Renewable Energy

– in the Scottish Parliament at 10:18 am on 28th October 2010.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 10:18 am, 28th October 2010

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7269, in the name of Liam McArthur, on renewable energy.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat 10:24 am, 28th October 2010

Even before the debate gets under way, it has proved to be illuminating. Through the amendments that it has attracted and some of the press coverage that we have seen in recent days, the motion has exposed the ludicrous posturing of the Scottish National Party, in particular, and of the Labour Party and the Greens on this important issue.

In his letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth last week, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, set out a way in which an additional £250 million of potential investment could be directed, over the course of the spending review period, at developing Scotland's renewables industry to help us to achieve our ambition to create a world-class renewables powerhouse in this country. For every £1 that is drawn down from the levy surplus to be spent in Scotland on developing renewables, a proportionate level of ring-fenced funding for Scotland will be put into the green investment bank, up to a total of £250 million.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

I have a quick question for Mr McArthur. When would we get access to the money?

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I will come on to that point later, although it would probably be a good deal quicker than would have happened had the United Kingdom Labour Party remained in power after May this year.

The mechanism takes account of future increases in the surplus, and it ensures that fossil fuel levy money will not be neutralised by cuts to the Scottish budget. Let us not forget that the Scottish Government is already spending about £32 million a year on renewable energy initiatives. Unless ministers' plans are to stop that investment and to replace it entirely with fossil fuel levy funding, there is no reason why the funds that have been identified for Scotland through the mechanism will not be drawn down.

Instead of welcoming that genuine offer of a means to unlock the much-needed funds, instead of acknowledging the substantive and rapid progress that has been made by the new coalition Government since the election in May, and instead of committing to work constructively with UK counterparts to ensure that the full benefits are realised for Scotland, the Labour Party, the Greens, and the SNP Government in particular are standing previous promises and positions on their heads in order to attack what is a pragmatic and workable solution that would resolve the impasse and ensure that our renewables industry gains access to vital funds, on which its future depends.

The minister's amendment calls for the immediate placing of the fossil fuel funds under the control of the Scottish Government. That clarion call from the SNP will come as something of a surprise to anyone who was present at the Energy Institute conference in Aberdeen on 22 February 2007. They might have thought that they heard the then plain old Alex Salmond MP proclaim, with customary modesty:

"I am delighted to say that I have secured a commitment from Ofgem that the £50m lying in their accounts from the fossil fuel levy will be released on request to the Scottish Executive".

Not only was that promise not delivered in the SNP Government's first 100 days, as it was claimed it would be, but some 1,253 days later, the now First Minister was still checking his bank statements in vain.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The claim is made that the money is "additional". We cannot get access, without a reduction in our departmental expenditure limit, to the money that is there—the money is transferred to the green investment bank and we get it in three years' time. It is the same money. We are paying for the money that goes in the bank with our money. Where on earth is the additionality?

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

As I have explained, unless the minister was proposing to replace any existing spend on renewables with the fossil fuel levy fund, the funding is additional, by any measure.

Mr Salmond's blustering rant in the Daily Record this morning suggests that, over the course of 24 hours, the sceptical but still relatively pragmatic approach of Mr Swinney to the proposals has been completely overturned by the First Minister. Mr Swinney wants more detail, as did Mr Stevenson, and that is a position that I understand and respect. Mr Salmond, however, wants nothing to do with the proposals—a position that will strike many people in the industry as putting partisan politics above the interests of what is a key sector for growth in the Scottish economy. Perhaps in his speech the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change can shed more light on whether it is the cabinet secretary's position or that of the First Minister that represents the Government's approach. It cannot be both.

In comparison with the First Minister's 1,253 days of fruitless waiting, it took the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change just 153 days to set out how they plan to honour their commitment, in conjunction with the establishment of the widely welcomed green investment bank. More discussion on how that mechanism can work in practice will certainly be needed. I fully accept that, and it appeared that Mr Swinney does, too. A workable basis for the discussions to take place has now been created. Further consideration will be necessary regarding the details and timeframes according to which the green investment bank can fulfil its vital role in taking on the risks that the market is failing to finance, thereby catalysing further private investment in green infrastructure.

That represents decisive action on an issue on which there has been a damaging and seemingly intractable impasse for too long. Given the singular failure of the previous UK Labour Government to address the issue during its time in office, it is somewhat surprising that Labour members now seem to be content to ride on the coat tails of the SNP amendment, demanding that the funds be released immediately to the Scottish Government. Not so long ago, we were told that the funds were caught in a Treasury straitjacket from which Houdini would fail to escape.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I do not have time, I am afraid. Mr Macdonald can explain it in his speech.

I whole-heartedly agree that the green investment bank should be set up as soon as possible, and that it should be located in Scotland. On that point, I sincerely hope that the Scottish Government will now agree to work with the Secretary of State for Scotland, with the parties that are represented in this Parliament and with the wider group of industry and other stakeholders, in making the most compelling possible case for that to happen. I respectfully suggest that achieving that will require the bombast of Mr Salmond to be replaced by a more measured and constructive approach from Scottish ministers. It is a little rich, however, for such demands to be made by a Labour Party that has been content for so long to leave the issue in the "too difficult" box.

As for the Green amendment, it is frankly wrong. Tagged on to the SNP amendment, it departs from the view of environmental non-governmental organisations that the funds should be free from political control.

The potential for the Scottish renewables industry is huge. The worrying recent events in Argyll—the uncertainty surrounding the Skykon facility—provide a timely reminder that achieving that potential is far from inevitable. I hope that the minister will update us on the efforts that he and his colleagues are taking to address the situation at Machrihanish. As Peter Jones suggested in The Times yesterday, the developments illustrate the real problems that are created in an industry by lack of finance. That is why Danny Alexander's proposals for the fossil fuel levy and the establishment of a green investment bank have been widely welcomed.

By the Scottish Government's own calculations, the fossil fuel investment will help to create 4,200 direct and indirect jobs in Scotland. Already, the turbine manufacturers Gamesa and Siemens have announced, on the back of the developments, that they are to set up in the UK. We must ensure that Scotland can attract those and other such facilities. I urge Parliament to support those efforts by developing the proposals that have been made, and I have pleasure in moving the motion in my name.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the commitment of the UK Government to allow the Fossil Fuel Levy surplus to be deployed for its purpose of supporting renewables in Scotland by delivering £250 million of additional funding for Scotland through the green investment bank; recognises that this offer will provide substantial additional resources for Scotland, in excess of the accumulated £180 million Fossil Fuel Levy surplus, and represents significant progress in releasing these funds to Scotland; supports the early establishment of the green investment bank, and calls on the Scottish Government to signal its agreement in principle to this offer and agree to draw down the existing and future surpluses to fund spending on renewables.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 10:31 am, 28th October 2010

Many of us are very grateful to Liam McArthur for raising this subject. The debate gives us the opportunity to hold the UK Government's proposal on the use of the fossil fuel levy up to the light. When we do that, it is impossible not to notice the serious loopholes and fundamental flaws that riddle what is apparently a generous offer.

Mr McArthur has suggested that there is a division between the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. I assure him that there is not. The division on the matter is between the proposals that have now been put forward by Liberal Democrats and their manifesto, which on page 74 speaks about

"a one-off payment in the 2011 budget."

They said that they would

"give control of future revenues to the Scottish Government. This will likely lead to an increase in resources for Scotland of around £250 million in 2011-12."

That offer is very distant from that which is now before us, which would mean having a three-year period during which we are denied access to the money in any meaningful way. It is our money, as a Parliament; it is our money, here in Scotland.

I hope that I can reassure Liam McArthur that we are fully engaged on the Skykon issue. There will be a meeting today involving Scottish Enterprise and Skykon.

If we postpone the money until 2013, it will be utterly irrelevant to the issues that are faced by companies, which have needs today. That is very different from the proposition that is before us. I hope that, by the close of the debate, Liam McArthur will also be able to see that; that is, assuming that he cannot see the flaws already, and is instead choosing to draw a veil over them.

Let me restate the basics of the situation. The fossil fuel levy surplus, which is money that has been raised from renewables projects in Scotland, as funded by Scots consumers, sits at £190 million. Liam McArthur might, of course, wish to amend his motion in that respect. Indeed, in only nine days, he has resiled from a figure of £500 million, which is referred to as being fossil fuel levy money in the Liberals' press release of 20 October.

By statute, the money can be spent only on promoting renewable energy in Scotland. The money simply cannot be drawn down and spent for that purpose, however, unless the Treasury allows it to be added to the Scottish block spending limit—something that it has repeatedly failed to do. I acknowledge that, at the end of his term in office, the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer showed signs of movement on that issue, and we welcome that.

The motion, in common with the UK Government's offer, pivots on the risible proposition around the interpretation of "additional". Let us be absolutely clear: the offer from the UK Government, which has found such uncritical support on the Scottish Liberal Democrat benches, does not change the position of the previous UK Administration by one iota. In effect, the UK Government is saying that if we draw down our fossil fuel levy money and use it for our planned renewables expenditure during the next few years, it will use its corresponding savings—from reducing the Scottish block accordingly—to add to the green investment bank, which is not directly under the control of the Scottish ministers or the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

How does the minister explain the enormous gulf in tone between what his Government is saying and what all the Scottish business organisations and Scottish Renewables are saying about the announcement?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Gavin Brown should be very careful in ascribing to business and Scottish Renewables support for the proposition that is before the Parliament. It is clear that there is significant concern about the timing of access to the money. We should have access to the money right now. By 2013, many of the key opportunities for the renewables industry in Scotland will have passed us by. That is key—

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

There is a debate for members of Gavin Brown's party to have and I hope that they will address the issues.

We might see funds in three or four years' time. That does not help us with our immediate needs and opportunities. The green investment bank will fall far short of the minimum of £4 billion to £6 billion that is demanded by the renewables industry, which would have been expected already to have delivered major investments and benefits for Scotland's renewable and low-carbon sector.

It is absolutely unclear to me why anyone who is outside Liam McArthur's narrow circle should find the offer welcome. It is also hard for me to reconcile the member's enthusiastic welcome for an offer that takes money away from the Scottish Parliament and the renewables sector with the aim that the Scottish Liberal Democrats set out in their manifesto this year, which was that the release of the money would

"lead to an increase in resources for Scotland of around £250 million in 2011-12."

That is the commitment to which Liam McArthur signed up, but how it has changed since his colleagues took their places in the new UK Government. It has unravelled, to the extent that Liam McArthur's motion hails as generous an offer that takes vital resources away from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament and away from the needs of the renewables industry.

The offer that is before us is not in Scotland's interests. We have expressed serious reservations and we asked for urgent clarification on vital aspects, but our questions have not yet been answered. The offer is a chimera; it is a conjuring trick, it is a con and it is a sleight of hand, which takes money that was raised in Scotland and locks it away to meet an existing UK Government commitment at some unspecified, but probably distant, future point. Rather than welcome such an offer, we, along with others who share our interest in the matter, will continue to fight for Scotland's interests.

I move amendment S3M-7269.1, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"notes Scotland's massive renewable energy resources and the opportunities to turn Scotland into Europe's clean green energy powerhouse; notes the UK Government's proposals that would result in Scotland's Fossil Fuel Levy fund helping to form part of a wider UK green investment bank fund that is due to be established in 2013-14; notes the lack of detail underlying that commitment and the risk that this could delay vital funding for the renewables sector in Scotland for several years, and calls urgently on the UK Government to release these funds and place them in the control of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament in a way that can be rapidly deployed to support Scotland's renewable energy sector."

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 10:38 am, 28th October 2010

It was Alistair Darling who, as Labour chancellor, announced plans to establish a green investment bank earlier this year, with £2 billion in capital to support initiatives that support a low-carbon economy. The decision of the incoming Westminster Government to follow Labour's lead is welcome, in spite of the 1,000-day delay until 2013-14 in setting up the green investment bank and the reduced funding of only £1 billion.

Alistair Darling also committed Labour at Westminster to a review of the fossil fuel levy, in the context of the comprehensive spending review, while at the same time making available new money to support offshore wind power, because he recognised that now is the right time to consider every available means of boosting investment in the renewable energy sector. We welcome the fact that the UK Government followed that Labour lead, too, when it promised to review the fossil fuel levy in the context of the CSR. Of course, a review of a problem is not the same as a solution. It is a pity that the UK and Scottish Governments chose to hype up the promise of a review as if it represented a whole new chapter in bilateral relations. We can now see how limited the respect agenda has proved to be.

Last year, in its report on determining and delivering on Scotland's energy future, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee called on the Scottish and UK Governments

"to work constructively together to see if a way can be found that will release the funds held by Ofgem in its fossil fuel levy account in a manner which will not impact on the Scottish Consolidated Fund."

Nobody pretended that that would be easy, least of all Labour members, but we were clear that the impact on the Scottish Government's departmental expenditure limit was the key challenge that must be met. However, George Osborne did not directly acknowledge that last week when he laid out his proposals, and nor did Liam McArthur mention the issue in his motion or in his speech: indeed, he avoided any explicit reference to the impact on DEL, which was disappointing.

The chancellor did not say, either, whether the green investment bank would have the freedom to leverage private funds, as Labour planned, or would simply be an agency that would distribute public funds. We know one thing, which is that it will not lend a penny to anyone for another three years.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

For clarification, I say that I made it clear that part of the green investment bank's remit would be the leveraging in of private investment and new investors into the green infrastructure.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

It is just a shame that the design for doing that is not in place and is not intended to be in place for several months to come.

The fossil fuel levy is worth nearly £190 million. It has been gaining in value year on year. In that context, if investment of £250 million after 2013 is intended as a trade-off against taking the value of the levy out of the Scottish Government's budget, that might not be as good an offer as some members would have us believe it is.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I am afraid that I do not have time.

We need to know what the chancellor's proposals mean. We need to know what the consequences will be for Scotland's devolved budget and we need to know what other trade-offs might be involved.

The Secretary of State for Scotland was asked yesterday to support calls from Labour for the green investment bank to be based in Scotland. He failed to take the opportunity to do so. He said:

"The decision on the location of the green investment bank has still to be taken."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 27 October 2010; Vol 517, c 299.]

He said that as if the decision was someone else's. Maybe it is, or perhaps the UK Government's decision on where the bank should be is linked in some way to whether there is agreement on the fossil fuel levy.

The amendment in my name calls for the green investment bank to be set up as soon as possible and for it to be part of Scotland's financial services sector. I hope that our proposal will attract broad support in this lively debate, and I hope that all parties will find it possible to support it.

I move amendment S3M-7269.1.1, to insert at end:

", and believes that the green investment bank should be established as soon as possible and should be based in Edinburgh."

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 10:42 am, 28th October 2010

The tone of Liam McArthur's speech suggested that he is a little disappointed that the rest of us are not cheerleading for the Liberal-Tory Administration but are being a tad critical of it. I can only suggest that he gets used to that, because the amount of criticism that will rightly be due to the Administration during the next few months might upset him further.

In many ways, it is gratifying that the principle of renewable energy becoming an increasingly important—and, we hope, the fundamental—aspect of our energy system has gained traction right across the political spectrum. Once upon a time, not so long ago, only the Greens and a handful of environmentalists were banging the drum for renewables; now the issue is up there in some shape or form on every political party's agenda. That is very much to be welcomed. The down side of that, I suppose, is that any issue that is recognised as important across the political spectrum can turn into a bit of a political football. What is astonishing is the low standard at which political football is currently being played in this country.

It is obvious that there are huge differences between the Green and Tory-Lib Dem approaches to many of the issues that face the country, including issues that impact on renewables. We would not be pursuing a dramatic cuts agenda. We would be imposing a financial transactions tax and we would be returning to progressive income taxation, to secure real investment in priority areas, including renewables. We would be considering the already publicly owned banks, such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, which hugely overshadow the small amount of investment that will be put into the green investment bank, and we would be looking to turn those existing public banks into green investment banks. The Lib Dem way, on the other hand, is to slash spending, not only across the board but particularly on energy efficiency schemes, ditch the party's opposition to nuclear power and offer rhetoric on renewables investment but, objectively, less money to invest.

Let us consider the green investment bank, as Lewis Macdonald did. Previously, it was a £2 billion scheme, but now it is a £1 billion scheme. It is still a drop in the ocean compared to the capital investment that publicly owned banks are putting into other, dirtier forms of energy. There is still no detail on the bank's operation and a great delay in the timing, as the Government amendment notes. We will see not a penny of the money this year or next year, when the public sector and the wider economy need the investment most urgently.

The fossil fuel levy is, objectively, already allocated to Scotland. We should just get it spent. If the rules prevent us from spending it now, we should change them. The two parties in front of me are running the UK Government, like it or not. They have it within their power to change the rules now and allow the fossil fuel levy to be spent immediately. Instead, money is being shuffled around. There are cuts upon cuts on the block grant and sleight of hand. Sleight of hand ought at least to be convincing, but there is no danger of Danny Alexander or Michael Moore being accepted into the Magic Circle on the basis of their performance to date.

The real agenda should be investment, not cuts. We should also be talking about public ownership and community ownership of at least a proportion of our energy generating capacity. I await with interest the Scottish Water bill from the Scottish Government to see what that can do in the way of publicly owned energy generation. An urgent transformation is needed.

We need to ditch oil and coal. Renewable energy does not cut carbon emissions; burning less of the fossil fuels does. Renewable energy will meet our need for energy once we burn less of the fossil fuels but, while the UK Government still commits to projects such as deep-water oil drilling, it will have zero credibility on the transformation of our energy system.

I move amendment S3M-7269.1.2, to insert at end:

"believes that, by cutting the money available to the green investment bank, replacing a small proportion of this cut with money already set aside for investment in Scotland and then further cutting the Scottish block grant if this money is actually spent in Scotland, the UK Government is attempting a transparent act of sleight-of-hand that the Scottish Liberal Democrats should be ashamed to support."

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 10:47 am, 28th October 2010

Many members have missed a fairly simple fact thus far: prior to the general election, moneys had lain in the fossil fuel levy account for year after year and there had been no movement at all until, shortly before the election, the chancellor at the time decided that he might consider the situation. He had not been minded to consider it in any of the years previously but, close to the general election, he was minded to consider it.

In a short space of time post the general election, the position has shifted. The coalition agreement contained a pledge to review the situation as quickly as possible. When Prime Minister David Cameron visited the Scottish Parliament, he had discussions with the Scottish Government and, last week—after a matter of mere months—an announcement was made in the comprehensive spending review.

It is perhaps not the perfect, neat and tidy solution that the Scottish Government wanted, but we must work within the Treasury's rules—the solution is not quite as simple as Mr Patrick Harvie suggested—and the coalition Government has kept its promise. It considered the issue in a very short time and came up with a solution that comes pretty close to the ends for which the Scottish Government initially asked.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

When Gavin Brown was having his cosy chats with David Cameron and George Osborne, did he ask them whether they could release the money somewhat earlier than 2013?

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

Mr Whitton gives me far too much credit in suggesting that I had cosy chats with the Prime Minister and the chancellor, but I will take it as a compliment, as I am sure it was intended.

The announcement was made last week in the CSR. There is a pledge to give details of how the green investment bank will operate in the spring of 2011. It is not a case of simply magicking a bank from nothing; a process must be gone through to set it up.

David Whitton suggests that the bank will not do anything until 2013. I do not know whether anything will happen before that, but there is a pledge to give all the details in the spring of 2011, which is a matter of months away. He may wish to reflect on the fact that, for many years when his party was in power, nothing happened on the issue.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I occasionally speak about my previous experience and do so again now. I was part of the team that set up Sainsbury's Bank in 12 weeks. At the beginning of that period, we did not know the products; at the end of it, we had the first customers. Getting the licence—

Members:

The Scottish Investment Bank!

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Getting the licence took a single week, so why are we waiting until 2013 for a green investment bank?

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

We have a man of magic in the chamber. All I say to Mr Stevenson is, in that case, please get involved in getting the Scottish Investment Bank up and running. If he can really pull rabbits out of hats, perhaps he can get involved in the saltire prize before 2025.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

Let me close, because I have only four minutes.

I am astonished at the Government's negativity, which I contrast with the tone of Scottish Renewables, which asks fair and perfectly reasonable questions such as, "When will we get the detail, how will the money be distributed and on what basis will it be distributed?" It also said:

"The pledge of £250m Green Investment Bank funding ring-fenced for Scotland is welcome".

What a pity that the Scottish Government could not ask those reasonable questions and take a similar tone to Scottish Renewables.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I quote from Scottish Renewables in today's Daily Record :

"The next six"—

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Minister, the member is finished and I did not call your name.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat 10:52 am, 28th October 2010

No doubt the minister has had more jobs than there are members of the Parliament.

There are two matters that we must address. First, Lewis Macdonald was right to remind us that the problem with the fossil fuel levy moneys has proved difficult. However, with respect, the Labour members are on extremely shaky ground because they failed absolutely to advance any prospect of a solution.

The problem is tricky. It concerns the way in which the Scottish consolidated fund interrelates with and is inextricably linked to the Barnett formula, which is inextricably linked to how we organise our monetary policy in the UK.

Before Mr Stevenson takes relief from that by telling us that his so-called normal independent country would be relieved of those obligations, I tell him that he would not be so relieved because he would stick to the pound and, as long as he did that, to those monetary arrangements. He cannot dive out from under the cover of those delicate, intricate and tricky negotiations. It would be much more helpful if, as Gavin Brown suggested, we had simply taken a more positive view.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I say to the minister that standing and waving at me like a traffic policeman is unlikely to induce me to give way.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

On that basis, I am more generously prepared to give way.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

My politeness in not interrupting the flow is obviously agin me.

If the rules would apply to an independent Scotland inside the sterling area, they would also apply to a UK Administration inside the sterling area. Therefore, there would be exactly the same, symmetrical issue with releasing the money by any mechanism from a UK Government. I see no difference.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I am glad that the minister has caught the point, because that is the position. That is the difficulty. It is not an easy matter than can simply be resolved.

The UK Government's proposal is an active proposition. Of course we could consider reforming the Barnett formula and a total reform of the Scottish consolidated fund, but the UK Government has proposed a mechanism that allows the money to be used.

Mr Stevenson kept saying that we are taking money away. Let me remind him that, in the ordinary use of the English language, before someone can have something taken away, they must have it. The Scottish Government does not have the fossil fuel levy or access to it. Therefore, to pretend that everything has been taken away is a preposterous notion that is not supported by the ordinary use of the English language. The position that we all take is that we should have access to that money. We have protested about that for long enough.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

No. Access to the money has been the problem, and the Government in Westminster has made a proposal. I deeply regret that the Government in Holyrood is not engaging with the UK Government on how that money can be delivered most efficiently and effectively.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

I concur with the member that all of us should be encouraged that progress has been made, but will he acknowledge that the key issue in the development of offshore wind in the next three years in Scotland is port infrastructure? Vince Cable has committed £200 million to that and associated purposes, starting from next April. The most pressing issue in our agenda must be securing parallel investment in Scotland, starting not in 2013 but in 2011, on the timetable that was planned by both the previous and the current UK Governments. That is the most pressing issue.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I do not deny that there is a pressing issue there, but Wendy Alexander will have to accept, although I think that she will not agree with me, that the whole profiling of capital and revenue expenditure has to be seriously amended to take account of the financial situation. There must be priorities within that.

In conclusion, the priority is to elevate the importance of both offshore development and port development, which is critical to offshore development. If we are serious about that, we should engage with a positive proposal, not whinge about it. It is regrettable that the other three parties are doing that.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 10:57 am, 28th October 2010

It seems that the mother of Parliaments and Whitehall, with their great might, find it impossible to change Treasury rules in order to release a small amount of money that was raised in Scotland and is urgently required for Scotland. Members who support the Scottish National Party amendment understand that. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament need the £190 million fossil fuel levy now to keep on track renewable energy developments that we have in hand. Hijacking the cash to seed-fund the green investment bank could occur only after 2013, as has been said. That move defies reality and the evidence that has been in front of the eyes of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

The Scottish Government's national renewables infrastructure project calls for harbour and infrastructure investment to be the top priority now, when we are suffering drastic cuts in our coffers. Chris Huhne saw that need with his own eyes on a visit to Caithness and the northern isles earlier this month, and that was underlined by his alacrity in re-announcing a £2 million grant from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's regeneration fund, arising from decommissioning Dounreay, for the Scrabster harbour development package. This week, the Crown Estate announced the new sea bed lease on the inner sound between the Caithness coast and Stroma island in the Pentland Firth. Scrabster harbour is the preferred base of operations of the chosen bidder, Atlantis.

How are harbours to launch tidal and wave machines and offshore windmills and how are firms to get projects kick started to realise our huge marine energy potential? This week, the UK Government announced that £60 million for harbour development would not be available in Scotland. That underlines the fact that there is a disconnect between what is happening in the UK Government and here. Yesterday, Michael Moore had the cheek to say in the House of Commons:

"Scottish Ministers can direct Ofgem to pay an amount from the Scottish fossil fuel levy account to the Scottish Consolidated Fund, which could be used for such projects. If Scottish Ministers do that, they will benefit from our arrangements for the devolution of at least £250 million for Scotland from the green investment bank."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 27 October 2010; Vol 517, c 295.]

How could he keep a straight face? That is smoke and mirrors. Michael Moore pretends that he cares, but refuses to make Scotland's money available when it is urgently needed without a penalty of equal amount to the Scottish block grant. Tell that to the people of Caithness and the enterprising board of Scrabster Harbour Trust, which is trying to facilitate the renewables revolution.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats must answer for the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

No. Chris Huhne snubbed the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee when it was due to meet in public session on 5 October. He also snubbed the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney, all for a union jack-waving tourist visit to Caithness and the northern isles.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I am sorry; I have no time.

There is zero respect for the Scottish Parliament in London and among Liberal Democrat MSPs. In reality, our efforts to promote renewables have been set back by more than three years. What a record for five months of Liberal Democrats in the UK coalition.

The UK green investment bank, for which I have campaigned from the off, should be set up quickly and should be based in Edinburgh. It should not be funded by looted Scottish fossil fuel levy funds that are needed at this crucial stage to keep the Scottish Government's and the Scottish Parliament's agreed climate change targets and renewable energy delivery on track. That is the position in the Parliament, and Stewart Stevenson's amendment sums it up.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour 11:01 am, 28th October 2010

No one can doubt our massive renewables potential in Scotland in offshore wind and tidal resources and the positive impact that it could have on the Scottish economy by increasing our energy supply and creating tens of thousands of sustainable jobs in constructing turbines, building barges and jackets, and maintaining the operational infrastructure. Speedy access to significant investment in that potential is necessary. Competition is fierce throughout Europe and, indeed, within the UK.

We welcome the fact that the UK Government is going ahead with the Labour plan to create a green investment bank, which Alistair Darling announced in the 2010 budget. However, there is, of course, disappointment about the announcement that it will not be in place until 2013, with the understandable risk that the vital development funding will be delayed for several years. If we take a positive—some would say naive—view that matters will be resolved, the question is how well prepared we are in Scotland to move quickly and wisely on agreed priorities.

The national renewables infrastructure plan was commissioned by the Scottish energy advisory board, chaired by the First Minister, Alex Salmond. That work was heavily influenced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and supported by Scottish Enterprise. The report's task was to identify sites in Scotland that offer the greatest opportunities for development for use as construction sites. A matrix and weighting were applied to a number of sites in the selection process for investment. It is important that little weighting was given to population, skills, capability or the cost of bringing a site to the market. Given the context of today's debate, that is surprising, to say the least.

It is significant that there was a 25 per cent weighting for proximity and geography. That is a little odd, as the east coast site that is up and running is engaged in delivering contracts for the west coast of Ireland on a commercial basis. There are no barriers to competing in that market. Of course, the consequences of that matrix and decision-making process were predictable. The Clyde area, with its population, skill base, deep-water docks and infrastructure, will lose out on the opportunity even to be considered on an equal basis to gain a foothold in the emerging renewables industry and the significant benefits that that would have in an area with higher-than-average unemployment.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

Very briefly, because there is not much time.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I agree with the general thrust of what the member says, but I point out that Hunterston is identified in the infrastructure plan—the investment costs are estimated at £65 million.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

I will come on to that issue, on which I have some specific questions for the minister, to which I hope that he will respond.

Who would have believed that while the country was coming together to ensure that Ministry of Defence contracts from the UK Government resulted in jobs in the shipyards of the Clyde, the Scottish Government was proceeding with plans that would exclude the Clyde from participating in the renewables jobs of the future? The significant potential of the renewables industry is an opportunity for the whole of Scotland, and the Government must ensure that access to that opportunity is not hindered unfairly or weighted against.

Does the minister recognise that although proximity may be a factor, it is not as significant a factor as the infrastructure plan's application of a 25 per cent weighting—to the detriment of the Clyde—would suggest? What will be the implications of this week's sad news from the Machrihanish site, which has suffered another failure, despite receiving significant funding from the Scottish Government, for the west coast cluster?

In his intervention, the minister mentioned investment at Hunterston. Given the tight financial situation, is it not overly ambitious to propose a plan that would require £65 million to develop? The proposal is not viable. Will the minister review the national RIP?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

You should finish now, Mr McNeil.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

Will he ensure that that happens before the RIP is confirmed in the national planning framework?

Photo of Christopher Harvie Christopher Harvie Scottish National Party 11:07 am, 28th October 2010

Sixteen years ago I wrote the only history of North Sea oil that has been written so far, and I view the Government's energy efficiency action plan through those lenses. It represents an excellent step towards a sustainable society, but its very merits tend to remind one of a saying beloved of investment bankers: "This time it's different." The old ghosts still walk. The first of those is social inertia. A travel survey by Stirling Council found that 82 per cent of staff drove to work by car, 1 per cent cycled and 11 per cent walked or ran, which is a third of the number of people who walk or run to work in Copenhagen. Alas, I think that the Stirling Council figures are more representative of Scotland as a whole than those of Holyrood, which are not too bad.

If we look further into the background, we find that funding for environmental research in the UK amounts to £90 million annually, whereas the bill for research on weaponry is £2.5 billion. Secondly, peak oil will soon be on us. The bulls are already talking about oil costing $100 a barrel. Within six years, I think that it will have reached $200 a barrel. We can kiss goodbye to an awful lot of mobility.

Thirdly, climate change is a fact, as the introduction to the action plan implies in the one line in which it quotes Sir Nicholas Stern. We can expect a wetter, windier Scotland and more flooding and landslides—think of the A83 or the Bervie braes and the carbon costs involved. Stopping disasters may be as important as deploying new marine generators. Two years ago, flooding cost the UK £2.7 billion. The tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean five years ago went off the scale—it cost at least 50 times that.

However, there are ways in which we in Scotland, because of our position, can benefit from such appalling setbacks. We can use them to bounce back into providing global solutions. We can expand pump storage, the efficiency of which has increased from 58 to 90 per cent, to store the irregular electricity that is produced by wind, tidal and current power. The hydro schemes that were developed by Tom Johnston and the reservoirs of Scottish Water can help to make Scotland an electric battery for Europe.

Scotland is also well placed to tap the north-east passage through the melting Arctic ice sheet, which lops 7,000km off the journey from the far east. Germany, Belgium and Holland either have densely trafficked seas or not much sea at all. Orkney and Shetland can be the new break-bulk ports. We have perhaps a quarter of Europe's usable marine power resources, the research on which is only beginning. It is as if we have reached the stage of the steam engine in 1760, before James Watt came along.

Our disadvantages are the lack of appropriate authority, the lack of revenue streams and, above all, the lack of trained labour. That is our most immediate need. In world war one, the Clyde fitter beat the Kaiser as much as the soldier did, but that debt went unpaid and Thatcher, in Sir Alastair Morton's words, blew the oil money on the dole. We have only a fifth of the trained personnel who are available to German industry. We need a major, well-funded technical training initiative, and we need assistance from Europe, from companies such as Sweden's Vattenfall, Germany's Voith or Norway's Statoil. We need an efficient, single-door gateway—a Statoil for renewables—and we need it now.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 11:11 am, 28th October 2010

I welcome the debate and thank Liam McArthur for using Liberal Democrat time to enable us to highlight the parts of the renewable energy agenda on which there is cross-party agreement. It is important that we continue to push ahead.

Liam McArthur was right to highlight the partisanship that has been the hallmark of Alex Salmond's time in office. We need to be able to work together. Independence is a complete distraction, which diverts us from focusing on how we can push ahead. Not all speakers have agreed with each other, but they have agreed on the need to keep pushing ahead on renewables and that a constructive approach is required.

The key issue is how we can use our political weight to ensure that the green investment bank is set up as quickly as possible and that it is based in Edinburgh. If we are to get the maximum benefit from it, those two issues must be pursued. We need clarity, and I hope that the Liberals will support our amendment, the intention of which is to maximise support across the chamber. There is a strong case for the green investment bank to be established as soon as possible and in Edinburgh. As Wendy Alexander said, we need the ports investment now, not in five years' time.

We also need the detail. I say to my Conservative and Lib Dem colleagues that we have got as far as we have done on the green investment bank thanks to the years of toiling in the undergrowth of the Treasury by Labour ministers to ensure that the detailed arguments would be put forward effectively. We expect the coalition to continue that work. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems are in the driving seat now, so we look to them to push that case. We will do our job by pushing hard and being constructive in Parliament, but we need clarity. Hard work must continue to be done on the detail, because we cannot afford to have a hiatus in investment in renewables.

Last month, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce hosted a fantastic renewables conference that brought together people across the investment wing and people in the renewables industry to talk about how we can move forward now. We all know that we have fantastic opportunities. We have moved on from having a modest proportion of energy generation from renewables to a position in which more than 30 per cent of it comes from renewables.

The big challenge is how we can crack marine renewables over the next decade. That does not mean doing so in a decade's time; it means doing that work now, next year and the year after that. Infrastructure is important. We need the expertise to be used properly. That is why the siting of the green investment bank in Edinburgh represents an opportunity. Leading investors are based in Edinburgh, and Scottish and Southern Energy and Scottish Power operate here. The major fund companies, both in private equity and venture capital, are located in Edinburgh. Collaborative research and funding involving our higher education institutions in Edinburgh and Glasgow is already in place, and our experience of work between the public and private sectors is mature. That is why the green investment bank could work extremely well in Scotland. It is not a question of bringing hundreds of new investment jobs to Edinburgh; it is about using the jobs that we have and having a key number of well qualified people who are experienced at operating at a high level who can take the process forward. We need to be able to work with investment at UK level, but there is a major opportunity for us in Edinburgh.

As Ron Hewitt, the head of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce said,

"we have this huge asset of renewable energy in wind and waves and a lot of very large fund managers who might be interested in supporting these activities."

We have an opportunity here that could benefit not only Edinburgh but the Clyde area, Fife ports, Nigg and Argyll. There are infrastructure, manufacturing and offshore investment opportunities throughout Scotland. The Parliament's united commitment must be not to let time slip. Let us all vote for the Labour amendment and add our weight to the cross-party campaign.

Mike Crockart, a Lib Dem member of Parliament in Edinburgh, has responded to Mark Lazarowicz MP's initiative to pull us together to discuss the issue. I support Mike Crockart's early day motion at Westminster. Let us vote for the Labour amendment here. We can disagree on the detail, but the key issue is whether we work together to keep the momentum going. The people who are now in Government down south need to work with us here in Scotland. Let us all pull together and deliver the right message today.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to the wind-up speeches.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 11:15 am, 28th October 2010

At one point in Stewart Stevenson's speech, he seemed to be quoting from something described as the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Perhaps he did not get the memo from the ministry of truth that there never was such a document. All the same, he properly expressed concern over the timing and scale of investment from the UK Government.

On scale, we have been reminded that between £4 billion and £6 billion is required. That is the estimate of the industry and it is an estimate that I would endorse. Only a fraction of the cut from £2 billion to £1 billion in the green investment bank is replaced by the fossil fuel levy. We need to recognise that objectively, whichever way we cut the deck of cards, the investment going in is a reduction on what we had been led to expect.

Gavin Brown said that the fossil fuel levy money has lain dormant in an account year after year. Sadly, it will continue to do so. That is an issue of urgency. Several members have talked about the reasons why renewable energy is an urgent area for investment and why we will not exploit the opportunities that exist unless we get the investment in place now. Wendy Alexander and Duncan McNeil made points along those lines. Wendy Alexander talked about the importance of port infrastructure and, in particular, why investment in that area is so urgent. We will miss out on the opportunities offered by marine renewables unless we get that investment in place soon.

Duncan McNeil made some hugely important points and reminded us of the need to ensure that all of Scotland can benefit from opportunities in renewables. Renewable energy could be a renewable economy opportunity, particularly in the west of Scotland. Jobs on the Clyde and elsewhere could be genuinely sustainable, rather than the economy limping from one military contract to another, going through an eternal cycle of threat and reprieve.

My amendment introduces the phrase "sleight-of-hand". That mood seems to have caught on. Even Gavin Brown joined in when he described Stewart Stevenson as "a man of magic". I am not sure that I would go that far. However, other members have used terms such as "conjuring trick", "con" and "smoke and mirrors" to describe the actions of the UK Government. Sleight of hand often works by distracting the eye. We can all be pretty confident that the Lib Dem-Tory attempt to distract us all from the fact that their agenda is monumentally one of vicious cuts will fail completely over the coming months.

On the wider debate, we should be asking ourselves what renewable energy is for. Some regard it merely as a great new industry from which jobs and gross domestic product can come. It is, but it is much more than that. It is about transforming our energy system, such that we are helped to meet our carbon emission targets. However, wind turbines going round or renewable energy devices operating in the sea—whatever they end up looking like—will not in themselves cut carbon. What they will do, in that tired old phrase, is to help to keep the lights on.

If we saw the renewable energy opportunity as part of the transformation of our energy system, we would be talking about real investment, including, as Chris Harvie mentioned, public sector investment and community-owned infrastructure. We would be talking about the huge amount of money that will be made in the sector and saying, "Let's keep some of that for the common good, not just for the private sector." It would be accompanied by investment in demand reduction, decentralisation and disinvestment in coal, oil, tar sands and nuclear—the dead-end technologies of the past.

I urge members to support all the amendments.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative 11:20 am, 28th October 2010

Who would have thought that we would live to see the day? Before us this morning is an unequivocal and wholesome tribute from Scottish Liberal Democrats to the Westminster Government led by the heirs of Disraeli, Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. My colleagues and I here in Scotland, in the Scottish Parliament, will be supporting this inaugural and tangible motion of acknowledgement by our great new friends and colleagues. It draws attention directly to the fruits arising from David Cameron's visit to the Scottish Parliament, almost within hours of becoming Prime Minister, with the then Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland. I say "then"—we wait several lifetimes and wonder at the spectacle of just one Liberal Democrat Secretary of State, when, like buses, along comes a second almost without drawing breath.

While I have no trouble welcoming the motion, how uncharacteristically churlish is the minister's amendment? Normally a man noted for being of such generous heart and spirit—a man dripping in consensual pragmatism—that he, of all ministers, should surprise us by devouring a whole bag of soor plums ahead of the debate is a disappointment beyond appropriate expression. His bed will not be an easy place for him to rest tonight, bedevilled as he will be by his conscience, and troubled as he will be at this small-minded commentary in the face of a considerable success: the agreement of Her Majesty's Government to the surplus in the fossil fuel levy being, in the words of the Liberal Democrat motion,

"deployed for its purpose of supporting renewables in Scotland".

The only virtue of the minister's amendment—this was canny of him—was to put down a marker to his own First Minister. The text of the motion does not spell it out, but it is true that those funds are for the development of renewable energy. The minister was no doubt alarmed—spooked even, given the season—that the sophistry of his boss might mean that the meaning of "renewables" could be extended to include renewable policies, and that the money could be diverted to renew a national conversation, the failed local income tax or any one of the many abandoned policies of this Administration, now in the winter of its days. Therefore, I commend him at least for slapping down firmly the craven ambitions of his colleagues, putting them in their place and making it clear that he is completely in tune with the Westminster Government's intention that the surplus should be used to develop renewable energy opportunities in Scotland. I see Mr Neil bursting to intervene.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Does the member agree that the fossil fuel levy would be far more valuable if the same amount of money did not have to be deducted from another budget if we take it up?

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

It is a shame that Mr Neil was not here to hear the excellent contribution from my colleague Gavin Brown. As he said, this is not a perfect neat and tidy solution. However, it is progress, and it is far faster than any progress on the saltire prize, the Scottish Investment Bank, the Scottish Futures Trust and even the great future that we are now told to expect for Scottish Water, about which I expect we will hear very little between now and next May. This from the minister who told us that he personally was responsible for getting Sainsbury's Bank up and running within 12 days, when I have a firm recollection that it was in fact Delia Smith who cooked up that recipe.

I commend to the minister Ross Finnie's contribution. Mr Finnie dealt directly with the issue of immediacy. I commend, too, Liam McArthur for the way in which he dealt with the various amendments. I greatly enjoyed Lewis Macdonald's contribution—his extolling of the virtues of the death-bed leadership qualities of Alistair Darling was a tour de force in suppressed laughter at his own well-received joke. Labour did nothing yet said plenty, and it was plenty of nothing, plenty late in the day. That said, I am happy to indicate that we will support Mr Macdonald's amendment, if not the substance of the amendment that he seeks to amend.

I have come to the conclusion that, at heart, Patrick Harvie is a kind soul. I keep hoping that at some point he will lodge a motion or an amendment to which I and my colleagues feel we can lend our support, but it just never happens. He is always so angry—his glass is always half empty. He needs to follow current trends in the world's climate and chill.

In essence, the decision tonight will be between those who welcome something that will benefit Scotland and those who do not. The progressives in the chamber will welcome this progress and vote for the motion.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour 11:24 am, 28th October 2010

I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate and to follow Jackson Carlaw. He says that Labour has done nothing but, if I heard him correctly, we have done something: we have persuaded him to support our amendment. It is also kind of him to take time out of his very busy schedule to be with us today—

Members:

Hear, hear!

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

If newspaper reports are to be believed, he might have been expected to be doing something somewhere else.

It is interesting to note the collective heat that the debate has engendered—if members will excuse the pun. There has been enough heat in the debate to power the chamber for some time. It has also been interesting to note the contrast in the relationship between those on the Conservative benches and those on the Liberal Democrat benches between this debate and the previous debate on transitional rates relief. Instead of daggers drawn, they are now all pals together.

Apparently, it has been said elsewhere that at Westminster Lib Dem MPs are acting as not just a human shield for the Tory-led Con-Dem Government but a nuclear shelter. That might not be acceptable in a fossil fuel debate, but the Lib Dems are certainly providing plenty of shelter today, outnumbering the two lonely Tories by four to one.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Following the member's line of thought, how does he explain the Labour Party opposing the SNP in the previous debate but supporting it in this one?

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

As someone who represents a constituency where we have Labour and Tories running the council, I am used to such alliances.

Mr Finnie said that the minister has had more jobs than there are members of the Scottish Parliament. To come to Mr Stevenson's defence, I can safely say that he has certainly had more jobs than there are Liberal Democrat members.

As Mr Carlaw said, we welcome the fact that the Tories are going ahead with Labour's plan for a green investment bank. Whatever he may think, it was announced in March by Alistair Darling, and it is also worth noting that Labour intended to put £2 billion into the bank, not just the £1 billion that is currently proposed. As ever, Labour had more ambition and ideas for the UK than the Conservatives have.

One consequence of the change of Administration at Westminster is that, sadly, Tory and Liberal ministers now make the decisions. As we have heard from Gavin Brown and Liam McArthur, they now have access to the corridors of power, which they did not have before. What good is that doing Scotland? As Lewis Macdonald and Mr Gibson both commented, yesterday at Westminster the current Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, who is fast becoming the Con-Dems' man in Scotland rather than Scotland's man in the Cabinet, refused to support Labour's call for a green investment bank to be established here in Scotland, and more particularly here in Edinburgh. Perhaps Mr Brown can have a word in the ear of Prime Minister Cameron. Who knows? It may be to the Tories' electoral advantage here in Scotland. They can hardly do any worse than they are doing just now.

My colleague Sarah Boyack laid out strong reasons why the green investment bank should be based here in Scotland's capital city, in a country that will also be the centre of the UK's renewables industry. Much was made of how long we will have to wait for the green bank to release funds. I remind the chamber that our own Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee said in its report that it wants everyone

"to work constructively together to see if a way can be found that will release the funds held by Ofgem in its fossil fuel levy account in a manner which will not impact on the Scottish Consolidated Fund."

That was the unanimous view of the committee. Perhaps its convener, Iain Smith, will tell us what the impact will be, if he agrees that there will be an impact, and whether he acknowledges that his party is now accepting less than his committee demanded last year. The same question also goes to Mr Brown.

In conclusion, I urge the chamber to support our amendment.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 11:29 am, 28th October 2010

This has been an interesting debate, if not a particularly consensual one. I will try to respond to points that have been raised, but I say at the outset that I have heard nothing to alter our perception that the UK Government's proposal on the fossil fuel levy is nothing but a bad and very late deal. As such, it is not appropriate.

Scottish Water has been mentioned a couple of times. I am working hard on the future for Scottish Water, and we will be excitingly engaged in that in the future.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

It is always exciting when I am involved.

Ross Finnie made an interesting contribution. He actually said—I am going to check the Official Report—that it is not our money. The reality is that I have a statutory instrument on the matter signed by Allan Wilson in 2005 and another from 2002 that clearly indicate that the powers to collect and attribute the money lie here. Under the proposals in front of us, control is to be taken away and given to others.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I simply do not have time.

Gavin Brown quoted Scottish Renewables. Perhaps he should read more carefully what has been said elsewhere. In today's Daily Record, Scottish Renewables says:

"It would be a massive missed opportunity if this money cannot be freed up" to support Scotland's renewables sector over the next six to 12 months. No contribution to the debate has suggested that we are even faintly near that. Indeed, on the Liberal Democrats' position, today's Daily Record leading article states:

"It is a bad deal and the Lib Dems' brassneck in defending it, as they will at Holyrood today"— the newspaper is correct on that—

"is breathtaking."

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

If I understand the minister correctly, he is saying that the money should be Barnett consequentialled. The only area to be protected for Barnett consequentials in this spending review is health. Not one penny of that money has been committed for renewables under the Government's own preferred method.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am really quite baffled by the introduction of Barnett consequentials to the debate. This is our money. It has been taken away from the control of the Scottish Government and this Parliament and put elsewhere. There is no new money. Absolutely fundamentally, and leaving aside questions of ownership and disposition, the critical thing is that it is being delayed by three years, in particular comparison with what the Liberal Democrats stated before the election. I do not know whether that was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, but it was certainly in a document for the election, and on page 74 the Liberals said that in 2011-12—

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

If we had the money, would the minister seriously spend £65 million on the development of Hunterston? What do we need to do to ensure that the west coast cluster is viable?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The £65 million is the total project cost, not the Government's cost. It is also worth making the point that there is a cluster approach that will ensure that we look at the opportunities. I give that assurance to the member, and we will hear more about it at a later stage because he makes an important and relevant point that it is correct to draw to our attention.

Sarah Boyack says that independence is a distraction, but forgive me if I take a fundamentally different view. If we could take independent control of the money, we could decide how to spend it, notwithstanding the issues of being in the sterling area or not, which are entirely a red herring that we need not concern ourselves with.

I say to Jackson Carlaw that soor plooms are one of the traditional Scottish sweets, and I am happy to sook them to boost my energy levels at any other time—if only we could suck the money out of the coffers of Ofgem so that we could refresh the economy of Scotland.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am now 30 seconds from the end. I am sorry but I simply cannot.

It is absolutely vital that the money is made available to Scotland immediately and in a way that is additional. It will enable us to start making investments in Liberal areas right across Scotland—Scrabster harbour, Orkney, Shetland and Kishorn. Liberal voters will be looking at the behaviour of their MSPs in denying them access to the money with some grave concern indeed.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 11:34 am, 28th October 2010

This has been an interesting but rather disappointing debate because of the very unconstructive approach that has been taken by all parties in the chamber apart from the Liberal Democrats and, on this occasion, the Conservatives. It is extremely disappointing—

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Give me a minute to get started. I will address some of the reasons why I think that the debate has been so disappointing, and the member should feel free to interject once I get going.

I say to the minister that I do not take, never have taken and never will take my view on political events from the leader writer of the Daily Record or from any other newspaper. It is for us, as politicians, to make the judgments that we think are right for Scotland, not to follow the headlines of the day in the popular newspapers. It is sad that so many members, for far too long, have decided that the headlines in the Daily Record are more important than getting things right for Scotland.

The minister made a number of points and I will pick up on some of those. He talked about the issue of when the funding will be made available. A number of members have mentioned the fact that the green investment bank will not be up and running until 2013, but I am afraid that that is not necessarily the case. The departmental funding for the green investment bank will not be available until 2013—that is certainly the case—but the green investment bank will also receive funding from the sale of assets, which may be available at an earlier date. We do not know when those sales of assets will happen or when that money will be available, but it could be available even in the next financial year. The money could be available at an earlier date, so to argue consistently that 2013 is the date is just wrong.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Is that an announcement that we are now going to see delivery of the Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge and that we will get the money in the immediate next year?

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I will not take lessons from the SNP on the delivery of promises. I will not take lessons from the SNP on anything in the energy field, as its record of delivery is appalling. The energy efficiency action plan, which was commissioned by the previous Government in 2005, was delivered only a couple of weeks ago—it has taken the Government five years to deliver it. The saltire prize was meant to be available in 2013, but that could now be 2014, 2015, 2016 or even 2017—it might not be delivered even in the lifetime of the next Parliament. As for the Scottish Investment Bank, we will wait and see on that one. I will not take lessons from the SNP on the delivery of promises.

Let me be perfectly clear. Lewis Macdonald talked about the committee calling on the Scottish Government and the UK Government to work constructively together to find a method of releasing the funds that are held by Ofgem in its fossil fuel levy account. This is a method of releasing that money. Someone who worked for Sainsbury's would recognise it as a buy one get one free offer. If we spend £1 million from our existing budget on renewable energy projects, we will get £1 million in additional money guaranteed for Scotland to be spent on renewable energy projects. That is a good deal for Scotland.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Will the member confirm that that £1 million would be deducted from the Scottish consolidated fund and that the scheme, therefore, does not meet the objectives that the committee agreed?

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

The committee said that it should not impact on the Scottish consolidated fund and it will not impact on it because that money—£32 million in the current budget—is already being spent on renewable energy. That will generate £32 million of additional funding through the green investment bank with the drawing down of £32 million from the fossil fuel levy. That is additional money for Scotland, which it does not have at present. The scheme will provide equivalent funds from the fossil fuel levy and will not impact on the Scottish consolidated fund. That is the reality of the situation and something that members must learn. Instead of carping about it and trying to make cheap political points or engaging in political posturing, we should engage with the UK Government on how we can get on with it and get the money drawn down sooner than 2013. Let us also engage with the UK Government on the location of the green investment bank. We support Sarah Boyack's amendment, although we cannot support the amendment that it seeks to amend. There should be a unanimous call, from across the chamber, for the green investment bank to be based in Scotland.

The green investment bank is a good deal for Scotland. It will do something that the Labour Party never did in 13 years in government and that the SNP has failed to achieve in three and a half years in government—it will give Scotland access to the fossil fuel levy money to invest in our renewable energy infrastructure now and over the next few months. I ask Patrick Harvie how something can be cut when it does not exist. His amendment talks about the money that is available to the green investment bank being cut, but it does not exist at the moment. It is £1 billion of new Government money plus additional money from the sale of assets such as our shares in the banks.

I commend the motion to the Parliament.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Thank you, Mr Smith. Your time keeping is much better than mine.