homes, better infrastructure, modern hospitals, technology to create clean energy, and to refurbish existing buildings. For what it’s worth, my opinion is that the only way to deliver that is by encouraging the economy to grow, and like it or not, that requires capitalism.  As an example, the Swedish company Elekta AB is one of three companies – and the only independent one – making linear accelerators for the treatment of cancer.  Until someone comes up with a cure for cancer, they cater for a (sadly) growing market; without them, even more folk will succumb to that horrible condition.

The alternative to growth is allowing the economy to wither, destroying our ability to improve Scotland. We just have to make sure the economy grows in a clean way, rather than a dirty way.  The other self-interested point to make is that a shrinking economy will need fewer buildings, and that almost certainly means less construction work, hence fewer architects.

Strangely, the BBC and newspapers barely give airtime and column inches to independent, non-partisan bodies in Scotland, including a wide spectrum which takes in the Common Weal, the Jimmy Reid Foundation, The Fraser of Allander Institute, and investment firms like Baillie Gifford. The latter were the biggest investor in Tesla for many years, and whether or not you approve of electric cars, they’re potentially one way to reduce the carbon dioxide being produced by transport. Yet Baillie Gifford are currently being vilified in the media, thanks to a tiny group of activists who focus on a negative but refuse to acknowledge the positives.

The second strand of political malaise is much closer to our profession. While getting some work done to a crown (ouch) I had a conversation with my dentist, who explained that the Scottish Government has instructed the dental profession to reduce check-ups from six monthly to annually. Of course, you can go private, as many of my friends south of the border have been forced to do, as there are even fewer NHS dentists in England. My dentist is very much against that, as she believe that oral health will suffer.

Around the same time, I had a meeting with my solicitor. She also had concerns about government funding. In this case, her fee of £240/ hour is set at that level to cross-subsidise the court work which her practice carries out – in this case because the UK Government won't pay what’s required for Legal Aid.  Again, my solicitor thinks that the quality of justice being dealt in Scottish courts is reducing as the years go on.

Both my dentist and solicitor are around my age. Both studied at Scottish universities, both consciously decided to practice in Scotland, and both are unhappy with the way their professions are being undermined by government. It seems that Westminster and Holyrood are both determined to attack the professions.

In the architectural profession’s case, it’s been going on since the 1980’s when Thatcher legislated to remove fee scales, and the-then Prince Charles attacked Modernism and Modernist architects like ABK. The status of the RIBA’s fee scales changed from “mandatory” to “recommended” in 1982, then to “indicative” in 1992, following investigations by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and the Office for Fair Trade.

Architecture’s voice is weak, and that’s because our professional bodies don’t carry the weight of a $tn American social media company which employs ex-politicians to lobby endlessly behind the scenes so that legislation is watered down – or the weight of a politically-connected media mogul who is part of the Establishment and can thus keep press regulation as a voluntary rather than mandatory.

As a result, I’ve grown suspicious of activists, campaigners, pressure groups and protesters who seek the ear of politicians. Do they have your interests at heart? Think about that, before you make your mark on the ballot paper on Independence Day.

Next up, something entirely unrelated to politics.

This entry was posted by and is filed under scotland, politics.
By • Galleries: scotland, politics

No feedback yet