Fergus Ewing: We need more power to make the most of our resources

Investment increases for UK interests in the North Sea should boost the industry this year
Investment increases for UK interests in the North Sea should boost the industry this year
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Scotland is energy rich – from the coal on which our first industrial revolution was based, to oil and gas, to renewables.

Any country with such a precious resource would not only expect to benefit from it, but also to make the decisions over it.

The Scottish Government has a powerful vision of an independent, energy-rich country attracting investment and jobs for a skilled workforce.

Figures published last week from Scottish Renewables show that renewable energy investment in Scotland is set to exceed £1 billion in 2012 alone.

Renewable energy is delivering high-quality jobs and investment, enhancing energy security and will keep bills lower than they would otherwise be. We firmly believe that this vision can be better realised by having the policy levers – both everyday and strategic – over our vital energy resources.

Look at the decisions made by the Chancellor and his Treasury, based in London, in March 2011. Without warning, his decision to raise a windfall tax of £10 billion put North Sea investment at risk.

Amid some of the worst economic conditions ever known, the Chancellor invited doubt to be cast on a sector that employs more than 200,000 people in Scotland alone, and many more across the UK.

We welcome the support for renewables from the UK government, but the CBI has called the UK government’s energy policy a “gnarly mess”, and there is an increasing focus on unconventional gas and on nuclear.

The Scottish Government’s target of meeting 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from a broad energy mix attracts support from across the political spectrum.

The renewable energy industry will tell you our clear commitment in setting such a target, coupled to the tremendous resources on offer makes Scotland a preferred destination for investment. Only last month, Areva announced 750 jobs will come to Scotland as part of a new manufacturing base in Leith.

Imagine what more could be done if decision making was closer to these very real opportunities in Scotland.

• Fergus Ewing, minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, is taking part in Energy Policy in an Independent Scotland, today. www.scotsmanconferences.com