A LEAKED Scottish Government internal paper on an independent nation’s energy plans has warned of the need to wean the country off “damaging price-volatile fossil fuels”.
The paper also claimed the public in Scotland are receptive to a marked shift to wind and other renewable power.
The paper – which emerged yesterday, just a day after Alex Salmond published his plans to maximise the “bonus” of oil and gas from the North Sea – declared that Scottish communities were more receptive to wind power than those in England.
It also acknowledged that an over-reliance on oil, gas and coal could lead to potential instability in prices for consumers.
The description in the private paper of fossil fuels in Scotland as “damaging” and “price-volatile” was seized on by opponents last night, who said it proved that an independent Scottish economy, reliant on oil and gas, would be at the mercy of the notoriously volatile oil price.
They claimed it proved ministers had been caught saying one thing in public about the benefits of oil and gas to Scotland, while acknowledging the dangers in private.
However, the SNP government hit back last night, insisting it had always accepted the need to reduce Scotland’s reliance on fossil fuels, and that “record levels of clean energy” was already ensuring a more mixed energy source.
The paper, leaked to the BBC yesterday and marked “Restricted – Draft Scotland’s Energy Future”, is understood to form part of a draft paper to inform an expert commission on energy.
The document confirms that an independent Scotland would like to maintain a UK-wide energy market after independence.
It also declares that it would be “equitable” that subsidies on renewable energy should “continue to be shared among consumers in Scotland and the rest of the UK”.
The key passage on the energy mix states: “Higher levels of public acceptance of renewable energy developments in Scotland, including onshore wind, helps other parts of the UK, where public acceptance is more polarised. The transition to renewable energy reduces our dependence on damaging price-volatile fossil fuels, bringing greater stability in energy prices for consumers.”
The frank description of the dangers of over-reliance on oil and gas comes after another leaked paper, also from finance secretary John Swinney’s department, warned about the volatility of oil prices.
Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman Iain Gray said: “Today’s leaked paper reveals yet again the confusion and chaos at the heart of the SNP’s energy policies. Yesterday oil was booming and a bonus, today it’s a damaging price-volatile fossil fuel.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said last night: “The Scottish Government, whilst welcoming the huge oil and gas reserves remaining in the North Sea, have consistently warned of the need to reduce our domestic energy dependence on fossil fuels and, within the powers available to us, accelerated the development of renewable energy to harness our abundant green power, strengthen our energy security and provide a more stable price structure.”