Business chief criticises Citigroup for “alarmist” Scottish renewables report

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Director General of the Institute of Directors (IOD) has attacked what he described as an “alarmist” report that called for companies to withhold investment in the Scottish renewables industry because of the referendum on independence.

Simon Walker, who is also the former Chief Executive of the BVCA, the organisation that represents British private equity and venture capital, claimed that a report by financial analyst firm Citigroup had overstated concerns.

Mr Walker insisted that the green-energy sector offered investment opportunities regardless of whether a nation was engaged in a constitutional debate or not.  Speaking early this morning on Radio Scotland Mr Walker said that an independent Scotland would also offer opportunities.

He said: “I think that’s an alarmist approach, I think if there is an independent Scotland then that will throw up opportunities as well as threats and I think it is alarmist and overstating the problems to say don’t invest in renewable or any other area because of future constitutional possibilities.”

UK prime minister David Cameron used the Citigroup report to imply dangers for companies investing in Scotland.  The Tory leader was also joined by Labour’s outgoing Scottish leader Iain Gray who claimed the report demonstrated that the SNP were damaging the Scottish economy.

Mr Gray cited the report in yesterday’s First Ministers Questions in an attack on the Scottish government’s renewables efforts. 

His arguments were dismissed by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who, standing in for Mr Salmond, claimed the London analyst’s report was based on an erroneous assumption that there would be no English market for Scottish generated electricity – Scotland currently exports around 20% of her electricity to England.

The attacks come at a time when Scotland’s First Minister is visiting the oil rich Gulf region in an attempt at promoting the Scottish renewable sector and attracting inward investment.

The visit has already led to a commitment from the Abu Dhabi state oil company Taqa to invest £630 million in Scotland’s north sea sector.  This week Scottish renewables also confirmed that a further £ ¾ billion had already been committed by firms such as Mitsubishi, Doosan, Samsung, Gamesa, Repsol and others.

Yesterday the chairman of leading energy company Global Energy Group applauded the Scottish Government’s role in attracting major investment into Scotland’s renewable industry.  

Roy McGregor – whose firm Global Energy is bringing 2000 jobs to Easter Ross through the company’s purchase of the Nigg fabrication plant – said:  “Investment is happening in full knowledge of the Scottish Government’s planned referendum – and renewables are being deployed in part thanks to the First Minister, who has demonstrated the vision and ambition that investors want to see.”

 

Newsnet Scotland comment:
Mr Walker’s intervention is sure to ignite controversy into what some believe to be a politically motivated attack on the Scottish government’s renewable ambitions.  The calls for firms to hold back on investing in Scotland have been amplified by several news media outlets in Scotland, including the BBC.

Given the experience and status of Mr Walker, it will be interesting to see if BBC Scotland provides the same level of exposure to his comments as they have done to a single financial analyst report.  The result of the Citigroup report may have been to curtail investment in Scotland’s fledgling renewable industry and came at a time of a crucial visit to the Gulf region by the First minister.

If a debate is to be had into the constitution and Scotland’s renewable ambitions then both sides of that debate must be afforded equal online, radio and TV exposure.