Swinney pledges to create 16,000 green jobs

JOHN Swinney will pledge to create at least 16,000 'green' jobs in Scotland over the next decade in an attempt to dig the country out of recession and protect the environment.

The Finance Secretary will officially unveil his ambitious target tomorrow, claiming Scotland is on its way to becoming the green energy capital of Europe.

Swinney believes Scotland should seize at least a 10th of the estimated 160,000 renewable energy jobs that will be generated in the UK over the next 10 years.

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He said: "We are in the most difficult economic climate for a generation and need to pursue every possible opportunity we have to create wealth. We are laying the foundations for economic success by investing in a greener deal for Scotland.

"Scotland already generates a fifth of its electricity demand from renewables and we have unrivalled natural resources to go much further, with 25% of Europe's wave and tidal energy potential and abundant wind and forestry resources."

Swinney, who will outline his plans at an RSPB conference at Glasgow Science Centre, added: "The jobs we want to create will be in our rapidly expanding renewables and clean fossil fuel technology industries, alongside energy efficiency and transport jobs – jobs for a sustainable economic future for Scotland."

The green strategy will not include any new Government funding, but Swinney wants to build on the 1bn invested by private sector companies in Scotland over the past six months. The Government expects a further 1bn to be injected by private companies over the next year.

The SNP believes tidal, wave, wind and hydro energy projects are capable of producing 60 gigawatts of renewable electricity – 10 times Scotland's peak demand.

Scottish renewables are producing 3GW. Government targets are to meet 31% of electricity demand from renewable energy sources by 2011, and 50% by 2020.

The Government believes that the potential energy from projects in development will bring Scotland's renewable energy production up to 5.5GW, which would see the 2011 target being met. Last month, the SNP announced that one of the world's largest wave stations is to be constructed off the Isle of Lewis.

Last week the Government took part in discussions with the European Commission about developing the North Sea Supergrid project – a venture that would enable Scotland to export electricity to less energy-rich parts of Europe. The Scottish Government is processing 23 wind farm applications and seven hydro projects.

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The measures were given a cautious welcome by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who said: "The SNP Government has clear opportunities to link the economic and environmental agendas by boosting green jobs."

But Sarah Boyack, Labour's environment spokeswoman, said Swinney's announcement needed to be backed up by action: "We urgently need a green jobs programme, but it needs to be done properly."

Derek Brownlee, the Conservative finance spokesman, said:

"There is an opportunity here, but that is no guarantee that it will actually happen.There are plenty of other nations who are saying the same thing."