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Soapbox: Transform Scotland



In 2014 Scottish Parliament passed a law which means a five pence charge will be levied on all single-use carrier bags. This includes our recycled paper bags, and so all Lush shops in Scotland charge 5p per bag, and donate the proceeds to Transform Scotland.

Here, Rachel McFarlane from the project introduces their vision for a greener society. 


Recent months’ protests on climate change serve as vital reminders that we must address the ecological collapse we face. News articles with photographs of young people holding banners reading ‘The planet is changing! Why aren’t we?’, ‘You’re burning our future’, and, simply, ‘Help!’, are as concise as they are scary. They reflect the rising sense of doom felt by many across the globe, particularly the younger generations who seem to hold a greater understanding of the issue than many politicians.


In order to ensure the safety of our planet’s future, emissions must be curbed. As a Politics and Sociology undergraduate currently volunteering at Transform Scotland, I have been taught in my degree to uncover problems and offer solutions. To identify social inequalities and detect why societies and cultures are shaped as they are. With more than 97% of actively publishing climate scientists in agreement that the increase in greenhouse gases is primarily caused by human activity (Klein, 2015), climate change can be understood as a social problem that is in need of both micro- and macro-level solutions. That is, whilst action is definitely required at the individual level, the urgent need to change necessitates immediate and serious action by the Government.


My understanding of this environmental issue as a social one sparked my interest in volunteering in sustainable transport. Transform Scotland, a Scottish-based charity, believes that the best way to reduce emissions is via the transport sector. As a charity, it envisions a future for Scotland whereby public transport is an affordable, desirable and reliable method of transport which people opt to use and benefit from in myriad ways. In placing greater importance on public transport, Transform believes that a cleaner, greener and more equal society can be obtained.


At the moment, the transport sector is Scotland’s largest source of emissions (37.5%) and is the sector where there has been no progress in cutting emissions since the 1990s (Scottish Government, 2018). The sector has continuously favoured private, high-emission transport vehicles such as cars and planes over sustainable forms like buses, trains and trams (Swindon, 2018). Even though Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has recently declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ (BBC, 2019) and abandoned the Government’s plans to give a massive tax cut to the aviation industry through abolishing Air Passenger Duty (Carrell, 2019), too many of the Government’s policies are worsening emissions rather than tackling them. Such as the multi-billion pound road-building programme currently in place (Transport Scotland, 2019). The funds being pumped into this programme could, and should, instead be being invested into decarbonising Scotland’s transport system.


A recent campaign that Transform launched alongside Stagecoach West Scotland that I have been getting involved with called ‘#lovemybus’ centres around the benefits of public transport. A study found that by opting for the bus, individuals help to decrease road congestion and air pollution whilst replacing up to 75 cars on the road per bus (Intelligent Transport, 2018). This was something that I had not realised before working at Transform but seems an excellent solution that we as individuals can take part in, in order to reduce our carbon footprint. By investing in public transport and encouraging more active travel across the country Scotland’s economy, nation’s health and emissions all benefit.


My colleague at Transform, Jess Pepper, recently presented Transform’s views to the Scottish Parliament’s climate committee on our new Climate Bill. She argued that Scotland needs a much more exciting, inclusive, empowering vision; a vision that makes a massive dent in emissions by 2030 and delivers many more positives for everyone’s lives at the same time. After spending time working on projects with the charity, it is clear to me that there is so much more that can be done straight away to reduce emissions and consequently slow the damage we are doing to our planet. It is Transform Scotland’s view, as well as my own, that we should be enabling people to get involved and make healthy transport choices. Through engaging citizens and encouraging people to cycle, walk, hop on the bus or train; a healthier and more sustainable future can be obtained for all.


The funding that Transform Scotland is now receiving from Lush as part of the 5p bag levy has been greatly appreciated throughout the team. This money will be invested into the charity and used to fund campaigns targeted at the Scottish Parliament and to increase awareness about the benefits of public transport for self, community and world. At Transform Scotland, we are excited to have been chosen to receive this money and to be able to communicate our ambitions with Lush and its customers.





Klein, N. (2015) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Penguin Books: Great Britain. 


Scottish Government. (2018) Scottish greenhouse gas emissions 2016. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2016/pages/3/ [Accessed: 05.09.19]. 


BBC. (2019) ‘Nicola Sturgeon declares ‘climate emergency’ at SNP conference’, BBC news, 28 April. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-48077802 [Accessed: 05.09.19]. 


Carrell, S. (2019) ‘Scottish government to rethink plan to cut air travel taxes’, The Guardian, 2 May. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/02/scottish-government-rethink-plan-cut-air-travel-taxes [Accessed: 05.09.19]. 


Transport Scotland. (2019) A9 Dualling from Perth to Inverness. Available at: https://www.transport.gov.scot/projects/a9-dualling-perth-to-inverness/ [Accessed: 07.09.19]. 


Intelligent Transport. (2018) Another 75 low emission buses for Glasgow arriving in 2019. Available from: https://www.intelligenttransport.com/transport-news/73984/low-emission-buses-glasgow/ [Accessed: 07.09.19].

Swindon, P. (2018) ‘Air pollution fears after rail fare rises make the cost of commuting cheaper by car’, 7 January. Available from: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15812171.air-pollution-fears-after-rail-fare-rises-make-the-cost-of-commuting-cheaper-by-car/ [Accessed: 07.09.19].

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