FoE Scotland: celebrating 40 years of campaigning

30 July 2018

1978 saw a number of significant happenings. The oil tanker Amoco Cadiz was wrecked off Brittany, Pluto's moon Charon was discovered and the Space Invaders arcade game was launched. As well as these excitements, Friends of the Earth Scotland came into being, separating from Friends of the Earth UK, which had existed since 1970.

Over the last four decades staff, volunteers, local groups and activists have campaigned doggedly and creatively on a vast range of issues starting with protecting otters all the way to last year's massive victory in getting fracking banned.

Campaign successes

Other big successes have included stopping a huge 'super-quarry' on the isle of Harris, fighting off the proposal for a coal-fired power station in Ayrshire, getting tough targets in the 2009 Climate Act, the forthcoming Low Emission Zones in Scottish cities and changing the law so communities have more rights to go to court.

Campaigns over the years have included air pollution, packaging, acid rain, bathing water quality, the M77 motorway and Aberdeen Bypass, tropical timber, recycling, toxic chemicals in our homes and renewable energy, as well as our work on the climate-trashing policies of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

We pioneered the concept of environmental justice in Scotland and opposed genetically-modified crops. We also helped introduce low-speed 20mph traffic zones, shaped Scotland's Freedom of Information legislation and trialled energy efficiency information for house buyers – now a legal requirement.

We have also trained up generations of activists, through formal programmes and in our local groups. And made strong contributions to the campaigns of Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Europe.

Creative activism

From public inquiries to public protests, we've always been creative. We blockaded the French Consulate to protest nuclear testing, took barrels of radioactive waste to the Australian Consulate, dumped CFC-filled fridges on the steps of the Scottish Government, blew the top off a mountain outside the Royal Bank of Scotland's AGM, held green-masked tea parties on roundabouts, planted skeletons on the tour bus at Torness nuclear power station, planted trees on Terry Wogan's lawn and highlighted polluting factories from Muir of Ord in the highlands, to Leith docks in Edinburgh.

An anonymous caller threatened to burn down the office after we highlighted people driving solo in the Edinburgh rush hour while dressed as Eco-Wardens. One Chair of the Board hung off a crane to protest nuclear sponsorship of youth work. We produced the first guide to recycling facilities in Scotland and even a successful cookbook. People in suits sang songs and drank oil. Penguins, polar bears, inflatable chainsaws, carbon dinosaurs and giant white elephants have all put in an appearance.

Members help make it happen

Through this all the contribution of our members and supporters has been vital, from running the organisation in the early days to giving us the resources and political power to win campaigns today.

We have achieved great things but there is still plenty to do. The new Climate Bill due in May is a big opportunity to work together to make sure Scotland's ambition and delivery are fit for the next 40 years. We'll soon be making a ground-breaking intervention in a legal case  in support of Scotland's ban on fracking. We need to ensure that the Low Emission Zones get to grips with the air pollution crisis and help speed the transition to public transport, walking and cycling.

Scotland