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Here we set out an overview of how people in Scotland are thinking about climate change, climate leadership and climate policy – and where there are differences to the British population as a whole.

Summary: where are Scots on climate change?

Perceptions in Scotland are very similar to those across the UK. People care about climate change and want to see government leadership. They do not want to be left alone to face and tackle climate change as individuals acting in isolation.

“[The] cost of living crisis is definitely [a top concern]. Also climate change as well. The thing that's disheartening about climate change, it seems like it keeps getting watered again and again and it's just a bit disheartening [despite what the science says], we're running out of time, but we're relaxing a lot of these policy, so it's very disheartening I'd say.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

That said, views on Scottish Independence and North Sea oil and gas influence what people think about climate leadership and policy.

“I don't know. I'm not an expert, but.. surely they should be doing more research and investing more. Because talking about the electric cars, you have to mine for the batteries for those. And, for example, one of the countries that has the most mines is at war with Russia…. I think we still need oil, we still need all the rigs and stuff because it's not just for fossil fuel, it's also for [...] loads of everyday things. But obviously if we were taking away the fuel aspect of it, we wouldn't be harming the planet as much just for those things. But we're kind of limited in our options.”

Disengaged Battler, Glasgow

Scottish breakdown of the seven British segments (Date: More in Common, January, 2024)

Climate engagement and concern in Scotland

  • People in Scotland know climate change is happening and the majority are concerned about it.
  • The last two years have brought huge challenges and worries around the cost of living. This has not lessened concern about climate change and nature. That concern is not going anywhere.

Scottish citizens are most concerned about climate change harming nature and causing extreme weather.

We asked participants: ‘Which of the following impacts of climate change are you most worried about over the next 10 years?’ From a list of 15 options, respondents could select up to three. The top 5 most frequently cited climate impacts were:

  • Harm nature and wildlife
  • Increase the risk of floods
  • Cause my bills and other costs to rise
  • Have a negative impact on my children/grandchildren’s future
  • Cause hardship for the world’s poorest

“What's made me act more on climate change is trying to cut down my bills, my energy bills…I won't even have my heating on… I cut down on my water bill. I live quite frugally to try and save money, but that in turn helps climate control to a small degree. It's a little bit of nothing, but it's something.. The pictures and the news of floods and things is really quite scary. Even in Scotland just driving the other night, there were huge puddles. Being a bit glib there, but there was a lot of water, nowhere for the water to go [for] all the concrete.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

The Scottish public is slightly more personally motivated to act on climate change than the rest of the UK.

Across the UK people are twice as likely to feel motivated than unmotivated to act. In Scotland we see the highest proportion of people motivated to act than anywhere else in the UK (45%).


Motivation to take climate action, by nation and region.

“I'm going to be, like, 48 next month and I grew up in the 80s and then we knew about the ozone and everything. And then before lockdown it was really starting to ramp up about the environment and I was thinking, do you know what, actually yes, I'd like to get involved in this. I'd like to be a part of all of this. And then it just stopped and now I feel as if it's all a wee bit, we have to tick a box, we have to say we're doing this and we're setting back deadlines and things, but what? What's going to happen actually for our kids?”

Disengaged Battler, Glasgow

People in Scotland are somewhat aware of change being made, but are unlikely to feel informed or consulted.

As with people in England and Wales, people in Scotland do not feel they have been informed about or consulted on policies to transition away from fossil fuels.

The percentage of those in Scotland who feel they have been given clear information about policies (14%), informed in advance of new policies (9%), or consulted to give input on new policies (8%) by the UK national government is slightly lower than those in England (17%, 13%, 11%). In Scotland, a slightly higher percentage of people feel they have been consulted by their local authority (12%) than those in England (11%) and Wales (8%).

In focus groups, people in Scotland seemed to be fairly knowledgeable on what was happening in terms of climate policies in their local areas, which mainly seemed to come from news and media consumption. However, Scottish focus group participants also didn’t seem to talk about or highlight any level of information or consultation by political parties or government in Scotland or the UK national government.

“[The government] needs to give us much more information before they make us promises. They should understand what it is the people, the public want, not just the people with money - the people without money as well, the things that they need. They should just listen more. They should listen better.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

“I don't know if I'm thinking about the same thing because I think the one that I had watched on the news, they were talking about making things within your health centre and your chemists and almost like small towns, that each place would have their own thing within a 15 minute travel from where your house is.”

Disengaged Battler, Glasgow

“There's a place up Knoydart, one of the most remote places in Scotland. They have, I think they use wind turbines and what do you call it? Reservoirs, hydrodams to supply the local village with the renewable energy. I think it's a great idea, but obviously that's maybe a unique case. I don't think there's actually many places that actually do offer that.”

Civic Pragmatist, Glasgow

“It's not something you hear about, [the Green Party coalition]. You hear about SNP, Labour, Tory but you very rarely hear about what the Green Party are actually doing.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

Barnacle geese on the Solway Firth, above people playing golf, and against a backdrop of the Robin Rigg offshore windfarm, on October 15, 2018 in Dumfries, Scotland.
Photo credit: Ken Jack/Corbis/Getty Images

Climate leadership in Scotland

Scottish citizens expect governments to step up and lead on climate, and want to press ahead with efforts to reach Net Zero.

Like the UK public in general, a majority (62%) of those in Scotland want to either speed up or continue at a similar pace towards net zero.

“When you look at delaying the electric car issue another five years, I mean who's to say in two years time they won't delay it further? This has been something that's been in the pipeline for a good while now. So to then just delay it another five years at the drop of a hat really just shows how they're not committed to it.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

Views on Scottish Independence influence perceptions of current leadership on climate.

A majority in Scotland think that reaching net zero will be mostly good or very good for Scotland. Supporters of Scottish Independence are more likely to think net zero will be good for Scotland.

Perceptions of effects of reaching net zero on Scotland, by support for Scottish independence.

Scots are divided on whether the Scottish Government has done a better job than Westminster. Supporters of Scottish Independence are more likely (53%) to say that the Scottish Government is doing a better job than Westminster on climate change, compared to 11% of those who are against Scottish Independence.

When we look across the seven segments, only Progressive Activists, who are boldly progressive in their politics and the most active on climate change (politically and personally), think the Scottish government has done a better job on climate change than Westminster.

Perceptions of Scottish government vs. Westminster government on their contributions to tackling climate change, by segment.

“I don't think this current government deals with anything very well, to be honest. So yeah, I wouldn't say that they're dealing with [climate change] in an appropriate manner and just like many other things that are ongoing at the moment.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

A group of friends watch a dolphin alongside their tour boat in Torridon, Scotland.
Photo credit: SolStock

Climate policy in Scotland

A slim majority of Scots think Scottish Independence would be unaffordable without North Sea oil and gas.

A majority of Scottish Backbone Conservatives (69%), Established Liberals (54%) – two segments who tend to worry more about the UK’s economic and energy independence – and Loyal Nationals (62%) – a segment worried about rising energy costs – believe that Scottish Independence would be unaffordable without oil and gas from the North Sea. Only Progressive Activists believe independence would be affordable without North Sea oil and gas.

Views on affordability of Scottish independence with and without oil and gas from the North Sea, by segment.

A majority tend to trust the Scottish Government, the UK national government or local authorities on different aspects of the transition.

Governments are more trusted than not in relation to decision making across various policies to transition away from fossil fuels.

Trust in UK, Scottish or local government to make decisions in various areas related to the transition away from fossil fuels (Data: More in Common, January 2024)

And around a fifth don’t trust local, national or Scottish government across these areas of policy making. Trust is lowest when it comes to car reduction in cities.

Leaders need to do more to earn and build trust around climate policy making and implementation.

Use of public transport is less regular than active travel.

People in Scotland are slightly more likely to use public transport every day or two (26%) than the UK average (24%). 21% say they never use public transport.


Frequency of public transport use by nation and region.

There is broad approval across the segments for environmental commitments made in Holyrood by the Scottish Government, but enthusiasm varies across the segments.

Net perceived approval of various environmental commitments made by the Scottish government, by segment.


People are concerned about nature, and are most supportive of policies that directly benefit it.

Scots are more divided on plans to invest in energy efficiency and renewable heating, and a ten-year £500m fund for a ‘just transition’ away from oil and gas. A strong majority of Progressive Activists approve of these plans but far fewer Disengaged Traditionalists, Backbone Conservatives (in keeping with their concern over the state of the economy) and Disengaged Battlers (who are looking for solutions that will lower their bills in the short term) do.

The commitment to reduce car use by 20% divides the segments the most. Progressive Activists are strongly approving of this plan (net 79%), while for Disengaged Traditionalists it attracts slightly more disapproval than approval, in keeping with their concern over curtailed freedoms.

“We're all used to our home comforts. We all want to keep our car, we all want to have our heating and hot water on top and I just wonder how many of us are prepared to go without in order to help with climate change. I don't think people want to… The guys that can make the difference, they want to make money. That's all they want to do. They don't really care.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

“I know it'd be great if we didn't have cars, but at the moment we have cars, I need a car to get to work. I start at odd time shift times. I can't rely on the buses.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

Leaders in Scotland need to show how investments will work practically, and address people’s concerns about where the cost of transition will fall. They need to tangibly show how reducing car use will work practically and how it will be fair for people.

“In the future, I would like to get potentially a heat pump if there was a government grant, but in the middle of a cost of living crisis I don’t have 5K kicking about.”

Civic Pragmatist, Edinburgh

Visit our general recommendations for leaders and communicators and visit Seven segments 2024 overview.

Oil rigs and drilling platforms are seen from inside a house on September 9, 2020 in Cromarty, Scotland.
Photo credit: Peter Summers/Getty Images

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