Environment

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:18 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:18 pm, 21st February 2007

The Scottish National Party seems to be committed to renewables only until the going gets tough and its members think that they might lose a vote or two. For example, the SNP has completely sold the pass on wind farm development. It initially called for an upgrade of the Beauly to Denny power line, but now, since the matter has become contentious, it has sold the pass on that, too. Richard Lochhead used the word "cowardly." That is a word to be applied to the Scottish National Party.

I want to make my commitment to renewable energy perfectly clear. I believe in the well tested technology of onshore wind power, which SNP members do not mention any more. Richard Lochhead did not mention it in his speech; he mentioned offshore wind power, but not onshore wind power. The 40-plus-turbine wind power station at Farr was opened a few months ago, but not one SNP Highland member attended, not even the constituency member. Does that show that the SNP is committed to renewable energy? I do not think so.

I believe in wind power, and I believe in large commercial wind farms that are appropriately sited. I also believe in community wind farms, both large and small, which will provide energy and an income for villages, townships, housing schemes or islands. The island of Gigha is a good example, and it is unfortunate that hysteria has prevented some other communities from following suit. I know that the wind does not always blow, but it blows in Scotland more than in most places, and we can invest in other renewables to fill the gap.

I do not think that we will need a new generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland. Yesterday, the Deputy First Minister made the most significant announcement on investment in marine energy research and the development of a commercial wave power farm west of Orkney. Richard Lochhead described that as "a step", but I am sure that it is the start of an enormous bonanza for Scotland, not just in producing energy but in manufacturing the devices that will harness the waves and tides and exporting those and our expertise worldwide.

Wind and wave power have particular application in the Highlands and Islands, but if we are to be the powerhouse of renewables, we must be able to deliver power to the grid. I would like to hear all SNP members who are in favour of producing renewable energy in the Highlands and Islands say loudly and clearly that they support the necessary upgrading of the grid that will carry that power from Beauly to Denny.