Scottish independence: New energy department plan

PLANS to create a new energy department for an independent Scotland which will be co-headquartered in Aberdeen and Glasgow have been unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond.

Centres in Glasgow and Aberdeen would come into being after independence. Picture: Jane Barlow
Centres in Glasgow and Aberdeen would come into being after independence. Picture: Jane Barlow

It will have a staff of about 300 across both centres, with the aim of capitalising on the experience of the oil and gas industry in the Granite City and Glasgow’s growing expertise in low carbon engineering.

It comes ahead of a clash of the Scottish and UK cabinets in the north-east of Scotland tomorrow. David Cameron’s Coalition cabinet is meeting in Aberdeen to coincide with publication of energy magnate Sir Ian Wood’s final report on the future of the North Sea oil and gas sector, while the Scottish Government is meeting a few miles down the road in Portlethen.

It has prompted Mr Salmond to step up calls for a face-to-face debate with the Prime Minister while the pair are in such close proximity, but this has been rejected.

The energy industry will be a key sector of the economy in an independent Scotland, according to the SNP. Mr Salmond said: “Independence presents an unrivalled opportunity to boost our energy wealth, support employment and grow our economy.

“A new energy department for Scotland co-headquartered between Aberdeen and Glasgow will capitalise on existing knowledge and expertise; building an effective, efficient and world leading energy industry. These locations connect our two main centres of energy expertise, bringing our academic institutions and industry together.

“Aberdeen is Europe’s oil and gas capital and its importance in the global market is undisputed, making it the natural home for a new energy department. It is also a vital and growing centre for the development of marine energy.

“At the same time, Glasgow is fast becoming the most influential low carbon engineering centre in UK; its proximity to electricity and gas supply industries and the renewables industry is crucial to ensuring we have the right expertise in the right place, especially in relation to the development of offshore wind in Scotland.”

Sir Ian has already called for a new regulator for the North Sea to be created and based in Aberdeen in an interim report.

Mr Cameron’s trip is aimed at highlighting the importance to Scotland’s oil industry of staying in the UK.

The Prime Minister insisted that it was the UK’s “broad shoulders” which supported investment in the key industry, giving a “vital boost” to Scottish communities.

It follows a major speech recently in which the Prime Minister delivered a heartfelt plea for Scotland to remain in the Union, pledging to “fight with all I have to keep us together”.

Mr Cameron said his visit will set out how the UK Government can maximise the benefit of North Sea oil and gas “to the UK economy for decades into the future, giving a vital boost to local communities and families across Scotland.”

He added: “For the past 300 years, Britain has led the way in finding new sources of energy. It is the strength of the UK’s broad-based economy which can make the difference and ensure we can invest in our energy for the long-term future.

“I promise we will continue to use the UK’s broad shoulders to invest in this vital industry so we can attract businesses, create jobs, develop new skills in our young people and ensure we can compete in the global race.”

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the government’s plan for economic recovery is working and branded Mr Salmond a “man without a plan.” He added: “Independence is a hugely risky, dangerous and uncertain step and the time has come for him to start being honest with the people of Scotland about the consequences of leaving the UK family.

“Alex Salmond loves writing letters to the UK government, but Scotland doesn’t need a pen pal, we need answers. Scotland has the best of both worlds as part of the UK, we need to keep it.”