Lorna Slater facing 'serious questions' over whether she misled Holyrood around false wind power statistic

The Scottish Government has not denied a Green minister misled parliament around when ministers first became aware they were using an incorrect offshore wind power statistic.

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It follows the Scottish Government admitting a widely repeated claim that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind energy potential was incorrect and “out of date”, following a report by pro-union think tank, These Islands.

The government said the figure requires updating with work underway to do so, with Lorna Slater, minister for green skills, circular economy, and biodiversity, telling MSPs on Tuesday ministers only became aware the figure was wrong last week.

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However, Ms Slater has faced accusations she misled parliament after she was specifically asked by Scottish Tory net zero spokesperson, Liam Kerr, when ministers were first made aware the figure “had not been properly sourced”. In her answer, she said: “Ministers became aware of the issue on Tuesday 8 November ahead of the publication of the report by These Islands.”

However, emails from freedom of information requests suggest that former energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, and business minister Ivan McKee, may have been aware the figures were wrong in October 2020.

Mr Wheelhouse, who is no longer an MSP, was the initial recipient of an email chain in which the figure was highlighted as having “never...been properly sourced”. This email chain was part of work ahead of a speech made by the former minister on offshore investment opportunities for Japan on October 15, 2020.

The same email chain also highlighted the 25 per cent figure as being “very difficult to source” after it was initially included in the speech.

The Scottish Government did not deny that Ms Slater misled parliament, instead stating ministers “became aware of the report” on November 8, a shift in position from the issue first being raised on that day.

Lorna Slater is facing accusations she misled the Scottish Parliament.Lorna Slater is facing accusations she misled the Scottish Parliament.
Lorna Slater is facing accusations she misled the Scottish Parliament.

Liam Kerr said the emails showed that ministers were aware of the inaccuracy of the claim prior to November 8. He said: “This raises serious questions over what Lorna Slater said in Parliament earlier this week and whether she misled fellow members and the wider public. It is abundantly clear from this correspondence that ministers were previously aware of the inaccuracy of these claims long before they were debunked by These Islands.

“Scottish ministers repeatedly peddled this claim and were all too keen to use dodgy data despite knowing it would never stand up under scrutiny. Lorna Slater must urgently explain whether she was aware of this previous correspondence before addressing Parliament and if she was, why she failed to mention it.”

The statistic has been a favourite of the SNP and the Scottish Government, being used by constitution secretary Angus Robertson, Westminster leader Ian Blackford, and deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald days prior to its debunking. Ronnie Cowan, SNP MP for Inverclyde, was accused of “doubling down” on the issue in the House of Commons after he said he stood by the use of the figure.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat climate spokesperson, Liam McArthur, said the SNP seem “incapable of owning up and apologising”. He added: “The SNP Government cooked the books. It does the renewables sector no favours because misleading and misrepresentation undermine the industry’s endeavour.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "As Ms Slater said in the Chamber, Ministers became aware of the report by These Islands on 8 November. In relation to the Freedom of Information requests associated with this report, we recognise that there was correspondence between officials about the use of the statistic in late 2020, and we are now undertaking a further examination of our records, alongside work to provide an updated estimate.”

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