Greens-washing the SNP will only make their economic case worse – Brian Wilson

Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie should realise the importance of the UK market to Scotland's renewable energy industryNicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie should realise the importance of the UK market to Scotland's renewable energy industry
Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie should realise the importance of the UK market to Scotland's renewable energy industry
In the fantasy world of nationalism, everything strengthens the case for independence so it came as no surprise that Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary, saw the record deficit in this week’s Gers figures as deeply positive for her cause.

“So, yes”, she declared, “there is a strengthened argument for us to grow our economy, and my position is that I can only go so far without the full levers at our control.” This in the same week they coalesced with a party which regards economic growth as the root of all evil.

In truth, neither Ms Forbes nor her colleagues have any clue about how to “grow our economy” other than demand the UK Treasury sends more money. There is no industrial strategy and little business empathy. The problem has not been lack of levers but a dearth of ideas about how to use the many they possess.

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From my perspective, that breaking up the UK is a seriously bad idea, I found this week’s figures reassuring. When need arose, the money was there. The Barnett Formula kicked in even harder than usual and economic impact was limited – though that absence of business empathy will result in deeper damage to some sectors than elsewhere in the country.

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As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out, fiscal transfers are “normal within a fiscal union” so there is no need for apology about the fact we get over £2,000 per head of population more than the UK as a whole. As long as that case rests on need, it is an automatic benefit from being part of the same state.

The problem is with denial which is the specialism of any nationalism which depends on all evidence being distorted to fit the same outcome. If ever the need arises, Scottish voters will again choose the proven reality of “fiscal transfers” against the chimera of “full levers” and their transformational effect. Not a hard choice.

The Green-washing of the SNP is an amusing side-show. After five decades of reliance upon North Sea oil to plead their case, they are formalising a relationship with people who want to close it down tomorrow, requiring even more of the fabled “levers” to give an additional 100,000 Scottish workers decently paid employment.

An energy transition will progress over coming decades for reasons unrelated to Green posturing or Nationalist virtue-signalling. Just as the growth of renewables over the past 20 years was enabled by subsidy from consumers throughout the UK, so too will the transition towards net-zero targets require vast subsidy and a UK-wide market to sell our power into.

It is ironic that while energy transition provides the green fig-leaf for an otherwise non-existent industrial policy, it also offers an excellent example of why dividing a small island into separate states would be self-defeating, not least from an environmental perspective. Scotland needs the UK market and past governments created both infrastructure and trading arrangements to make that feasible.

Any serious Green would recognise that without a market, Scottish renewables would be a dead duck. The same applies to many environmental objectives. Yet the actual rationale for this coalition is to ensure a majority for an over-hyped referendum which isn’t going to happen anyway because they don’t have the power to hold it. Talk about getting one’s green priorities wrong!

In practice, nothing will change because the Scottish Greens have been loyal foot-soldiers for the SNP over the past decade. Every cut to council budgets which have done so much damage to the environments in which people live has been accomplished with their votes. Parking a couple of Green ministerial bicycles is not going to wash that way.

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The one Green MSP who would have made a difference and I would have welcomed in any government because of his work outside Holyrood on land reform was Andy Wightman but he was got rid of because he dared oppose an absurd orthodoxy on transgenderism.

That is a fair guide to Scottish Green priorities and these have absolutely nothing to do with the unused levers of economic and social change.

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