What is the price of keeping Scotland’s lights on if independence is achieved?

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Colin Hamilton highlights the statement by Angus Robertson MP that “IndyRef2 would fail if voters thought they would be poorer once Scotland leaves the UK” and the forecast by George Kerevan MP that “taxpayers face at least five years of austerity in an independent Scotland” (Letters, 12 August).Note that the vision of Mr Kerevan matches that of George Osborne, who in 2010 claimed that the Westminster deficit would be eliminated in one term of the Parliament, yet it seems it will require at least 15 years to achieve his goal.

It would appear that the two MPs have not read the excellent Scotsman article by Scott Macnab in which he outlines the problems, and hence costs, in the struggle to keep the Scottish lights on (3 August). Mr Macnab points out that “an integrated UK energy system could not continue if Scotland left the UK” so consumers north of the Border would no longer have the advantage of 92 per cent of the renewable subsidies being paid by the English. The £10 billion cost of the FIT, RHI, ROC levies and the Constraint Payment bills would have to be met by the Scottish taxpayer.

In addition, the article points out that “ Scotland is on course to be a net importer of electricity from England unless new plant is installed. A prolonged period of winter high pressure would result in an import 
bill of around £9 billion as there would be no gales to spin the wind turbines and no water for the hydro plant. It would be another hit to the pockets of the Scottish taxpayer. Then there is the hit to the business community from the grid split with rUK.The drive detailed in the 2010 SNP manifesto to ensure 100 per cent of demand was generated from renewable sources results in an output cost of up to £150 per MWhour following the loss of inexpensive electricity from Longannet Power Station. That means that high intensive energy users could pay five times more than English competitors who can be supplied from gas turbines at £30 per MWhour. That will be a blow to industries such as steel, paper, cement and rig decommissioning.

There will be a further hit to the Scottish taxpayer if strategies to eliminate the use of gas to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement are included in an IndyRef2 White Paper. Mr Kerevan will be aware that dual fuel customers use seven times more gas than electricity. Hence, using wind power to replace gas will send energy bills soaring as gas is currently four times cheaper than electricity. At present Scotland generates around 50 TWhours of electricity a year but would need to increase that to 400 TWhours to replace gas, requiring around 150,000 MW of wind turbines operating at a 25 per cent load factor providing there is enough land to build such a fleet of turbines. I trust this provides Colin Hamiliton with the costs and tax hikes that were not identified by Angus Robertson or George Kerevan.

Ian Moir

Queen Street, Castle Douglas