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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, December 8, 2022


Points of Order

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your guidance on the procedures surrounding the correcting of the Official Report.

I have here a letter that I received last night from Sir Robert Chote, who is the chair of the UK Statistics Authority. After I alerted the authority, it investigated the Scottish National Party and Green Government’s claim that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s potential offshore wind resource. Sir Robert confirms that those figures are, in fact, a mash-up of several different studies that are more than 20 years old. He confirms that the Scottish Government’s calculations exclude

“countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland which have large offshore wind potential.”

He also confirms that the figures “give an inflated picture” and were always inaccurate. The letter specifically says:

“On 15 November, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater (Scottish Greens), acknowledged in Holyrood that the figure was ‘outdated’, but not that it was poorly constructed.”

In other words, the figure was never true and it is time for the SNP and Greens to give up the spin and admit that.

The First Minister’s spokespeople still insist that the figure

“was calculated accurately at the time.”

That is not true. Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, has even written to me this morning to say that the figure is dated. That is not true. It is also still on SNP leaflets that are going through people’s doors.

The UK Statistics Authority is now contacting the Scottish National Party and a number of nationalist parliamentarians directly about the matter. I fully support the expansion of Scotland’s renewables sector but—[Interruption.] I cannot believe that Michael Matheson is leaving the chamber at this stage. I find that disrespectful.

The strong case for expanding Scotland’s renewables sector is undermined when the Scottish Government—the SNP in particular—uses figures that are completely fictitious.

The Parliament’s guidance states that corrections can be accepted only within 20 working days. Therefore, I seek your guidance, Presiding Officer, on whether Lorna Slater has approached you about her statement to Parliament on 15 November. Do you expect a correction to be lodged before the 20-day deadline expires next Tuesday? I am concerned that Parliament has been misled.

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) rose—

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

Can I respond to Mr Cole-Hamilton?

It is of paramount importance that members, including ministers, give accurate and truthful information to the Parliament, correcting any errors at the earliest opportunity. If a member has a question about the factual accuracy of another member’s contribution, they should raise it with that member. Members, including Mr Cole-Hamilton, will be aware that the Parliament has previously agreed a corrections mechanism and how that mechanism operates.

To answer Mr Cole-Hamilton’s question, the minister has not approached me, but it is entirely a matter for members to decide whether and how to use the corrections procedure.

The First Minister

On a point of order further to that, Presiding Officer. As ministers have said, that figure is no longer appropriate to use because it is out of date. However, I think that Alex Cole-Hamilton would want me to put a complete picture before the chamber. There are statements that he did not include in his point of order that I will give:

“Scotland has a major role to play in this with an estimated 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind potential.”

That was a statement from Liberal Democrat minister Michael Moore. Secondly:

“We have more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined”.

That was from Lib Dem leader Vince Cable.

If it is the case that Alex Cole-Hamilton is so distressed by the use of that figure by Scottish Government ministers, perhaps, in the interests of completeness, he would also refer to his colleagues who have used exactly the same figure. The fact of the matter is that we have massive renewables potential, which is what he does not like.

Thank you, First Minister. That was not a point of order. However, your comments are on the record.

Alex Cole-Hamilton has a point of order.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

I seek the Presiding Officer’s clarification about the correction of the Official Report, because I believe that the First Minister has, once again, trotted out the suggestion that the statistic is, in her words, no longer accurate. The UK Statistics Authority wrote to me yesterday to say that it was never accurate. Frankly, I find her broadside attack on me personally beneath her.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, I have responded to your point of order. I have made it quite clear how the corrections mechanism operates, and members should make themselves aware of that.