Sep 2010: Alex Salmond claims 100% green electricity in Scotland is ‘achievable’ by 2025
In the post-devolution period, and particularly since the election of the first Scottish National Party Scottish Government in 2007, there existed an uneasy relationship between Holyrood and Westminster over energy, which was reserved (with limited exceptions for the limited promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency) to the UK Parliament under the Scotland Act 1998.
In 2010 Alex Salmond, addressing the International Low Carbon Investment Conference in Edinburgh doubled the Scottish Government’s target for generating “green” electricity from 50% to 100% by 2025. And claimed Scotland with the proper financial investment could actually generate all of its electricity and more – currently about 6.8GW – from green sources by that year. And Scotland’s energy resources, in particular North Sea oil and its renewable energy potential, became significant elements in the case for Scottish independence during the 2014 independence referendum.
The referendum confirmed the retention of the “union” but mindful of the on-going aspirations of Scots for independence Westminster’s goal became to ensure England and Wales would be self sufficient in energy provision (no reliance on Scotland) and this brought about the decision to focus production on nuclear.
Proving the case for this was relatively easy. Staticians did the business and the media persuaded the gullible electorate in England and Wales that nuclear would be cheaper than Scotland’s more costly wind and wave energy and contracts were signed off with foreign based companies.
Since then the projected costs of building nuclear plants in sufficient numbers has increased many fold bringing about a need for the provision of massive amounts of new finance from the Treasury. Any financial “bail-out” of the nuclear debacle will be sourced from the capped “energy” pot and this is to the detriment of Scotland.
Echoing the foregoing and gathering pace since the 2014 referendum, there has been a spate of UK government decisions on energy, such as the withdrawal of funding for carbon capture and storage development, the closure of the Longannet coal-fired power station and the withdrawal of subsidies for renewable energy. All of which have, whether by accident or design, undermined Scotland’s “energy independence” in advance of any second independence referendum.
The 2016 Act reflects the ebb and flow of this cross-border constitutional dynamic and the provision for energy is piecemeal and lacking substance suggesting that the wings of the Scottish Government’s energy policy are being clipped by Westminster: the Empire is striking back.
The foregoing is a summary of the content of a (must read) article “ENERGY AND THE SCOTLAND ACT 2016” written by Gavin Little – Professor of law, Stirling University