Lamont must “distance herself” from Labour MSP’s attack on green energy

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By a Newsnet reporter

John Wilson MSP, Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Committee has written to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont to demand clarity over Labour’s position on renewable energy.

His calls come after an astonishing attack on the renewables industry by Labour MSP Graeme Pearson in Tuesday’s Daily Record.

Mr Pearson uses a column in the newspaper to attack both onshore and offshore wind and the Scottish Government’s backing for clean green energy, and criticises companies investing in Scottish renewable energy, saying that these companies only seek to “obtain vast profits, all at our expense”.  

Mr Pearson blames the Scottish Government’s green energy policy for making energy more expensive for the consumer, although overall control of energy, including oversight of the regulatory bodies Ofgen and Ofgas, remains under the control of Westminster.

The Labour MSP goes on to claim that “other countries” are currently subsidising Scottish energy costs, implying that energy costs in resource rich Scotland would increase in the event of independence.  In fact, the UK depends upon Scottish energy, including Scottish oil and gas, to meet much of its energy needs.  

Most experts agree that the export of Scottish renewable energy to the rest of the UK is also becoming increasingly important and will become even more important in the future.  Scotland is estimated to possess around a quarter of Europe’s entire wind and tidal energy potential and around 10% of Europe’s wave energy potential.  The Scottish Government claims that its energy policy is aimed at unlocking and developing that potential.

Scotland’s focus on developing sustainable energy has produced some noticeable results.  The country currently generates over 35% of its electricity needs from renewables, a figure which is rising rapidly.  In the first quarter of this year, Scotland’s renewable energy output increased by 45% compared with the same period last year.  Scotland is on course to meet its ambitious target of producing 100% of the country’s electricy needs from renewables by 2020.

The renewables industry employs 11,000 people in Scotland, and every month seemingly brings news of new investment and jobs in the industry.  The industry is continuing to grow delivering hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in communities across Scotland and is set to deliver tens of thousands more jobs over the next decade.

Mr Pearson’s article appeared just as the new Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters marine energy park was launched, and plans were announced for a large new wind farm off the Firth of Forth.  It also comes the day after an announcement by Mainstream Power of plans for an offshore wind farm off the coast of Fife that will deliver a £1.4bn investment and could power hundreds of thousands of homes.

John Wilson MSP has now written to Labour’s Holyrood leader Johann Lamont asking her to “distance herself” and her party from Mr Pearson’s comments, which risk damaging confidence in a vital sector of the Scottish economy at a time when the UK economy is struggling. 

Mr Wilson said:

“This is an astonishing attack on the green energy industry by Labour.  Scotland has massive renewables potential with about a quarter of Europe’s wind and tidal power and a tenth of its wave power.

“That natural windfall is delivering much needed jobs and investment to communities the length and breadth of Scotland. Just yesterday Mainstream Energy announced plans for £1.4 billion of much needed investment for an offshore wind farm in Fife.

“Given that natural resource as well as Scotland’s historic legacy in the energy industry, Scotland is well placed to thrive in delivering safe and secure clean green energy across Scotland.  That is a fast growing industry providing a much needed economic boost and jobs to communities across Scotland.  The UK Government’s own figures also show that a green energy will help bring down bills over a business as usual approach.

“Given our natural competitive advantage we should all be getting behind the renewables industry rather than launching ill thought attacks on the industry.

“Labour need to make their position clear on the issue.  Given the economic mess that Labour created they should be backing emerging industries not doing them down.”