Offshore Wind

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th November 2022.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports that its claim that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind potential lacks evidence and that it knew that there was no basis for it. (S6T-00960)

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The figure relating to Scotland having 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind potential was first set out in a 2010 publication, and it is now outdated. However, that does not change the fact that Scotland already has an important offshore wind sector, and that we have huge potential to grow it and become a global leader, with over 40GW of potential offshore wind developments already in the pipeline.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am afraid that the minister has completely missed the point. Everyone wants the renewables industry to succeed, but that will not be achieved by ministers putting out dodgy data. Only a couple of weeks ago, I raised a point of order, because the First Minister had misrepresented Scotland’s energy consumption from renewables. Instead of doing the honourable thing and publicly admitting her mistake, she quietly amended the

Official Report

. It seems that misrepresentation and misuse of data might be endemic within the Government. Apparently, the civil service knew that the data was not true several years ago. When did ministers first become aware that they were using a figure that, to quote Scottish Government officials, had not

“been properly sourced”?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Ministers became aware of the issue on Tuesday 8 November ahead of the publication of the report by These Islands. What does not change with regard to the statistic is the amount of renewable energy potential that Scotland has, which is still significant and will be part of Scotland’s future energy provision both now and as an independent country. Over 40GW is in the pipeline already, presuming the outcome of planning decisions and routes to market being found, and that is the equivalent of producing enough electricity to power every home in Scotland for 17 years.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Once again, the minister has completely missed the point. The claim was that Scotland has 25 per cent of the potential, and a bogus statistic that civil servants and ministers knew was wrong has been repeated ad nauseam. Members in the chamber have heard it either in the chamber or in the course of their duties from First Minister Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister Swinney, Minister Todd, Minister Macpherson, Minister Robison, Minister Matheson and Minister Slater.

Section 1.3.(c) of the ministerial code says:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to the Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead the Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the First Minister”.

Now that I am raising the issue with the member, as the Presiding Officer has just asked us to do, what action is the minister taking to ensure that the ministerial code is always complied with?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

At the time when they cited it, Scottish ministers understood that statistic to be accurate. Now that it has come to our attention that it is not, we are working to update the statistics on how our offshore wind potential compares with that of other countries. We will update the Parliament once that is done and, at that point, we will consider how any legacy documents might need to be updated. The key point, however, is that Scotland’s enormous potential for offshore wind has not changed. [

Interruption

.]

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

In fact, we have made big progress in recent years, As I have said, 40 GW is now in the pipeline.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

We know that the claim that Scotland had 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind was always untrue, as is the Government’s constantly-repeated claim that nearly 100 per cent of the electricity that we consume comes from renewables.

However, I want to turn to another figure. The Scottish Government promised that, by 2020, there would be 120,000 jobs per year in renewables. Was that target reached? Is it still the target? Finally, how many supply chain jobs arising from the offshoring of ScotWind leases will be created in Scottish, not foreign-owned, businesses?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

We are all keen to ensure that the development of the offshore wind industry benefits Scotland’s businesses and our economy. Initial supply chain commitments with regard to ScotWind indicate an average of £1.4 billion of investment in Scotland per project, which equates to £28 billion of investment across the 20 projects.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I hope that we are all here not to play politics with the past but to propel progress in the future. To that end, I would just reflect that, when I was energy minister, one of my most frustrating experiences was finding out that it could take 12 years to get consents for an onshore wind farm that it took 12 months to construct.

I therefore suggest to the minister that the Scottish Government review the processes for obtaining permissions, licences and consents for onshore and offshore developments, subsea cables and, in particular, grid connections, with a view to simplifying, shortening and streamlining them; and that, in order to achieve success throughout these islands, the Scottish Government engage with the United Kingdom Government to identify one lead body to guide the process. I fear that, otherwise, many of the projects that we all wish to see might be thwarted and jeopardised through delay.

The Presiding Officer:

I thank Fergus Ewing for his question, but it bears no relation to the substantive question on the paper. I therefore ask the minister not to respond.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Now that the Scottish Government has admitted to cooking the books—something that did the renewables sector no favours—does the minister believe that it is advisable for Scottish National Party MPs to double down on the statistic that it has been admitted is not true, as they did in the House of Commons earlier this afternoon? Does she not believe that that will simply spread further fake news about the state of the sector?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I welcome my Liberal Democrat colleague’s new-found interest in statistical rigour, which, I am sure, he will also bring to any future election materials.

I repeat that, when they cited it, Scottish ministers understood the statistic to be accurate. Now that it has come to our attention that it is not, we are working to update the statistics on how our offshore wind potential compares with that of other countries. What has changed is not that potential, but merely how we report it in comparison with that of other countries, which we will update in due course.