Wind Farms

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Minister. The development of wind farms in Scotland is a devolved responsibility.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

However, energy policy is a national and UK responsibility, and how can the Government have a energy policy whose sole commitment to renewable energy seems to be its obsession with wind farms? Does the hon. Lady think that with masses of onshore wind farms, Scotland will be a more attractive or a less attractive place to live?

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

I hate to correct the hon. Lady—no, I love to correct her: her interpretation of the development of renewable energy in Scotland is misleading. Everyone recognises the fact that wind farms are intermediate technology, but they are commercially viable and they are available at the moment. We have a renewables obligation, and until such time as other technologies, such as those that relate to wind, tides and energy crops, come on stream, we must consider how we reduce our emissions and provide clean renewable energy for Scotland. If the hon. Lady needs any reassurance that the greatest creative minds are looking at different ways of doing that, I assure her that—today, in fact—the Environment and Rural Development Committee of the Scottish Parliament is taking evidence from NFU Scotland, which wants dung power to become part of the energy mix in Scotland. In case anyone thinks that that issue is peculiar to Scotland, let me point out that there is already a dung power station in Devon.

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Labour, Dumfries

My hon. Friend is aware from discussions that we have had in the past that the development of wind farms in the areas of most scenic beauty is extremely contentious. Does she agree that we need to consider the development of more wave and tidal power, and that much more needs to be spent on research? I honestly think that we have failed, over 20 or 30 years, by being so dependent on gas and oil for far too long.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

My hon. Friend is correct. There is already significant investment in wave and tidal demonstration projects. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently visited the demonstration project in Islay, and as Mr. Carmichael will verify, a great deal of work is being put into such pilot projects. The Department of Trade and Industry is providing almost £500 million of funding for such research and development demonstrations. We are aware that we must have an energy mix, and we are doing as much as possible to ensure that when the time comes, we will have a renewable energy policy worthy of the name.

Photo of Mr Peter Duncan Mr Peter Duncan Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Local and Devolved Government Affairs

Clearly, the Minister knows that it is important to get the energy mix right. So, too, does the Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Parliament, who said:

"does it make sense, at the very time when climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gases have shot up the political agenda, to be planning the elimination of nuclear power?"

Does the Minister agree with that comment?

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

I think that the Deputy Minister said that there needed to be a mature debate. Most of us in the House—[Interruption.] Perhaps apart from the Conservatives, who want to try to politicise the issue, most of us realise that we must have a mature debate on the energy mix that will take us through the 21st century.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour/Co-operative, Edinburgh North and Leith

One renewable energy project that has received welcome funding from the Department of Trade and Industry is the innovative Pelamis wave project developed by Ocean Power Delivery, which is based in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend examine ways of building on the success of that project to establish a focus for renewable energy in Leith docks, which would allow us to tap into the immense potential for manufacturing jobs in such a growing sector of the economy?

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

I am well aware of the project about which my hon. Friend speaks—perhaps I will discuss the issues with him later. His question encourages us to appreciate not only that we must have renewable energy sources, but that creating such sources will be of benefit to economic development and job numbers in Scotland.