Energy Generation (Public Ownership)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 September 2022.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

2. We have a Tory Government that is hell-bent on crashing the economy. Energy bills are rising, mortgage payments are going up and the markets are in free fall.

In the face of that economic illiteracy and moral bankruptcy, Labour has a plan: it is a plan for a publicly owned clean-energy generation company that would be established in the first year of a Labour Government. It took the SNP months to back Labour’s proposal for a windfall tax. Will the First Minister today back Labour’s plan for a publicly owned energy company to bring down bills, create jobs and deliver energy security? (S6F-01377)

The First Minister:

Yes—I am happy to give support to policies of that nature. Perhaps Anas Sarwar would back a situation in which Scotland had the full powers over the energy market and the access to borrowing that are necessary in order for us to establish an energy generation company of that nature.

I am happy to support things that I agree with, but since we are on this ground today, here are some other policies that the SNP Scottish Government has introduced that Labour would perhaps now like to back. How about we see Keir Starmer and United Kingdom Labour backing a £25 per week child payment like the one that we have in Scotland? How about we see Labour backing an end to the benefits cap, or backing the abolition of prescription charges, or backing free personal care, the abolition of university tuition fees, higher health spending per head of population and more nurses and doctors per head of population? How about a rent freeze such as is being introduced here, in Scotland?

If we want to swap good ideas, I am happy to accept them when they come from Labour. Perhaps Labour needs to look to Scotland and to start emulating some of what we are doing here.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

I am pleased to hear that the First Minister backs Labour’s plans. How times have changed—from the First Minister telling Scotland, “You’re never getting a Labour Government again” to her now making proposals to the next Labour Government. Perhaps we can see more of that.

The First Minister wants to talk about her powers. In 2017—[

Interruption

.] The SNP front bench might want to listen to this.

In 2017, the First Minister promised to create a Government-run energy company that would sell Scottish renewable energy to customers at

“as close to cost price as possible”,

using the powers that the Government has. That promise was broken. A Labour Government will establish a public energy company in year 1. After 15 years of SNP Government, we are told that we still have to wait.

This matters. In January, the First Minister sold off Scotland’s sea bed on the cheap. If we had a publicly owned energy company in Scotland, that sea bed would have been in the hands of the Scottish people; they would have had a stake. Instead, we have the ludicrous situation in which Vattenfall, which is a publicly owned company in Sweden, will profit more than taxpayers here will. Why is it the First Minister’s priority and policy that our natural resources fund schools, transport and hospitals in Sweden but not those in Scotland?

The First Minister:

Our having a Labour leader in Scotland who is reduced to talking down the fantastic ScotWind programme just counts as one of many reasons why—whatever might or might not happen in the rest of the UK—Scotland will not be getting another Labour Government any time soon.

Yes—we committed to a publicly owned retail energy company. Covid, unfortunately, changed those plans. We will shortly set out our plans for the national public energy agency. However, if Anas Sarwar is going to come here and ask me such questions, surely he must know that to set up a publicly owned generation company would require that this Parliament have powers over the energy market and access to borrowing that we do not have.

If Anas Sarwar wants this Government to do that—[

Interruption

.]

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, members.

The First Minister:

—when will he back independence and full powers for this Parliament, so that we can do it?

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

There we go: the old slogan about talking down Scotland. I have been hearing Nicola Sturgeon shout that slogan since I was at school. I say to the First Minister that it is time to change the record.

For 15 years, we have had an SNP Government that has chased the headline but has not done the work. It promised a national energy company, but that has now been scrapped. [

Interruption

.]

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

The SNP promised 130,000 green energy jobs, but it failed to deliver. We should remember that it promised that we would be the “Saudi Arabia of renewables”. Instead, it is selling off our assets on the cheap.

This week, the people of Scotland have seen that change is coming with Labour: change with our ambitious plan to freeze energy bills, change to invest in energy security, change to create tens of thousands of high-skilled well-paid jobs here in Scotland—[

Interruption

.]

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, members.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

—and change to get rid of the economically illiterate and morally bankrupt Tory Government. Even the First Minister must surely see that those are the changes that Scotland needs.

The First Minister:

Anas Sarwar says that he has for years been listening to me accusing Labour of talking down Scotland. That is probably true, but it is because I have for years listened to Labour constantly talking down Scotland. That is all that it seems to be able to do.

That is why Scotland decided to get its own back on Labour and to start doing down Labour in electoral terms. I do not see any evidence that that will change any time soon.

Under this Government, we have a position where our net energy consumption is already provided by renewable energy sources. Scotland leads the world when it comes to renewable energy, and ScotWind is a shining example of that.

In the interests of finding a bit of consensus, I say that I want to see the back of the rotten, corrupt and failing Tory Government, just as much as anybody does. However, if it is to be replaced at United Kingdom level by a Labour Government, surely everybody has a right to hope that that Labour Government would be very different to what it would replace.

I will make another suggestion. Perhaps Labour could start by committing to reversing the Brexit that Scotland did not vote for. Just as the Tories are, Labour is now a pro-Brexit party, regardless of the economic damage that Brexit is doing. The fact is that, in relation to Brexit, as with so many other issues, the only way for Scotland to reach its full potential is through independence. Are not we really seeing what would be the benefits of independence right now? The sooner it comes, the better.

The Presiding Officer:

We move to constituency and general supplementary questions.