Friday, 2 April 2010

MSPs Fly to America for Climate Change Talks

Four MSPs and two officials are flying to the US today where they will focus on the 'three key areas' of 'climate change; sustainable transport and opportunities around the green economy'.

The £30,000 trip includes business-class transatlantic flights costing in excess of £10,000 and accommodation in some of the best hotels.

Environmentalists condemned the party for going business class at a time when Scotland is facing swingeing cuts in its budget even although the Scottish Parliament's travel policy is to authorise the use of business class travel for intercontinental flights with more than five hours' continuous flying.

Three issues make me angry. The first is MSPs flying business class while our military representatives are required to travel second class. The second is flying is surely the least 'green' form of travel and thirdly to fly to the US to talk about climate change is unjustifiable when modern communications, such as video conferencing, would be as appropriate.

If you're really interested in reading about the perks of BA Club Class travel you can read it here. If you already have high blood pressure may I suggest you don't bother.

In addition to these MSPs three others are flying to New York to take part in Tartan Week. Culture minister Fiona Hyslop, education secretary Mike Russell and enterprise minister Jim Mather will represent Scotland.

Surely they could have spared a couple of hours to discuss climate change with the relevant US officials?


Hythlodaeus said...

Two points:

Firstly, it's interesting to note that no-one is proposing alternative means to get across the Atlantic. Probably down to the fact that it takes several days by ship, which would mean the MSPs would be out of action (and probably being paid) for in the region of two weeks in addition to their stint stateside.

Secondly, if video conferencing was as useful as people assume it is, then there wouldn't be nearly so much travel full stop and Holyrood Committees wouldn't need to travel to take evidence from locals. Trying to build up a dialogue with a group of, say, 20 people who are all sitting in one room at the other end of a webcam or phone-line is not an easy thing to do.

The MSPs should probably have taken standard class, and given the recent changes at Westminster probably will in future, but if we're over there selling Scotland's expertise on offshore drilling, ocean power, wind power and and so, then it has the potential to pay for itself. Likewise, helping to promote Tartan Day (while rather twee and tacky for my tastes) does seem to bring in the tourists, who we need more then ever.

subrosa said...

I have no problem whatsoever at our political representatives flying to the US Hythlodaeus. But considering the military have to fly their cattle class then present the UK at top level talks, shouldn't MSPs do likewise.

As for video conferencing and the like. It works. There is much done military-wise using technology and the only time many meet face to face is when talks are extremely security sensitive.

I would doubt the Scottish government's talks on climate change and the like fall into that bracket.

I agree with you about Tartan Day but it is necessary to fly the saltire to attract visitors, especially when it's such good value for them right now.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a bit of a loss why they feel they need to be present in the first place. There are UK Government departments and initiatives which deal with such things; although it's fair for Holyrood to promote Scottish interests, a demonstration of delivery of service is the bare minimum before sending four MSPs (and their crews) on such a junket.

Salmond's previous grasp of environmental science can be seen in the 'joint statement' signed with the Maldives to:

set out the commitment of both countries to work together to combat climate change through the sharing of technology, know-how and research.

Absolutely meaningless, and actually makes me quite angry at the complete lack of any scientific literacy - rather like the time Salmond said the Pentland Firth would become "the Saudi Arabia of wave-energy".

This is grandstanding up there with Salmond's gatecrashing Copenhagen, and being shuffled to an ante-chamber.

Four MSPs, for goodness sake!

subrosa said...

That's what irks me too Alec. No need for this whatsoever. It does sound very much like a 'jolly' especially with the standard of travel and hotels.

No public servants should be travelling business or first class. It should be stopped now.

Dark Lochnagar said...

I agree with the ancient Greek guy.

subrosa said...

He'll be delighted to know DL.

Political Dissuasion said...

Some public bodies and govt departments (such as where I work) do make excellent use of video conferencing. It is an effective and easy way of working.

However, encouragement for this does NOT come from the top. It comes from staff who believe in it and make the decision to do it this way... if we choose to go to a meeting in China, rather than VC it, there is no pressure to do otherwise.

My manager flies to India for a meeting this week. Nothing more than 5 people, sitting in a room talking, will take place. All this could be done on VC but won't be becuase people want to see India (they are getting their return flight delayed two weeks and taking annual leave while in india...a free holiday).

Also Subrosa, I agree about the military top brass. I like that you ain't saying they should fly club class as well, but your highlighting the 'everyone should do their bit' approach, something lacking in our political "top brass".

Joe Public said...

PD - Does HMRC know that? (Combining business with pleasure)

I suspect a Tax Demand will be forthcoming!

subrosa said...

That is interesting PD. I know it's used in certain circles where IT figures highly but I didn't realise VC wasn't encouraged.

The reasons, of course, are obvious.

Strathturret said...

Sorry I would expect Gov ministers flying to USA to travel business class.

Video conferencing has its uses but there is no substitute for face to face meetings.

subrosa said...

Hello Strathturret, have missed you this week.

The 4 MSPs concerned are no government ministers.

Would you say a government minister is superior to a senior military officer?

Have you ever tried video conferencing?

Strathturret said...

I do not see what military have to do with this story.

I have tried video conferencing; as I say it has its uses but is limited.

I'm working for a living again so am not on blogs as often. I have booked w/b 2nd May off though so I can put my shoulder behind the wheel!

subrosa said...

What the military have to do with this story is this Strathturret. All military, including top brass, have to travel second class, no exceptions.

Glad to hear you're keeping out of mischief. :)

Hythlodaeus said...

I was talking to a civil servant who was involved in the organising of these trips last night.

Now, apart from the fact that one of the ministers is extraneous, I did gleen that the flights were booked well in advance. The changes to policy regarding the military and Westminster haven't caught up with booked flights yet.

I suspect that it would probably have cost the parliament a pretty penny to get the seats downgraded (Trans-atlantic flights generally not being something you can alter at short notice).

subrosa said...

Hythlodaeus, dare I say your civil servant acquaintance is rather behind information-wise. The military have had the second class policy in place for a considerable length of time, possibly well over a year but I can't confirm that until after the Easter holiday.

The military didn't make a song and dance about it just accepted it as par for the course. It was a labour MP who brought it to the public's attention.

I would have expected a civil servant who dealt with travel issues would have known when the military ruling was made.

So therefore, I think your acquaintance was telling you wee porkies. He was most fortunately he wasn't talking to me. :)

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