CAMPAIGNERS have accused Westminster of undermining Scotland's efforts to become a world leader in marine renewables by showing a lack of support to the budding industry north of the Border.
The strong waves and tides off the Scottish coast have led experts to believe it could lead the way globally in the development of marine renewables, boosting the economy and creating thousands of jobs.
However, the director of WWF Scotland yesterday called into doubt whether enough financial backing was being given by the UK government.
His views came as the government published its "Low Carbon Transition Plan" white paper outlining how Britain would meet its legally binding climate change target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2020.
Among wide-ranging strategies was a plan to spend millions of pounds supporting the development of marine renewables in the UK.
However, Dr Richard Dixon hit out at a lack of support for Scotland after it was revealed most money would go to the south-west of England, and the Scottish Government accused Westminster of a lack of commitment to developing Scotland's clean energy potential.
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson yesterday launched a Low Carbon Industrial Strategy alongside the white paper, which spelt out plans to turn the south-west of England into a "world centre for wave and tidal energy" and the UK's first "Low Carbon Economic Area".
Dr Dixon said Scotland should instead be the focus for wave and tidal energy.
He accused Westminster of "neglecting the Scottish potential" for "political reasons".
The SNP has long trumpeted ambitions for Scotland to become a world leader in wave and tidal power. The Pentland Firth, off the north coast, has some of the best conditions globally for marine renewable energy.
The European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) in Orkney already attracts companies from all over the world to test prototype devices. Under yesterday's plans, Emec will receive up to 8 million from the UK government.
In contrast, up to 19.5m will be spent in the south-west – 10m developing marine energy business opportunities and skills, and 9.5m on a wave farm off the Cornish coast.
Dr Dixon said: "They really are neglecting the Scottish potential and it's all for political reasons." He added: "To suggest that the south-west of England is the place to do it rather ignores the fact that Scotland is further ahead already.
"I certainly wouldn't want to talk down the value of investing in Cornwall, but actually Scotland has rather better waves and rather better tides, so we should be putting lots of money there."
He said he believed there was a risk that Scotland's ability to reach its wave and tidal potential would be undermined by the lack of support.
He added: "The UK government is not keen on giving any exciting bonuses to Scotland when it's run by the SNP; it's all politically motivated."
A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said the UK government's record on developing Scotland's clean energy potential, whether in offshore renewables or clean coal technology, was "inadequate and lacking in commitment".
He called for energy and environmental powers to be transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Government to make sure the full potential could be championed.
"When it comes to renewables, our primary concern is to develop to the absolute maximum Scotland's huge renewable potential onshore but also the massive offshore potential, too," he said. "It can never be the UK government's priority because of geography, if not politics."
He cited other examples of the UK government's lack of support – including a lack of funding towards a clean coal power station at Peterhead and a transmission charging regime that penalises generators.
However, Gareth Williams, energy spokesman for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said he thought efforts towards marine renewables in the south-west of England and in Orkney could be "complementary".
A UK government spokesman said: "This government is funding marine renewables across the UK, including in Scotland."
Jim Murphy, announcing up to 8m for Emec yesterday, said Scotland had a "pivotal role to play in helping the UK become the first major economy to concert to low carbon living".
Open to the Atlantic, with a big swell
THE south-west of England has a history for innovation in renewable energy technology.
It has been claimed the region leads the world in the development of wave and tidal energy in Europe.
A study into the regions's sea power resources it has some of the best resources in the UK for generating wave and tidal energy.
The north Cornish coast is open to the Atlantic, unimpeded by either Ireland or Wales, and has a big swell where it shelves deeply, making good conditions for wave power.
Storms are less severe than in other areas of the UK, such as Scotland, which has benefits for the installation and maintenance of marine renewables.
Wave Hub – a 42 million wave energy project – is being built off the Cornish coast and is expected to be complete by 2011.
THE ferocious sea in the Pentland Firth – the narrow strait between the mainland and Orkney – is seen as one of the best locations globally for tidal power.
The firth has some of the strongest currents in the world, because of the funnelling of tidal flows through a narrow strait.
This produces fearsome tidal currents of up to 30km an hour, as well as rips and whirlpools.
It has been described as the Saudi Arabia of marine energy by the Scottish Government.
However, it is held back by a lack of grid access, which makes it difficult for renewables firms to transmit electricity across the country.
The European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney provides a facility where marine and tidal companies from all over the world can test prototype devices.
Cutting the emissions footprint step by step
MEASURES to meet the UK's legally binding target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 include:
• Making homes more efficient and using household renewable devices.
• Pay-as-you-save 4 million home energy loans scheme.
• Feed-in tariffs to enable households to get cash back from generating clean electricity using home devices such as solar panels or wind turbines.
RENEWABLES AND LOW CARBON ENERGY:
• 40 per cent of electricity from low carbon sources by 2020 – including renewables, nuclear and clean coal power stations.
• 15 per cent of all energy (electricity, heat and transport) from renewables by 2020.
• A reduction by half in gas imported by 2020.
• Up to 120m towards offshore wind power.
• Up to 60m towards wave and tidal energy.
• 6m to explore areas of potential "hot rocks" to be used for geothermal energy.
• 4m towards advice for manufacturers on competing for low carbon opportunities, including nuclear.
• Up to 6m to develop a "smart grid".
• 14 per cent reduction in emissions from domestic transport over the next decade.
• About 20 per cent emissions cuts from cleaning up travel.
• Average car to emit 40 per cent less carbon by 2020.
• Road and rail transport to be largely carbon free by 2050, and a significant improvements in aviation and shipping.
• More than 1.2 million people in green jobs by 2020.