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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 27, 2024


Renewable Energy Sector (Economic Impact)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-12237, in the name of Audrey Nicoll, on “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector—2023 Update”. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

I encourage members who wish to take part in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons and ask those who are leaving the chamber to do so as quickly and quietly as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Fraser of Allander Institute report, The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector – 2023 Update, commissioned by Scottish Renewables, which, it understands, provides the latest estimates of economic output and job figures for Scotland’s renewable energy industry; understands that the report demonstrates that Scotland’s renewable energy industry and its supply chain supported more than 42,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2021, with offshore wind supporting the most employment across Scotland’s economy from the renewable energy sector for the first time, with 15,005 full-time equivalent roles, while onshore wind supported 12,030 full-time equivalent roles and renewable heat supported 7,220 full-time equivalent roles; recognises the report’s estimate that Scotland’s renewable energy industry supported over £10.1 billion of output in 2021, with offshore wind contributing, it understands, the largest estimated economic output of £4 billion, followed by onshore wind and hydropower, generating £3.4 billion and £1.2 billion respectively, and welcomes the continued growth of Scotland’s renewable energy industry, which, it believes, is critical not only for achieving Scotland’s energy security and net zero ambitions, but also for building a greener, growing economy that benefits communities across Scotland, including in the Aberdeen South and North Kincardine constituency.


Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

It is my real pleasure to introduce this members’ business debate on “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector—2023 Update”. I thank all those colleagues who supported the motion, and I am grateful to those who are taking the time to speak this afternoon.

Before I get into the detail of the report, I will focus some remarks on the north-east, including my constituency of Aberdeen South and North Kincardine; the opportunities that our net zero economy brings to an otherwise cloudy economic picture; and the role of Government in bolstering competitiveness and supporting Scotland’s clean energy transition.

Renewable energy generation is the foundation of any net zero economy. In Scotland, we are fortunate to have a plethora of renewable technologies, including onshore and offshore wind, marine energy, hydro power, solar and clean heat, which will all play a key role in reducing our carbon footprint and supporting our future energy security.

Scotland has set ambitious targets, and challenges exist in delivering those ambitions. However, today is a time—I hope—for us to acknowledge the positive impact that the renewables sector is having on jobs and economic output in Scotland.

Nowhere has the energy transition been more evident than in the north-east. As an Aberdonian, and now as a north-east constituency MSP, I have followed the journey of the energy industry, which was built around oil and gas and is now transitioning to renewables. Hitting the sweet spot between a declining fossil fuel sector and a growing renewables footprint is the challenge that we all face, and we must endeavour to deliver for our planet and our future prosperity.

According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s report, “The UK’s net zero economy—The scale and geography of the net zero economy in the UK”, which was published last month, Aberdeen remains one of many local economies in Scotland to see a significant proportion of its gross value added attributed to the net zero economy. The city and the wider region continue to host a diverse mix of operators, developers and supply chain businesses that support energy generation activities.

Robert Gordon University has published a series of reports that set out scenarios for how the north-east can continue to exploit its world-class energy ecosystem, and present a range of workforce outcomes that could materialise in the coming years. Its “Powering up the Workforce” report found that the United Kingdom’s offshore energy workforce can increase by up to 50 per cent, from over 150,000 in 2023 to 225,000 by the end of the decade, with new renewable jobs outnumbering oil and gas roles, if a successful transition is achieved, thereby helping to secure Scotland’s world-class energy sector for future generations.

The area of technology and innovation is a fundamental part of our energy transition, and the north-east hosts a wealth of activity in that space. Last week, I was delighted to attend the opening of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult floating wind innovation centre in my constituency, which is the UK’s first centre that is focused purely on floating offshore wind technology. The National Energy Skills Accelerator has brought north-east academics and industry together to accelerate the upskilling of our existing and future workforce. The Net Zero Technology Centre works with stakeholders to drive technology for a net zero industrial future. Those initiatives demonstrate how Scotland is combining our strengths, bringing creativity together with expertise to support the delivery of a successful energy transition.

I turn to “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector—2023 Update”, which was commissioned by Scottish Renewables and produced by the Fraser of Allander Institute. The report provides the latest estimates of economic output and job figures for Scotland’s renewables industry and its supply chain. The sector was supporting more than 42,000 full-time jobs in 2021, with offshore wind supporting the most employment: around 15,000 full-time equivalent roles. Onshore wind supported just over 12,000 full-time equivalent roles and renewable heat supported around 7,200. Scotland’s renewables industry supported more than £10.1 billion of output in 2021, with offshore wind understood to contribute output of £4 billion, and onshore wind and hydro power generating £3.4 billion and £1.2 billion respectively.

At this point, I will make a brief observation about the just transition. I recognise that, with the transformation of Scotland’s energy sector over the coming decades, the lives of communities and workers will be directly affected. A truly just transition calls for action on providing green jobs, building community wealth and embedding genuine participation, and I agree with calls for greater clarity on how we are going to measure progress in that regard.

The renewable energy industry currently presents Scottish supply chain companies with the biggest opportunity for business growth. However, that growth depends on enabling a stable and ambitious pipeline of clean energy projects, and will require both the Scottish and UK Governments to collaborate on enabling deployment, including by driving efficiencies and extra resource into our planning and consenting system, maximising Scottish capacity in contracts for difference, building new transmission infrastructure, upgrading our ports and investing in skills. On transmission, I welcome SSE’s investment programme in Scotland, in particular the north of Scotland build-out, which is anticipated to be worth £20 billion alone and will provide lasting economic and social benefits across Scotland.

On that point, does the member have any concerns about the level of disruption that some of the SSE upgrades will have on many of our communities in the north-east?

Audrey Nicoll

I thank the member for that very appropriate intervention, and I would not underplay the challenge that such big projects present. However, it is perhaps up to us to challenge and monitor what is happening, with particular regard to representing our constituents.

Before concluding, I want to highlight the role of Government. Notwithstanding how policy decisions at UK level impact on the way in which Scotland meets its net zero targets, the Scottish Government’s approach, as outlined in its “Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan” document, as well as the just transition fund and the forthcoming green industrial strategy, reflect, in my view, a distinct, more planned approach to addressing our climate crisis, which I very much welcome.

As time passes, progress on Scotland’s transition to net zero will become increasingly critical to the future of the UK, due not only to the social and environmental imperative of curbing climate change, but to the economic upside that is associated with the transition to a cleaner, cheaper and greener energy system, bringing fresh investment to our shores, regeneration to our industrial heartlands and high-value jobs to the next generation.

I offer my thanks again to everyone who supported the motion, and I look forward to hearing members’ contributions.


Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

I thank Audrey Nicoll for securing the debate. The motion has the key facts and figures on the many thousands of jobs that the renewable energy sector supports and on the incredible economic output that it generates, but I want to highlight another statistic, which comes from the Scottish Renewables document, “Scotland’s Renewable Energy Industry—Supply Chain Impact Statement 2022/23”. That found that an overwhelming majority of the featured organisations—some 90 per cent—regarded renewable energy as Scotland’s biggest economic opportunity. That is important, because it highlights the fact that, as impressive as the existing economic impact has been, there is much more to come if we get future priorities and policies right. We must get them right if we are to ensure that there is a bright future for communities across the north-east as we transition from fossil fuels.

At a basic level, there must be a pipeline of projects that is both ambitious and stable. It is worth mentioning that greater recycling and reuse of energy infrastructure would open up another avenue of economic activity in addition to expanding generation, especially when we consider that the decommissioning of offshore fossil fuel assets alone is set to ramp up to £2 billion per year over the next decade.

Looking at renewables, refurbishing many thousands of wind turbine components would open up a £10 billion market for the UK and Scotland, as around 120,000 turbines come online across Europe by the mid-2030s. That has the potential to create 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the UK, according to research that was conducted on behalf of the coalition for wind industry circularity. Scotland could, and should, be part of building the UK-wide supply chain to make that circularity happen, yet there is no mention of that kind of circularity in the energy sector in the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill. As it happens, the cross-party groups on the circular economy and on renewable energy and energy efficiency are holding a joint session after this debate. We will be looking at the issue of circularity in the energy sector, and I invite all members to come along.

We cannot afford to miss those opportunities, because international competition is fierce. As MSPs, it is our job to ensure that Scotland is the go-to place for net zero investment—and we will need a lot of investment. The Climate Change Committee estimates that the net zero transition will require £50 billion of investment each year across the UK, the majority of which will need to be delivered by the private sector. Of course, Government must lead the process and send out encouraging signals.

I therefore repeat the calls for the Government to provide clarity on the just transition fund, which—as was reported last week—has had its budget cut by a whopping 75 per cent this year. That is the wrong signal to send out if the Government is serious about a just transition, and about cementing renewables as a cornerstone of our economy.


Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I, too, congratulate Audrey Nicoll on securing this important debate. It could not be more timely. I have lost count of the number of meetings that I have had with the renewables sector, from large companies to community and co-operative projects. The supply chain networks are talking to us, and everyone agrees that we have made huge progress in the past couple of decades and that the renewables sector is now a key part of the economy, but we need more action.

When I first set our renewables targets in the Parliament’s early days, they were seen as somewhat bold and radical. That we have got to where we now are, therefore, is a credit to the sector and to the companies that have been delivering the jobs and the infrastructure over that time. We have seen huge steps forward in onshore and offshore wind, in solar, wave and tidal energy and in hydro and pumped storage, and technological developments are opening up new options for the future.

However, we need action to develop supply chains and to give clarity and certainty to the sector in the future. If we are to make progress, it is critical that we do not miss the boat. We also need to maximise the opportunities from our natural capital while investing in renewables infrastructure that will help to promote biodiversity. There is now a lot of research and experience that needs to be widely shared.

I thank all those who gave us briefings for the debate, and groups such as Scottish Renewables that have, in recent months, shared their thoughts on the need to act urgently to address the challenges that the sector faces.

We need strategic leadership, effective consenting and planning processes and development of the grid. We also need access to apprenticeships and reskilling opportunities to allow people to move into the sector. I am thinking in particular of workers with skills, knowledge and experience who want to move into the renewables sector, especially those who have been working in the oil and gas sector—they should not have to pay for that training. We need to deliver “North Sea 2”, as Gordon Brown recently described it.

I highlight the Scottish Trades Union Congress report on the just transition, which includes some key recommendations that need to be addressed with regard to Scotland’s missed potential and the need to prioritise more manufacturing of renewables in Scotland. We also need joined-up thinking, and—as we just heard from Maurice Golden—we need to link the renewables sector to the circular economy in practice. Companies such as ReBlade are moving ahead on that, but that approach needs to be built in to the whole sector.

As I mentioned, we urgently need action on planning and consent processes. Our local authorities are suffering after a decade of cuts—£1 billion of cuts—from the Scottish National Party Government. We need urgent action to ensure that local authorities get the support that they need now and to bring new planners into the sector to bring an end to the never-ending processes.

We also need more community and co-operatively owned heat and power projects, as that will be central to Scotland’s economy as we move forward. Labour’s local power plan would see us making the progress that we urgently need, because we need investment in our local communities so that they, too, gain the benefits from the transformation that is possible.

Our commitment to a “Great British Energy” company—

Will the member take an intervention?


Audrey Nicoll

I will backtrack a little, to the matter of planning, which Sarah Boyack highlighted. Does she welcome the proposal for a floating resource of planners and the commitment to halve onshore wind planning timescales?

Sarah Boyack

It is not just about timescales. We definitely need more resources for local authorities that are separate from the sector, but we need that for onshore and offshore, not just one of the two. It is critical that we get that urgently, because if we are to get the jobs that we need in Scotland, we need strategic leadership and investment, which would mean transformational change in our economy. That is why Labour wants to see a “GB Energy” company established and headquartered in Scotland, which would give us the strategic leadership and investment that other European countries have baked into their projects.

This morning, I saw for myself the impact of joined-up thinking and investment on an inspiring visit to Forth Ports. I saw the work that it is doing to invest in the port to make it fit for the future. As part of that process, 2,000 jobs will be created through a new renewables factory; new harbour infrastructure to enable floating wind to be developed; and the building of new affordable social housing in Leith, which is urgently needed. I note my entry in the register of members’ interests on that point.

We have new renewables developments that will benefit from the investment that is being made by Forth Ports, which will sit alongside the work that is being done up and down our east coast. However, we need more young people to be inspired to join the sector, and they need access to the skills, training and academic development that our renewables sector needs now if we are to deliver the jobs, investment and low-carbon power that Scotland needs now.


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

I congratulate my colleague Audrey Nicoll on securing tonight’s debate, and I thank the Fraser of Allander Institute for producing the report and Scottish Renewables for commissioning it.

In a matter of weeks, the Parliament will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Compared with 1999, we have a much clearer consensus on the environmental, financial and, indeed, moral imperative for tackling climate change. Since 1999, successive Administrations have developed a distinct and ambitious approach to tackling it.

Today, Scotland produces more electricity from renewables than it consumes. Recent figures show that renewables technologies generated the equivalent of 113 per cent of Scotland’s overall electricity consumption in 2022, which is the highest recorded figure to date.

PwC’s green jobs barometer consistently identifies Scotland as the best-performing part of the UK for developing green jobs—4.04 per cent of all jobs advertised are considered to be green, which is 74 per cent higher than the UK average.

Skills Development Scotland estimates that £90 billion-worth of green investments are being made now or will take place over the next three years. ScotWind, hydrogen, carbon capture, wave and tidal technologies and green ports do not just represent opportunities to decarbonise; they open massive economic opportunities to secure a generation of well-paid green jobs.

Scotland’s renewables sector is not confined to supporting domestic decarbonisation. Hunterston, in my constituency, will host the UK’s first high-voltage direct current factory, which is a fantastic example of the type of project that Scotland needs to attract. The ambition that is shown is immense. Some 2,485 miles of cable will be produced to connect Morocco’s renewable energy-rich region of Guelmim-Oued Noun to the British mainland. That world-first project will generate 11.5GW of zero-carbon electricity from the sun and wind to deliver enough low-cost clean power to the equivalent of more than 7 million homes, eventually supplying 8 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.

XLCC, which is the company behind the £1.4 billion cable manufacturing facility, is working closely with Scottish Enterprise, North Ayrshire Council, Skills Development Scotland and local schools and colleges to deliver the project in ways that maximise economic benefits for the local area and its people. The first cohort of apprentices has already been recruited and has recently returned from eight weeks’ training in Germany. When it is fully operational, the site will employ up to 900 highly skilled permanent workers, with thousands more jobs created through the supply chain.

With industry projections indicating that subsea cable demand will outstrip supply by two and a half times in 2030, and given that existing manufacturers have supply backlogs of up to nine years, the facility will tackle a crucial bottleneck in global energy decarbonisation.

Scotland’s renewable energy industry already supports more than £10.1 billion of output and more than 42,000 jobs across the economy, as Audrey Nicoll pointed out in her motion. That is substantial but only a fraction of our renewables potential. A 2022 report by economist Dr David Skilling suggested that Scotland could increase its green energy output fivefold, with capacity increasing from 12GW to more than 60GW by 2050. Scotland could become a green energy powerhouse, creating up to 385,000 jobs in the process.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Government is constrained in what it can do to turn potential into reality. Energy policy is reserved, so we cannot change disastrous policies such as transmission network use of system charges, which were brought in by Labour’s Ed Miliband. Those charges uniquely disadvantaged Scottish projects. Scottish Renewables has said that they are

“enormously destructive to Scotland’s offshore wind industry and”


“clearly at odds with everything we need to do to reach net-zero.”

Will the member take an intervention?

Kenneth Gibson

I am in my last 20 or 30 seconds, I am afraid.

Although the Scottish Government can invest and has allocated £500 million for Scotland’s offshore wind supply chain, its borrowing powers are limited. It cannot invest in the sector as the UK and other Governments of independent countries can.

As nations invest billions in green industries, Labour’s 83 per cent cut to the promised £28 billion of annual funding to meet net zero—a figure that was once considered to be the bare minimum necessary—means that there is now a cosy consensus among Westminster parties on leaving green industries to fend for themselves, holding back Scotland’s energy potential.

Scotland has an opportunity to achieve a just transition to net zero that enhances energy security and lowers energy costs for households. To fully realise that, we need all the powers to act—powers that can be secured only through independence.


Alexander Burnett (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)

I, too, thank Audrey Nicoll for bringing the motion to the chamber for debate.

The energy sector supports hundreds of thousands of livelihoods in the north-east and is vital to Scotland and the UK economy. We all hope that renewables will boost our energy security and recognise the opportunities for those who work in the oil and gas sector. However, the current strategy disregards the views of people in rural communities, who feel neglected by the SNP-Green Government.

When talking about the economic impact, people have so far pointed only to the positives and failed to take into account the many negative costs that can arise. What is worse is that the £750 million of ScotWind revenue has already been blown plugging the SNP’s tax-and-axe budget.

I want to voice the concerns of those who are living through the demolition of their communities and countryside. Aberdeenshire’s ever-growing list of infrastructure projects now includes 26 giant turbines in Glendye, 16 on the Hill of Fare—those would be among the tallest in the UK, at up to 200m, if they proceed against the wishes of more than 1,100 people in the community who have objected—and more than 150 turbines making up the ring of steel in the Cabrach.

I note my entry in the register of members’ interests. The two 12kW farm turbines, which were built a decade ago, are some 45,000 times smaller than those of the Cabrach.

Other related infrastructure projects, including pylon developments, are wiping out the countryside. The ESO “Beyond 2030: A national blueprint for a decarbonised electricity system in Great Britain” report outlines a north-to-south electrical spine that will turn the north-east into a power distribution corridor.

Last year, the National Grid paid a record £275 million in constraint payments to Scottish wind farms. That is a slap in the face to constituents who are struggling with high energy bills and the blight of turbines and pylons for which we have to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to turn the power off.

Scotland is already at capacity, so how can the Government justify those developments despite community objections? The benefit that communities receive is minuscule compared with the income that is generated for developers.

More than a million visitors come to Aberdeenshire each year to enjoy the scenery and historic sites. Infrastructure of the scale that is proposed for Aberdeenshire will scar the landscape. We need look no further than the Cabrach, with new evidence having found that Craig Dorney fort, which is one of the few intact Pictish sites remaining in Scotland, is a site of national importance. However, Historic Environment Scotland has abdicated responsibility and will not amend the designation because the planning application for the Craig Watch wind farm has started—what a disgraceful response from a statutory consultee.

I have heard from constituents whose homes have been devalued by more than 10 per cent. Sales have fallen through. One constituent wrote to me to say:

“We are now basically trapped in a home which is not able to be sold and which will soon be adjacent to our pylons, where we no longer want to live.”

Wind farm developments do not even offer sustainable local employment opportunities. Both the Glendye and Hill of Fare environmental impact assessment reports emphasise the remote operational control of modern wind farms. The Clashindarroch wind farm extension proposes 22 jobs at this stage, but just five locally in Moray. The Hill of Fare project manager, Gavin Shirley, lives in Dumfries, and the project would be managed at the Renewable Energy Systems control centre in Glasgow. Once again, north-east communities have their opposition ignored, while those who benefit do not have to live through the desecration of their community.

The Scottish Government’s target to install 3,400 turbines between now and 2030 will mean a wind farm on every hill and a pylon in every field. Other sources of energy and other distribution routes must be pursued. Communities must be heard, and they should have a statutory voice in the planning process.


Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I warmly thank Audrey Nicoll for bringing to the chamber what is now a regular debate on the success of the Scottish renewables sector.

The growth of the renewables sector is truly remarkable. We are now living through a revolution that would have been unimaginable 30 years ago, and we are still on the very edge of what was thought to be achievable 20 years ago. Despite what Mr Burnett has just outlined to members, that has been done largely with public consent. Public support for onshore wind power remains strong in this country and, of course, developers need to work closely with communities to ensure that that public consent continues.

The analysis from the Fraser of Allander Institute paints a strong picture of progress. However, for me, there is no better way to take the temperature of the renewables sector than at the annual Scottish Renewables green energy awards. I have been going to that gathering for many years, and it felt very different last year. There was a level of confidence that I had not seen before. Some incredible innovation was certainly celebrated, but it was also great to see so many young professionals and young people joining the industry—especially women, who are really driving the change and innovation in the sector.

That confidence is reflected in the recent Scottish Renewables supply chain survey, which showed that 89 per cent of companies now think that renewable energy is the largest economic opportunity for Scotland. Ninety-four per cent of those companies in the supply chain have invested in upskilling, and 83 per cent have recently recruited new employees. It is important that the supply chain is grown here in Scotland as much as possible. The STUC “Mind the Gap” report, which is out today, points to the critical importance of a green industrial strategy to guide that growth and to crowd in investment. I agree with Sarah Boyack that there is a strong role for the public sector in delivering that mission.

I also agree with Maurice Golden that there are exciting opportunities in the supply chain. The repowering of wind farms does not mean having a wind farm on every hill. We can repower some of the existing wind farms—we can even repower Mr Burnett’s wind farm, if he wants, and make it generate many hundred times more capacity than it currently provides to the grid.

There are exciting opportunities for repowering, which we will talk about later at the cross-party group. I say to Maurice Golden that I do not know whether that would require an amendment to the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill, but a sector-wide approach could really deliver the benefits here.

The growth of onshore and offshore wind will be critical to drive the continued electrification of our society, from heating to transport and beyond. I am sure that the minister who will be responding to the debate is well aware of the criticality of renewable electricity generation in decarbonising the heat in our buildings.

There are vulnerabilities, and Sarah Boyack pointed to one of them. We are seeing a real surge in consent applications right now, and that is not being matched by the capacity in the energy consents unit. I understand that 25 per cent of posts in the consents unit are currently vacant and that there are delays with work programmes, such as streamlining the consenting process. I am well aware of the financial pressures that the Government is under and, of course, we have a national shortage of planners, so it is difficult to fix the issue overnight. However, I urge the Government to look with some urgency at how we fix the consenting delays. That does not mean short-cutting processes or ignoring communities, but it does mean ensuring that consent delays are brought down.

Last week’s Climate Change Committee report was a huge wake-up call, but the good news coming out of that report is that Scottish renewable electricity generation is on track, which will bring a huge benefit for the future. There is a fresh wave of confidence in the Scottish renewables sector right now, and we should be doubling down on that success. However, it is important that the Government plays its role in facilitating that growth, especially through speedy decision making when it comes to projects that involve communities, and that processes are robust, get the job done and get us to the 2030 target of doubling onshore wind capacity.


Douglas Lumsden (North East Scotland) (Con)

I thank Audrey Nicoll for securing the debate. Renewables technologies play a significant component role in Scotland’s energy mix, contributing towards our work to reach net zero. It is welcome news to hear that the renewables sector in Scotland employs more than 42,000 people in full-time work, with the sector contributing more than £10 billion to our economy. That is a remarkable achievement, and those in the sector should be proud.

However, it is disappointing that the Scottish Government cannot give us a breakdown of where those jobs are being created. That would give us an idea of whether there is a true transition of jobs in the north-east. The jobs that the renewables sector creates and sustains are good jobs. They are skilled and well paid, with the average salary in the industry being around £44,600. Scotland should embrace with open arms the opportunities and benefits that the industry provides. That is recognised the length and breadth of the islands, and that is why, in the spring budget, the chancellor announced £1 billion of funding for the contracts for difference scheme. The scheme has been welcomed by the industry and will support the development of the new energy technologies of the future.

The SNP-Greens like to flaunt their record on climate like it is something to be proud of, but, just last week, the Climate Change Committee’s report showed that it is certainly nothing to flaunt, with targets missed and unobtainable, and a plan for the future nowhere to be seen.

This weekend, we were treated to a spectacular stage show of nationalist fantasy economics, guest starring the self-proclaimed energy-obsessed Gillian Martin, the Minister for Energy, Just Transition and Fair Work. The event was organised by disgraced former Aberdeen SNP councillor Kairin van Sweeden, who the First Minister had to apologise for after Ms Sweeden made racist comments directed at Labour councillor Deena Tissera. During the minister’s performance, she spoke of how she believed that her Government’s just transition would mean that everyone in Scotland would be able to get a job in the energy sector. In fact, she said, we have more jobs than people. It reminded me of when Alex Salmond said that we were going to be the Saudi Arabia of wind.

Mark Ruskell

Leaving the politics aside, there is some benefit to the work that is going on around heat in buildings. For example, Aberdeen Heat and Power shows exactly how we can roll out district heating schemes. Will the member reflect that the Government is doing some really good work on heat in buildings, which was recognised by the UK Climate Change Committee in its report last week? I hope that he can get on board with that and celebrate the success in his region.

Douglas Lumsden

There is success and I know that Aberdeen Heat and Power works well. My point is that the minister has to be honest with people. Coming out with statements like that is just not believable and does a disservice to the whole industry.

When it comes to creating those high-skilled, well-paid jobs, the luddite Scottish Government is depriving our communities of them through its ban on new nuclear. That ridiculous stance demonstrates how out of touch the Government is with the western world and, indeed, the Scottish people. Nuclear is clean, green, reliable and delivers cheap energy to thousands of homes. We need a diverse mix of green energy technology that is capable of meeting our demands as we transition our energy base. The SNP is blocking that.

In refusing to follow the science, the SNP has pursued technologies that will seek the mass industrialisation of the Scottish countryside. In the north-eastern Highlands, our beautiful rural landscapes are now threatened with monstrous pylons due to the Government’s obsession with chasing offshore wind at any cost. Communities across rural Scotland will not stand for that. They will not be made to pay the price for the Government’s prioritisation of the central belt. The rush to offshore wind must not be at any cost to our communities. Many parts of the north of Scotland are, rightly, angry at the scale of the infrastructure planned on their doorstep. They feel neglected and ignored, and that they are paying a disproportionate price for our journey towards net zero. The Scottish Government controls the planning system, and it needs to ensure that the impact to communities is mitigated whenever possible.

Last week, I attended the electricity system operator’s launch of its “Beyond 2030” plan. That will mean even more industrialisation of large chunks of the north-east while the ink is not yet dry on the up to 2030 plan. The plan will set alarm bells ringing for many north-east communities. Those upgrades can take place only if we bring communities with us. We owe it to our constituents to ensure that their voices are heard and that their homes are not collateral damage in our journey to net zero.


The Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights (Patrick Harvie)

I think that most members—perhaps all—began by thanking Audrey Nicoll for bringing the debate to the chamber. We begin most members’ business debates in that way, but, today, that was more than just the usual courtesy, because this topic is critically important to the future of Scotland’s economy, and I think that the majority of members who have spoken in the debate clearly get that and see the positive opportunity for the future.

I am particularly grateful to Audrey Nicoll for securing the debate, and to those other members who have engaged constructively and positively in it. As well as Audrey Nicoll, other members—Sarah Boyack, Kenny Gibson and Mark Ruskell—put the issue into the context of the long-running positive story that Scotland has to tell about the transition not just away from fossil fuels but, assertively and positively, towards a renewable future. As Sarah Boyack reminded us, the scepticism that abounded when initial renewable energy targets were set has been proved to be unjustified. Most of Scotland’s political spectrum has been committed to the long-term, clear signal from the Government that we are serious about the transition to renewables and getting an economic benefit from that.That long-term certainty is why we have been successful, so I hope that Scotland’s political spectrum—or at least most of it—remains fully committed to that positive future for Scotland.

I welcome the findings of the Fraser of Allander Institute report, which shows the thriving renewable energy sector that other members have described. There was more than £10 billion of output in 2021, supporting more than 42,000 jobs. That report and today’s debate are helpful in reminding us of the beneficial impact to Scotland that the transition to net zero is having. It is not only reducing emissions but tangibly benefiting our economy and our communities as we ensure that Scotland seizes the benefits.

On offshore wind, we can see a rapidly developing sector that is already helping to deliver on our ambition to provide a new, stronger and more productive Scottish economy, with a world-class renewables workforce in more than 15,000 jobs. The latest report from the Offshore Wind Industry Council predicts that the number of jobs in the sector across the UK could grow to more than 100,000 by 2030. ScotWind reflects significant market ambition for offshore wind in Scottish waters. It has delivered more than £750 million in revenue to the public purse in initial option fees and the Scottish Government welcomes the commitment of developers to invest an average projection of £1.5 billion per project across the 20 ScotWind offshore wind projects. I hope that we can all agree that offshore wind represents a significant opportunity for jobs, and for Scotland more generally.

Scotland continues also to lead the way with our deployment of onshore wind, which still has significant potential for growth. The Fraser of Allander report estimates that the sector already supports more than 12,000 jobs. Onshore wind is one of the lowest-cost ways of producing electricity, so we are keen to continue working closely with the sector, through the onshore wind sector deal, to realise our ambition of increasing capacity to 20GW by 2030. That will help to create further opportunities and positive impacts across our economy while delivering long-term value for consumers.

In the marine space, Scotland is in a prime position for the development and deployment of tidal stream and wave energy. Scotland is home to almost all of the approximately 10MW of operational tidal stream energy capacity in the UK and more than half the total capacity installed globally. The sector will continue to grow, with projects in Scotland receiving around 30MW of the total 53MW of tidal stream capacity supported in the fifth allocation round of the UK Government’s contract for difference.

The development of the renewable energy sector will also bring wider benefits as a result of investment in supply chains. The announcement of the £24.5 million Sumitomo grant award that has been mentioned already will help to support the first cable factory in Europe, with the potential for hundreds of high-quality green jobs in the Highlands. That will be hugely important as an addition to our supply chains for offshore renewable energy generation and distribution, and it will help to support our move towards net zero. That is an example of the wider economic opportunities that the renewable energy sector can stimulate and is already stimulating, and it is a real demonstration of the public sector working together with industry for the benefit of Scotland’s economy and environment.

Sarah Boyack

On the particular point about the public sector working with the private sector, the minister has not mentioned solar energy yet. Does he accept that there are huge opportunities in solar, both in solar farms, given the new tech that is developing, and in our homes and buildings? Would it not help if we still had a grant to enable individual home owners to put solar on their roofs, and if we also work across our cities and towns to see whether we can do more urban solar developments?

Patrick Harvie

Yes, indeed. As I think that Sarah Boyack knows, we still have grant funding available for the installation of solar. We direct that to support the installation of clean heating, as well, because that is the way to get the maximum decarbonisation benefit. However, as we work on completing the just transition and energy strategy, we will continue to develop work that was announced a few months ago on the development of a solar ambition for Scotland.

I want to mention something about clean heat and energy efficiency, because those are vital to our transition, to meeting our targets and to getting public benefit through community-scale, decentralised ownership and the involvement of the public sector.

This morning, I spoke at the start of the Scottish Enterprise clean heat event in Glasgow, which brought together Scottish companies, investors, consumers and innovators in the sector to make connections and highlight the huge opportunity that has been presented to companies in our supply chain through the transition. That event highlighted the strong foundations that Scotland already has, with people and businesses already engaged in that transition. I am encouraged by the discussions and the connections that are being made in order to enable people to collaborate as we develop our policy and regulation proposals for heat in buildings.

As we move towards net zero and delivering those high-skilled jobs, we are also committed to maximising community benefit from, and ownership of, energy projects. We are encouraging developers to offer community benefits and shared-ownership opportunities to communities as standard on all new renewable energy projects.

Over the years ahead, we must continue to push forward to deliver an energy system that supports net zero by 2045. That will require collaboration with the UK Government. We have consistently urged the UK Government to provide an appropriate market mechanism for hydropower, for example, to ensure that its potential is fully realised and to unlock the substantial private investment that is needed to develop further pumped hydro storage. As we transition to net zero, we also need new flexibility and market arrangements that will support a range of other storage technologies, including at commercial, community and domestic scale. That is critical to ensuring that we maintain security of supply, as well as making the most of our electricity network.

We should all be excited about the potential for our communities, our economy and Scotland more generally as we transition to net zero. The report on which Audrey Nicoll has secured this debate demonstrates the scale of the benefit that we have achieved already and that is yet to be delivered. The Government is determined to continue to support that as it is delivered in the years and decades ahead.

Meeting closed at 18:12.