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Interconnectors to Islands (Socioeconomic Benefits)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 27th May 2015.

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Photo of Mike MacKenzie Mike MacKenzie Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government what socioeconomic benefits would arise from providing interconnectors to the islands. (S4O-04369)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

There would be huge benefits. First, interconnectors would be able to meet up to 5 per cent of Great Britain’s electricity demand by 2030. Secondly, the development of the projects and the associated infrastructure would bring jobs and investment to the regions. Viking Energy has estimated, for example, that the direct annual income to Shetland associated with its project would be £30.8 million.

I have written to the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, to highlight the strategic importance of that workstream for Scotland and of her department’s continued participation in the Scottish island renewables delivery forum.

Photo of Mike MacKenzie Mike MacKenzie Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that, in addition to the socioeconomic benefits, the significant renewable energy generation capacity in Scotland’s islands can help to keep the United Kingdom’s lights on and help the UK to meet its climate change targets? Does he agree that the supply chain will produce significant numbers of well-paid jobs and careers, not only in our islands but throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

That is not an overstatement. To put it differently, without continued expansion of the renewable energy output in Scotland, the UK will have great difficulty in meeting its climate change targets. In fact, some might argue that it would be impossible for the UK to do so.

We need a balanced mix of electricity generation and supply, but we believe that harnessing the islands’ potential in renewables is essential. Generally speaking, the islands are the best place for wind energy, as well as being the home of marine energy—wave and tidal power.

All in all, I am hopeful that the constructive work that took place with the previous Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, will continue with Amber Rudd. We are totally committed to working in a constructive fashion to deliver a solution that will release our islands’ enormous potential.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I thank the minister for his comments and for contacting Amber Rudd, particularly in relation to the forum’s continuing work. Can he update Parliament on where discussions are at with the UK Government and the European Union about an interconnector, reflecting the research and development nature of the work that is being carried out by the European Marine Energy Centre, which is in my constituency?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I cannot and should not speak for the UK Government, but I can say that, before the general election, there was a reasonable modus operandi. As far as I am aware, the island renewables delivery forum was the only subject-related working group to involve the Scottish and UK Governments. Getting round a table with Ed Davey, his officials, our officials and others was a useful and constructive way to do business.

I have therefore suggested to Amber Rudd that that modus operandi should continue. We pursue the issues in a non-partisan way—as Mr McArthur is aware—because of the enormous prize for the people whom he represents and for those who are represented by Tavish Scott and Dr Allan in the northern isles and the Western Isles.

I believe that the Prime Minister gave an undertaking in a letter to Councillor Angus Campbell that the islands’ potential would be delivered, so we look forward to the implementation of that prime ministerial pledge.