Scottish Government accused of selling off lucrative seabed 'for a pittance' as offshore wind farm projects announced

The Scottish Government has been accused of selling off lucrative seabed plots “for a pittance” after the announcement of 17 new offshore wind projects along the nation’s coastline.

The projects, worth nearly £700 million, have been chosen as part of the latest ScotWind leasing round for offshore wind farm sites around Scotland.

The developments, which will span around 5,000 square miles of the seabed, are also expected to bring billions in associated investments and create new green jobs.

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But Alba Party MP Kenny MacAskill attacked the Government as divisions over the proposals deepen, with the former SNP politician calling for annual payments into the public purse instead of a one-off fee at present.

A total of 17 new offshore wind farms with capacity to power more than 18 million homes could be built in a variety of locations around Scotland after the winners of Crown Estate Scotland's latest ScotWind leasing round were announced

He said: “This offshore wind giveaway is selling the family silver cheap while Scots families face crippling energy bills this April. Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

"It looks like the Scottish Government have surrendered vast chunks of the North Sea wind resource for a relative pittance just as Westminster gave away Scotland’s oil in the 1970s.

“Instead of a one-off payment of under £700 million, there should be annual payments. Instead of Scottish resources being just handed over to international investment companies, there should be a public stake in every single field.”

The successful proposals include both fixed-bottom and floating schemes in a variety of locations, mainly off the east coasts, but also in the north and west.

Alba Party Depute Leader Kenny MacAskill MP called for an annual payment and said the amount being paid was 'a pittance'.

If all schemes are built they will together generate 25 gigawatts of renewable electricity – more than double the Scottish Government’s ambitions for 11 gigawatts and enough to power more than 18 million homes.

The proposals also prompted a swift response from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), which cited reduced access to stock-rich grounds and called for “meaningful engagement”.

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SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “It needs to be recognised at the highest levels within the renewables industry and in Scottish Government that catching fish is already a climate-smart industry that produces nutritious, high-protein food with an extremely low carbon footprint.

“It is also an industry that supports many jobs and businesses ashore and is vital to Scotland’s coastal communities.

“In the rush to energy transition it is vital that our industry’s voice is properly heard and that the fleet’s access to Scotland’s productive fishing grounds is protected.”

Ms Macdonald added: “Marine renewables are clearly part of Scotland’s transition to net zero, but so is fishing.

"For this to be a just transition, there must be space for both to succeed.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) also called for a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon after the announcement, seeking assurances over measures to protect seabirds.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the proposals, which she said would be “transformational” and help guarantee a secure future for oil and gas workers as the country moves away from fossil fuels.

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“The scale of opportunity here is truly historic,” she said.

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The Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council has described the leasing round as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity”.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said it was “particularly exciting” that wind farms would be built all round the Scottish coast – from Islay in the west, to Lewis and Orkney and right down the east coast.

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