Is ScotWind heading for another industrial fiasco? – Brian Wilson

The letter from Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary, about obligations placed upon bidders in the ScotWind round of major offshore projects, sounds suspiciously like the harbinger of another big industrial let-down.

Nicola Sturgeon visits an offshore wind test facility in Aberdeen Bay (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon visits an offshore wind test facility in Aberdeen Bay (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Ms Forbes confirms that “lease awards were not contingent on the content of the Supply Chain Development Statements” – ie, declarations of good intent which accompanied bids. Why on earth not?

She added: "These statements are not only an indication of what Scotland can achieve, they are our expectation of what the winners will deliver for Scotland.”

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Relying on “expectations” when dealing with the cynicism of energy giants – including ones with “Scottish” in the name – is unlikely to prove more effective in the future than the past.

The history of this needs recalling. Scottish licences were awarded after the England and Wales round yielded far more than anticipated due to the potential returns and oil companies pitching in.

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A different approach was taken here with licence fees capped in return for commitments to the supply chain. However, if these cannot be enforced we will end up in a few years’ time with the worst of both worlds – cheap licences and few jobs.

There has to be clarity around what these commitments are worth. The Scottish Government has had rings run round it in the past and the stakes are now far higher, with further rounds of offshore wind likely to be accelerated.

Hopes and “expectations” will not get us very far unless there are binding commitments and, just as critical, investment in infrastructure that makes them capable of being delivered.

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