ScotWind offshore wind farms: Scotland has a 'historic opportunity' but there's real concern we could miss it – Scotsman comment

The auctioning of rights to create wind farms in the seas off the coast of Scotland was met by a chorus of criticism and concern from some.

Nicola Sturgeon visits turbine installation company, Windhoist in Irvine yesterday (Picture: Andy Buchanan/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon visits turbine installation company, Windhoist in Irvine yesterday (Picture: Andy Buchanan/WPA pool/Getty Images)

There was condemnation of the £700 million raised for 17 sites as a “pittance”, with claims that private companies should pay a yearly sum. The fishing industry voiced concerns about the loss of access to significant areas of the seas. And the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds sought assurances from the Scottish government that there would be measures to protect birdlife.

But perhaps the most important comment was made by Nicola Sturgeon, when she said: “The scale of opportunity here is truly historic.”

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The key question is whether or not Scotland will seize that opportunity, transforming our economy and making Scotland a major player in the new industrial revolution taking place all over the world.

The success of Scotland’s oil industry shows what can be done. Large numbers of highly lucrative jobs were created and many firms went on to take a chunk of the global market.

Scotland has a chance to do the same with offshore wind energy, particularly in relation to floating turbines. We have expertise in engineering in hostile marine environments and the raw power of Atlantic winds is there just waiting to be tapped.

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The concern is, as the Scottish Trade Union Congress’s general secretary Roz Foyer pointed out, that Scotland has not been doing well in creating a major domestic renewables industry to date.

“The First Minister says that we have every reason to be optimistic about the number of jobs that can be created, but our skilled workers in oil and gas need more than words, given the experience over the past decade tells us that jobs in offshore wind are consistently offshored overseas,” she said. “... it would be nothing short of economic vandalism if we fail to build a thriving supply chain in Scotland.”

The Scottish government needs to be working hard to make sure it is doing absolutely everything in its power to realise the truly astonishing potential of renewables in Scotland.

If not, then we in Scotland may find ourselves rueing a historic missed opportunity on an epic scale as the wind, and the economic benefits, passes over our heads.

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