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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, November 10, 2022

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Mental Health (Workplace Stigma), Portfolio Question Time, Alternative Pathways to Primary Care, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Point of Order

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I once again seek your guidance on the procedure surrounding corrections to the Official Report.

Yesterday, the think tank These Islands revealed that a key Government statistic is false. It is a claim that will be familiar to every MSP in the chamber: that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s potential offshore wind resource. Over the years, that has been referred to countless times, both inside and outside Parliament, by Scottish National Party ministers and MSPs. Those who have said so in this chamber include successive environment secretaries, First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister John Swinney. The current First Minister, constitution secretary and net zero secretary have all made the claim to other audiences and it was reheated just yesterday by Green environment minister Lorna Slater in the Edinburgh Evening News.

That statistic has now been proved to be false, and is based on bogus analysis of a mixture of reports dating all the way back to 1993, when the technology was in its infancy, and uses a definition of Europe that excluded renewables powerhouses such as Sweden, Norway and Finland. It is not the case that the figure was accurate in 2010, as a spokesperson claimed this week. It was never accurate.

Civil servants have been privately warning against use of that figure for at least two years, saying that it has “never been properly sourced” and that the figures have been “recycled robotically” without being really checked.

The true figure for Scotland’s share of offshore wind potential is thought to be around 5 per cent, yet the 25 per cent claim still appeared in the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy’s national strategy for economic transformation in March and appeared again many times in the SNP-led debate on independence in the House of Commons last week, when it was stated by SNP leader Ian Blackford, and by Ronnie Cowan and Kirsten Oswald.

I cannot recall a comparable situation in which a completely fictitious statistic has been relied on so often and so widely. That matters because the Scottish Government has put that claim at the heart of the debates on Scotland’s energy security, independence and meeting our climate targets. I fully support the expansion of Scotland’s renewables sector and I desperately want to see Scotland fulfil its renewables potential, but the strong case for that is not helped when figures used by the Scottish Government leave it open to charges of misleading and misrepresentation.

Presiding Officer, I seek your guidance on how the Official Report should be corrected in all circumstances where there has been a pattern of misinformation dating back for more than a decade and leaving bogus claims littered across the transcripts of numerous sittings of this Parliament. I ask whether any members of the Scottish Government have approached you about making a statement to correct the record, given the provisions of point 5 of the guidance on correcting inaccuracies in information provided during parliamentary proceedings.

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

I thank Mr Cole-Hamilton for his point of order.

It is, of course, a matter of courtesy and respect that members ensure that contributions to proceedings are accurate. It is the responsibility of the member to ensure that such contributions are accurate. However, in the event that a member becomes aware that they have provided inaccurate information, they can seek to make use of the corrections mechanism within 20 working days of publication of the original Official Report. The mechanism sets out what the Parliament has agreed are the appropriate steps to make other members aware that a correction has been made. Corrections are also highlighted in the Business Bulletin and on the Parliament’s website, where they are published to ensure transparency.

The corrections procedure allows members to seek to make a statement to the Parliament if they realise that a significant error has been made. The decision whether to seek to make such a statement is a matter for the member. No such request has been made to me on this point.

That concludes First Minister’s question time. There will be a brief pause before we move on to members’ business.