ScotWind auction accused of selling Scotland's offshore wind 'on the cheap'

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Scottish Ministers have been accused of selling Scotland’s offshore wind potential “on the cheap” despite a £700m windfall from the ScotWind auction.

Nicola Sturgeon was accused of throwing away a fortune by the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The ScotWind auction, which resulted in 25GW – more than double the 10MW initial aim – of offshore wind being taken up by private companies, earned the government £700m after a cap of £100,000 per square kilometre was placed on the bids.

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However, concerns have been raised around the value for money for taxpayers, with critics stating that the profits had been “simply blown offshore”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said an English auction without a cost achieved “four times” as much as the £100k cap in initial deposits alone, stating Crown Estate Scotland and the government “explicitly stopped companies paying a vast amount more”.

He added: “Scotland’s seabed can only be sold once. The sale price matters because it is cash that flows straight to the Scottish Government’s budget for schools and hospitals.

“The Scottish Government has sold these national assets on the cheap. They have thrown away a fortune.

“So can I ask the First Minister, when the auctions south of the border netted four times more, why was she still determined to limit how much companies in Scotland should pay?”

Scotland's offshore wind potential was sold "on the cheap", the Liberal Democrats have said.Scotland's offshore wind potential was sold "on the cheap", the Liberal Democrats have said.
Scotland's offshore wind potential was sold "on the cheap", the Liberal Democrats have said.

Ms Sturgeon said the process used by the Crown Estate was “fully transparent” and said care was needed with comparisons due to differing levels of complexities with the Scottish offering, particularly around water depth.

She added: “That [the £700m] is not the only income from these projects.

"There will be annual rental costs as well and if we do this correctly, which we are determined to do, then there is going to be very very significant economic benefit.

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"This is a massive, massive opportunity for Scotland and one that all of us should be extremely positive about.”

Despite this, up-to-date analysis of the ‘net present value’ of Scotland’s offshore wind – essentially an estimate of its true worth – will stay secret after the Crown Estate refused to release two key reports.

The Crown Estate said this was due to “commercial sensitivities”.

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