Scottish Islands Renewables Project

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 13 June 2013.

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Photo of Mike MacKenzie Mike MacKenzie Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the final report of the Scottish islands renewables project. (S4O-02252)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government welcomes the independent Scottish islands renewables project report, which the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments published on 15 May. It confirms that, as many of us in Scotland already know, the renewable energy resources of the Western Isles, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands are significant and can make a cost-effective contribution to 2020 renewables and decarbonisation targets.

The report confirms that, with the right policy and regulatory approach, the islands can help to ensure security of supply and supply diversification and can provide up to 5 per cent of Great Britain’s total electricity demand by 2030. It also confirms that there are significant socioeconomic benefits from developing island renewables.

Photo of Mike MacKenzie Mike MacKenzie Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary consider that the northern isles and the Western Isles have the best of all opportunities for marine and wind energy and that, if they were not connected to the mainland, they would be prevented from fulfilling their potential? If they were not connected because of a lack of support from the UK Government, would that Government, in a literal sense, be cutting off those islands and their residents from those massive opportunities?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Mr MacKenzie is absolutely right about the scale of the opportunity that exists to capture the natural energy potential in and surrounding the Western Isles, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands. There is potential to create up to 3,500 jobs in the Western Isles, almost 2,900 in the Shetland Islands and more than 4,500 in the Orkney Islands by 2030.

It is essential to take the necessary steps through the electricity market reform process, to which the Scottish Government has contributed constructive suggestions about an islands uplift in the contracts for difference proposals that will be considered as part of the exercise. We are working closely with the UK Government to reach an agreement that will create the opportunities to realise the abundant energy potential in our northern and western islands.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, following on from the working group’s excellent report, it is worth pursuing in the work that is done with the UK Government the idea of the Crown Estate underwriting some of the risk and cost of putting in place the cable infrastructure that is needed to support renewables not only in Orkney but in the Western Isles and Shetland?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Mr McArthur raises a fair point. That issue can be pursued. As he knows, the Crown Estate is not accountable to the Scottish Parliament—it is reserved—but the issue that he raises should be examined and explored as part of the constructive discussions that we are having to try to resolve the issues.

There is clearly a financial gap and, if we could close it through the suggestions that we have made about an islands uplift under contracts for difference, the suggestion that Mr McArthur made or a combination of the two, all the individuals whom he represents would welcome that. That would certainly be welcomed by the Scottish Government as an indication of how we can take forward investment proposals to realise and harness our renewable energy potential.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Chic Brodie was to ask question 2, but he does not appear to be here. I will seek an explanation from him by the end of the day.