Leaders: Marine energy park a big step in the right direction
IN THE debate over renewable energy in Scotland, much of the attention has focused on wind farms. Whether they are located on or off shore, they provoke strong feelings, for and against.
Very few people are neutral on the issue, as the most recent clashes between Donald Trump and the Scottish Government over a wind farm off his Menie Estate golf course have demonstrated.
As they are so visible, and so controversial in terms of their impact on our land and sea, it is understandable that turbines have come to be seen as central to the arguments over whether we can generate more of our electricity from renewable sources. However, in doing so we may have neglected another part of the industry which could, in the long term, have a much bigger impact.
In our seas lies a source of unlimited energy. If we can just develop the technology to capture it, tide and waves could be the key to making Scotland, in Alex Salmond’s words, “the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.” Unlike the wind, tidal ebbs and flows are constant. Waves can carry a lot of energy.
Which is why the announcement yesterday that Scotland’s first marine energy park is to be created is timely. The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park will include the already established European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) on Orkney, which tests wave and tidal energy devices with developers from across the world.
And the potential for this park – if that is really the correct word to describe a stretch of the ocean – is staggering. Energy from the sea will, the UK government claims, cut carbon emissions, tackle climate change and could generate 27 gigawatts of electricity by 2050, enough to power about 20 million homes.
However, there is a long way to go before this ambitious target can be achieved. First, there has to be more investment in the development of the technology. The Emec has so far received £30 million in public funds from both the Scottish and the UK governments, a welcome partnership given their disputes over the constitution. But is this enough? With other countries pushing ahead in developing this technology, £30m seems a relatively small sum.
Second, both governments have to work harder building on the infrastructure – cables, to put it simply – which can take the electricity from the remote parts where it is generated to the towns and cities where it is consumed. If we are talking about spending to help stimulate a depressed economy, renewables infrastructure would seem a wise investment.
Developing renewable energy takes cutting-edge research, significant public and private investment and a final crucial ingredient, political will. Yesterday’s announcement is, therefore, extremely welcome. Ministers north and south of the Border must now work together to ensure that the renewables dream becomes a reality.
Nato vote crucial for Salmond
Perhaps scarred by the experience of being expelled as a radical young left-winger, or still haunted by the division between fundamentalists and gradualists which used to wrack his party, Alex Salmond has tended to avoid confrontation with the Nationalist rank and file.
Difficult decisions – the abandonment of the pledge to hold a referendum on the Monarchy for example – have simply been announced by the leadership.
Until now this tactic has worked. Changes which Mr Salmond and his Scottish government have thought desirable to further the cause of Scottish sovereignty have been made ex-cathedra. So far there has been very little hostile reaction from the Nationalist body politic.
That is not going to be the case with the party conference debate on changing the SNP’s long-standing opposition to membership of Nato as a military alliance that relies on nuclear weapons.
As we report today, opposition to this change is beginning to build, with Nationalist trades unionists, and at least one MSP, planning their tactics to ensure the old policy is retained. In democratic terms it is right the party discusses this issue. However, it is a fact that voters do not like dis-united parties. This debate, with passionately held views on either side, will bring the SNP divisions into the open.
Whichever way the decision goes – and we believe membership of Nato makes sense for an independent Scotland – a public schism will not help the Nationalist’s ultimate aim of securing independence. Unless Mr Salmond makes the vote a matter of confidence in his leadership. That would be a high risk, high gain position. It is a risk Mr Salmond should take.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West