SNP ministers admit key claim over wind power is wrong despite 'robotically recycling' it for years

SNP ministers have been forced to admit their claim Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind power potential is false, despite internally conceding two years ago the figure has never been “properly sourced”.

Senior Government figures have been using the claim Scotland is home to 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource potential for years. However, a new report from the pro-union think-tank, These Islands, debunks the figure, with ministers now admitting the figure is false and “requires updating”.

The These Island report claims the real figure is closer to four to 6 per cent, and suggests the Scottish Government attempted to justify the claim with “obviously flawed calculations”.

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The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford repeated the claim in the House of Commons last week during a debate on Scottish independence and the Scottish economy. In fact, the statistic was repeated three times by three different SNP MPs, including their deputy Westminster leader, in that debate.

SNP ministers have been forced to admit their claim Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind power potential is false, despite internally conceding two years ago the figure has never been “properly sourced”.
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It has also been used by constitution secretary, Angus Robertson, and the SNP’s spokesperson on energy, Stephen Flynn, as recently as October. The false claim was also included in the publication of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, published by Kate Forbes in March.

Internally, civil servants have also known the figure has been unreliable. Internal Government correspondence published in the These Islands report includes officials stating in October 2020 the figure had “proved very difficult to source”. One official states the 25 per cent estimate has “never, to my knowledge, been properly sourced”. Another adds in January last year that “we did recycle those figures quite robotically without really checking them”.

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Sam Taylor, who runs These Islands, said the role of the civil service around the repeated use of the figure was “especially concerning”. He said: “Scotland has substantial renewable resources and that’s a very good thing. But hugely exaggerating the size of the potential resource for political purposes is not a good thing, and the role of the Scottish Government civil service in all of this is especially concerning.

"An obviously inflated claim has been allowed to appear in multiple official Scottish Government publications over the last decade, and only difficult questions asked via Freedom of Information have put a stop to that.

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The 100MW Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm, off the north coast of the Scottish mainland, will be the largest of its kind in the world – generating enough renewable electricity to power around 70,000 homes

"But individual SNP politicians and the independence movement in general continue to push the claim. It will be interesting to see if they now start talking about Scotland’s share of Europe’s offshore wind resource in realistic terms.”

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Claiming the figure was correct when first calculated in 2010, a Government spokesperson admitted that it was now wrong and “requires updating”. They said: “Our abundant natural resources, expertise and proven track record in decarbonisation make Scotland perfectly placed to become a global powerhouse of renewable energy.

“ScotWind, the world’s largest floating offshore leasing round, represents a massive step forward in delivering an energy revolution with ambitions to deliver 27.6 Gigawatts of power – nearly triple our renewable energy generation currently in operation.

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“The statistic relating to Scotland having 25 per cent of Europe's offshore wind potential was set out in a 2010 publication and was calculated accurately at the time. We recognise that changes in technology and use of marine space mean that this statistic now requires updating and will be undertaking work to update the figure. However, we are confident that Scotland remains at the forefront of the developing offshore wind industry in Europe.”

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