SNP's constant claims of persecution are turning Scotland into 'boy who cried wolf' – Brian Wilson

In this week’s statement about the UK’s net-zero strategy, Boris Johnson said that by 2030, it should be supporting 440,000 jobs.

Sounds a lot but proportionately it would mean 40,000 in Scotland, which is not enough.

It must be Scotland’s ambition not only to maximise our immediate share but to replace all the jobs which will be lost as the North Sea phases out, which will fortunately not be as soon as some wish.

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It is a huge challenge. As we know from bitter experience, talking about a “second industrial revolution” is one thing. Delivering it is another and Scotland’s record in turning energy transition into economic benefit is lamentable.

Largely unnoticed, however, some English regions have been going about their business. Partnerships between public and private sectors; political consensus; infrastructure to support major offshore wind developments; inward investment secured…

The question of why Scotland has achieved so little of this is worthy of a book, not a column. However, it is an essential starting point to recognise we are not leading the energy transition but catching up. We have far more wind turbines than anywhere else but none of them were made here.

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Ian Blackford labels UK Government 'active barrier' over carbon capture decision

There was also an announcement this week about carbon-capture-use-and-storage clusters. Five were proposed and two selected for government support in the first phase. Both are based around areas of heavy industrialisation, one in north-west England and north Wales, the other Teeside and Humber.

Ian Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, claimed the UK government's decision not to include Scotland's Acorn carbon-capture project in the first phase was a 'betrayal' (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

This was disappointing for promoters of north-east Scotland’s Acorn cluster which is well placed to exploit carbon capture. The academic research partnership supporting the Scottish bid pointed out: “Scotland has access to abundant CO2 storage in depleted gas fields, depleted oil fields and saline aquifers… the proposed stores are probably the world's best evaluated sites.”

There is no evidence, however, that the Scottish project was done down for political reasons. If there are five applicants and two lead, then three do not. The government’s position is “to support deployment of four clusters in the 2020s... if Track-2 clusters are deliverable in 2027 then we would anticipate supporting deployment on this timeline”. It hardly sounds terminal.

Sir Ian Wood, who led the Scottish bid, said: “We have previously made clear there is a strong case for five or six clusters to be backed now to encourage collaboration across the UK and to accelerate these efforts. At the very least, I urge the UK government to reconsider their decision and add a third cluster to the Track-1 programme.”

In other words, he is not arguing against other bids but for the addition of one or more at the same time. Within the parameters of what the government said and what Sir Ian Wood said, there is plenty room for constructive negotiation and, crucially, for work to continue with Acorn’s partners which include Exxon and Shell.

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But hearken unto Scotland’s Westminster representatives who, it can safely be assumed, have precisely zero knowledge of the relative merits of the five clusters. The ever-bellicose Mr Blackford cried “betrayal”. Stephen Flynn, who is apparently SNP energy spokesman, detected “a stab in the back”. Alan Brown MP ranted about “a scorched earth policy as we head towards independence”.

Anyone who thinks this rubbish is progressing Scotland’s interests is deluded. We are not victims of political persecution and when we don’t get what we want, then – just like everyone else – we must take stock and continue to argue a rational case, as I have no doubt the Acorn promoters will do.

The grievances flow so thick and fast that Scotland’s political representation is now in “boy who cried wolf” territory so that when there really is a strong case, it is undermined rather than enhanced by the dismal quality of political representation with which we are afflicted.

Incidentally, I see the old ICI site at Ardeer has been shortlisted by the UK Atomic Energy Authority for a prototype nuclear fusion plant which could bring 1,000 jobs. It’s a technology crucial to net-zero targets and let’s hope that, this time, all true friends of the Earth will join me in wishing Ayrshire well.

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