Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Powering Ahead: Decarbonising Scotland’s Energy


  • Reform Scotland calls for “the gap between rhetoric and reality” to close
  • Think tank recommends practical steps including bringing forward the ban on gas boilers for new buildings, a ban on new gas cookers, and a move to road user charging

Reform Scotland, a public policy institute which works to promote increased economic prosperity, opportunity for all, and more effective public services, has today released a report with policy recommendations aimed at reducing Scotland’s energy demands to help meet  Net Zero.

In the briefing, the think tank argues that while Scotland excels in its use of renewables for electricity, our use of gas for heating, and oil for transport has been increasing, with the Scottish Government not going far enough, fast enough to reverse these trends. 

The data showing this has been explored in full in the paper, which can be read below.

The report also highlights an additional 45 targets that the Scottish Government has set as part of its drive to Net Zero, originating from a number of different strategies and consultations, but which lack scrutiny and monitoring.

The Reform Scotland paper, written by Stuart Paton, energy industry advisor and former Chief Executive of Dana Petroleum, along with the think tank’s Research Director Alison Payne, argues that we too often blur the boundaries between electricity and energy creating a false impression that Scotland is powered entirely by renewables leading to a sense of complacency and lack of urgency. 

They believe that this gap between rhetoric and reality needs to close by way of a new government education campaign which will help people to understand what they individually need to do to help the country reach Net Zero.

In addition to the public information campaign, the report’s recommendations include:

  • Bringing forward the ban on gas heating in new buildings
  • Banning the sale of new gas cookers in Scotland with immediate effect
  • Abolishing road tax and vehicle excise duty and replacing them with pay-as-you-drive road pricing
  • Amalgamating the many Net Zero timelines and targets into a transparent, public tracker

“Scotland is, and can remain, a global leader in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. We are, with our immense natural resources, doing a very good job of reducing our use of fossil fuels in the generation of electricity, down from around half less than ten years ago to only 10% today, with the remainder coming from low-carbon sources.

“However, we are in danger of tricking ourselves into believing that the job is done. It is not. Electricity is not the only form of energy, and indeed Scotland uses more than double the amount of gas as it does electricity.

“In recent years demand for domestic heat and traffic on our roads have been increasing. Unless we each do our part to reverse these trends we will not make the dent in climate change that we are capable of.

“The public need to have a clear understanding of what regulations are coming and when, so that they have the time and ability to make the changes necessary to their lives. Without this clarity there is a danger that the chaos around the regulations for interlinked smoke-detectors could be repeated.

“The Scottish Government has indicated that it will ban gas boilers for new buildings from 2024, but what are we waiting for? We know we need buildings not to be reliant on gas so there is no justification for allowing new buildings to install such systems. The use of gas for cooking is small compared to heating, but it is still a source of emissions which a ban on new gas cookers could visibly address. In recent years demand for domestic heat and traffic on our roads have been increasing. Unless we each do our part to reverse these trends we will not make the dent in climate change that we are capable of.”

Stuart Paton, energy industry advisor and former CEO of Dana Petroleum

“The Scottish Government has rightly been ambitious in its drive to Net Zero. However, our report identified 45 additional targets creating a confusing policy landscape which lacked coherence. Targets themselves do not guarantee delivery and without transparent and accountable tracking of these goals, there is a danger they become worthless.

“There is a long way to go, but we can reach the end of the journey by taking bolder steps now.”

Alison Payne. Research Director, Reform Scotland


Powering Ahead: Decarbonising Scotland’s Energy