Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:39 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 4:39 pm, 21st February 2007

First, I congratulate the Scottish National Party on bringing this motion before Parliament today and giving us such an early opportunity to welcome the announcement by Nicol Stephen and the Executive of the £13 million investment in marine renewables, much of the activity of which will be focused on my Orkney constituency.

Of course, the Executive's contribution to renewables does not stop there. I am sorry that Bruce Crawford does not think that the Executive's amendment is ambitious. It refers to the major Blacklaw wind farm; it notes future projects, including the substantial Glen Doe hydro power project; and it mentions off-shore wind developments and biomass energy schemes. It shows the diversity of renewables to which this Executive is committed.

I will say a bit more about marine renewables. With the Pelamis devices from Ocean Power Delivery, we have the opportunity to have the biggest wave power plant in the world. Scotrenewables, a small company in my constituency, is run by Barry Johnston, whom I saw at the weekend. It has exciting proposals for the use of tidal power, and now we have an opportunity for them to be taken forward. Of course, jobs can come from that project, as well as from further investment in the European Marine Energy Centre.

The nationalists can never see a silver lining without looking for a cloud. Richard Lochhead said that this ought to have been done eight years ago. If he looks at where the grants go, many of the activities and developments that are going to take place are linked up to the European Marine Energy Centre. That was not built eight years ago. The nationalists have a cavalier attitude to what they would do. They would just spend the money regardless of whether they were spending it properly. Time and time again they show why they are not a credible party that is fit for serious government.

Yesterday's announcement also pointed to the fact that we are five years ahead and have hit our target of 18 per cent of our energy being generated from renewable sources by 2010. I remember, when I was on the front bench, the targets that we set being laughed at. We were told we could not achieve them. We have achieved that target five years ahead of time. I believe that the next target, of 40 per cent by 2020, will be comfortably achieved—and I am pleased to say that my party, the Liberal Democrats, have set a target of 100 per cent of electricity being generated from renewable sources by 2050. I believe that, with the political will, that can be delivered as well.

Much of the focus of today's debate has been on nuclear power. Allan Wilson set out very clearly the Executive's position of no further investment in new nuclear power stations while the problem of nuclear waste has not been resolved. As he has done consistently in the past, John Home Robertson backed the case for nuclear power and, as ever, the Tories nailed their colours to the nuclear mast.

Several members, including Nora Radcliffe, referred to the Sustainable Development Commission and the fact that its report in March last year came out against nuclear power. It made several arguments about safety issues and decommissioning, and expressed concern about technology being locked into a centralised system of nuclear generation that would damage the investment we want to see being made in renewables.

I conclude by congratulating Maureen Macmillan on an inspired and passionate speech that highlighted, again, a lot of the inconsistencies that are coming from the nationalist benches, and that raised the very important point about transmission. It is all very well being in favour of—or strongly supporting—renewable developments in the Highlands and Islands, but we have to get the electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed. I would welcome any assurances that the minister can give about the steps that are being taken to ensure that the renewable electricity that we can generate can be delivered to the bulk of the population.