Alf Young: When Scotland’s first minister addressed the annual congress of the STUC in Dundee last week, she was keen to sell the merits of what she called her “Scottish green deal”, the transition to a carbon-neutral economy – society, even – by 2050. And it is not just any old transition. It is a “just transition”, as in the Just Transition Commission that Nicola Sturgeon’s government set up at the end of last year to help ministers to chart the way ahead. We have become used to growth only being worth having if it is “sustainable” and “inclusive”. Now any transition in the way that growth is generated is acceptable only if it is demonstrably just. While delivering her sales pitch, the first minister was uncharacteristically self-critical about progress so far. “We have not done as well as we want in building a domestic supply chain for new renewable industries,” she told delegates. Those who had drafted her address had clearly been scanning the motions that STUC delegates were debating last week. Some were sharply critical of aspects of the party’s approach. On industrial strategy, Unite noted its oft-used taskforce approach when faced with job losses and plant closures. The union wants agencies such as Pace (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) “to take an interventionist and preventative approach” and advocates more “public, co-operative and municipal ownership”. The Prospect union called just transition “a much-used but often ambiguous term” and advocated a mix in the energy supply strategy that “must include investment in renewables, alongside new nuclear and low-carbon gas”. The GMB’s motion recalled that Scotland had been promised a “bright green future” before, with Alex Salmond’s vision of a “Saudi Arabia of renewables”. It went on: “The reality behind the hot air has been missed economic and employment benefits for working- class communities and foreign-built infrastructure erected on Scottish hillsides, largely paid for by taxpayers and the poorest bill payers via the flat rate renewables levy”. The SNP is against any new civil nuclear capacity, but fought to stop the great coal-fired polluter, Longannet, from closing in 2016. They promised, to great fanfare, a state-owned energy supplier by the end of this parliament, but are now, apparently, having second thoughts. They boast, as Ms Sturgeon did to the STUC, about growing capability in battery storage and smart grids, but watch on, helplessly, as Scottish Power sells the country’s biggest natural battery, the Cruachan pumped storage site in Argyll, to a Yorkshire-based rival. Scottish Power’s latest smart grid, the £1 billion Western Link joint venture with National Grid, is suffering outages. The latest won’t be fixed until the end of May. The cost, in penalty payments to Scottish-based onshore wind generators that cannot get their electricity to customers south of the border, has yet to be revealed. Meanwhile, as Ms Sturgeon and her cabinet hold a summit next month on how to boost offshore wind capacity in home waters, Scottish Power is happily expanding its offshore capacity off the coast of East Anglia.
Times 24th April 2019 read more »