Eddie Barnes: An argument between Westminster and Holyrood over green cash is set to be recycled over and over

THE UK's renewables industry was in Glasgow yesterday for its annual bash. While here, the industry has been treated, if that is the right word, to a crash course in the Great Scottish Political Row.

Like all variants of this genre, the row is between Edinburgh and London. And, as usual, it is all about money. In this case, the sum is 190 million. This is the amount of money which, since 2004, has built up from the Fossil Fuel Levy – a tax paid by Scottish power stations for burning fossil fuels which goes to the Scottish administration to spend on green things. It sounds simple. It's not, since the UK Treasury sets a limit on annual spending across the UK. Therefore, while Scottish Ministers were told they could take the levy money, the Treasury also told them, if they did so, their departmental budget would be cut by the same sum, to ensure spending limits were kept. In other words, Peter would be robbed to pay Paul. Consequently, no-one has ever touched it.

Ministers in the previous Scottish Executive grumbled about this but nothing was ever done. Enter Alex Salmond. The intricacies of Treasury spending limits were never the SNP's greatest concern. The fact that 190m of Scottish renewables cash was sitting "in a London bank account" was. So Mr Salmond has banged the drum with gusto. Earlier this year, he allowed the impression to form that David Cameron had agreed for Peter to get the money, with no harm to Paul. But then up popped George Osborne two weeks ago. As if the Fossil Fuel levy deal was not complex enough, the Chancellor proposed the following: unfortunately Paul would still lose out if Alex gave Peter the money.

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But if Peter took the money, George would guarantee that up to 250m would soon head north. From a new Green Investment Bank. Still there?

The upshot is that Mr Salmond has now told Mr Osborne to go swing. Mr Cameron's "respect agenda" is dead, the First Minister declares (in well-timed briefings to the Daily Record). And, in an extraordinary sign of his commitment to the renewables sector, this week he commandeered 70m from Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to do what he hoped the Fossil Fuel Levy would – pay for key construction in Scottish ports to allow them to engineer off-shore wind technology. Mr Salmond's gamble is that this will establish Scotland as one of the world's leading hubs of renewables engineering. But Scottish Enterprise says 223m is required.

So the issue comes back to money. A negotiation between Edinburgh and London is now likely. SNP ministers won't get a cheque marked Fossil Fuel Levy from Mr Osborne. And nor will UK ministers win the debate with promises of money in the future. Will Mr Salmond settle for more concrete proposals on when UK investment is forthcoming, and more cash? With an election just round the corner, this Great Scottish Political Row will run for some time yet.