Skip to content

Time to Deliver: Annual Report 2023

Published on
13 Dec 2023
Publication Type


The primary purpose of this report is to provide the Commission’s latest assessment of Scotland’s progress towards achieving a just transition to a low carbon economy, as required by our remit. The report’s key messages provide a synthesis of insights and findings from the Commission’s information-gathering and engagement work over the past year. Over the course of 2023 the Commission has published advice relating to just transition plans for four core economic sectors: energy, transport, the built environment and construction, and land use and agriculture. These are included as annexes.

In light of recent public debate and political announcements regarding questions of fairness and the approach to Net Zero, the Commission agreed a statement in defence of the principle that building fairness into climate policy acts as an enabler and accelerant of such policy rather than a reason for inaction or delay.

The Commission’s progress assessment concludes that significant further action is urgently needed across a range of core areas to put Scotland on track to deliver a just transition towards net zero, nature restoration and future resilience. Critical next steps for policymakers are included on M&E, potential redundancies within the fossil fuel sector, adaptation measures and revenues from renewables development.

This report also includes the Commission’s key messages on investment, with a full briefing on this topic to follow, highlighting the need for new and innovative investment models, the need to distinguish between finance for net zero and investment for just transition, the high cost of failure to mobilise appropriate investment, the need for active co-ordination across public bodies and local authorities, and clarity on strategic roles and responsibilities.

The report concludes with a detailed overview of the Commission’s activities, membership and governance changes during 2023, followed by a forward look to priorities for 2024.

Key messages

1. The current path will not deliver a just transition.

Despite progress in applying a just transition approach to policy development and planning at the national level, the tangible benefits in people’s everyday lives are yet to be felt. Instead we have seen significant rises in the number of households enduring fuel poverty, a sustained cost-of-living crisis, a lack of progress on fundamental just transition building blocks such as the energy skills passport, and the announcement of plans to abruptly close the oil refinery at Grangemouth in 2025 with hundreds of associated redundancies. We are now in a critical period for the public credibility of just transition as an approach to the decarbonisation challenge ahead. Having embedded the concept as a high level goal, just transition should from here on be used to describe a detailed and specific set of policies, actions and investments that further tangible progress along a well-defined pathway. Use of just transition as a “fix-all” term without specific policies and actions to actually realise it must be avoided from now on.

2. Scotland’s just transition requires a genuine whole-of-government approach to delivery.

The delivery of just transition requires policy development and delivery right across government, with devolved competencies exercised to their fullest extent. To achieve the rapid progress required, an emerging lesson from the Scottish approach is that it cannot be of primary concern only to those policymakers with a focus on climate issues but must be integrated as a core consideration across all directorates and portfolios. Transformative leadership is now required to drive this change. A strategic review by Scottish Ministers should consider how to build on the best efforts made to date by the responsible policy unit, including:

  • practical steps to elevate the function and expand the capacity of the responsible policy unit to ensure that aspiration is translated into policy impact across government, and
  • actions required to ensure the Scottish Government plays as effective a role as possible in co-ordinating and catalysing just transition planning and delivery across each of our local    authorities.

3. Public procurement is key to unlocking a just transition.

A core element of any just transition approach is to invest strategically now in order to make savings later. While significant additional investment is required, there are major potential gains if the routine deployment of public money can successfully be aligned with just transition principles. Across multiple sectors, this cannot yet be said to be the case, and significant action is required to ensure the potential of public procurement in catalysing change at scale is maximised; embedding social value and gearing public investment towards the achievement of high quality, secure employment, fair work, local supply chains, equitable ownership and meaningful community engagement and participation. Continuing a “cheapest wins” approach to procurement will not deliver a just transition but instead prove profoundly costly in the mid-long term.

4. The time for difficult conversations is now.

Scotland’s just transition requires a major, long-term program of communication and engagement to build understanding and consent as emissions reduction policies come to shape the everyday lives and livelihoods of an ever-growing number of people. Misinformation is a major operational and delivery risk, one exacerbated by strategic ambiguity, uncertainty and delay that mean positive effects and opportunities associated with the transition may remain unknown, intangible or unconvincing to those who might otherwise drive the change. It is especially important that the model and approach to ensuring costs and benefits are shared equitably achieves robust public credibility.

To view the full content of the report, please download the PDF below.

Time to Deliver

Annual Report 2023

Time to Deliver Annual Report 2023
(PDF, 15 MB)

Accessible PDF

Time to Deliver: Annual Report 2023
(PDF, 15 MB)

More Publications