SNP minister urged to 'set the record straight' on wind statistic by SNP MP in leaked letter

Scotland’s energy minister has been told to “set the record straight” on when Scottish Government ministers first became aware they were using an inaccurate wind statistic that was not “properly sourced”.

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Ministers were forced to admit the much-used claim Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind energy potential was incorrect and inaccurate following the publication of a report by the pro-union think-tank These Islands.

When ministers were first made aware of the potential inaccuracy has been subject to fierce scrutiny. The Government has claimed it was first aware on November 8 – the day the report was passed to it by the press.

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However, emails between officials suggest civil servants were aware the figure was not “properly sourced” as early as October 2020. It was first used by the Scottish Government in 2010.

Michael Matheson has been asked to correct the record by SNP MP, Pete WishartMichael Matheson has been asked to correct the record by SNP MP, Pete Wishart
Michael Matheson has been asked to correct the record by SNP MP, Pete Wishart

At an appearance at the Scottish affairs committee in the House of Commons, Michael Matheson appeared to directly contradict the November date provided by the Government and Lorna Slater, the minister for green skills, in Holyrood.

He said under questioning from Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross that he first became aware of the inaccurate figure “back in September”.

The slip has led to SNP chair of the committee, Pete Wishart, writing to Mr Matheson urging him to correct the record.

In a leaked letter, obtained by The Scotsman, Mr Wishart calls on the SNP minister and party colleague to “set the record straight” due to the lack of an “accurate public account of who knew what and when”.

The letter states: “During the session, you were asked by Douglas Ross MP about the use of the inaccurate figure that Scotland holds 25 per cent of Europe’s wind energy potential.

“Minister Lorna Slater MSP told MSPs that ministers were informed of the inaccurate statistic on November 8 and you told us in your evidence that you became aware of the inaccuracy ‘back in September’. However, we know that Paul Wheelhouse, who was previously a minister within the department you now serve as Cabinet secretary, was made aware of concerns from civil servants before the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

“Despite our questions, and several points of order being raised in the Scottish Parliament, I am concerned that there is still no accurate public account of who knew what and when. I would be grateful for clarification by way of a response to this letter as soon as possible. I’m sure you will agree it is important to set the record straight.”

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Government officials state it is not possible to correct the record around the statistic due to there not being a replacement figure available, stating work is ongoing to calculate a fresh estimate.

Since ministers admitted the figure was inaccurate, it has emerged civil servants working for the First Minister’s policy unit were advised of its shortcomings months before the public admission.

Mr Matheson’s name was also redacted from an email discussing the inaccuracy of the figure.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers became aware of the report by These Islands on November 8. We are now working to produce an updated figure for Scotland’s offshore wind potential, which will be published in due course.”

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