28 October 2010

S3M-7269 Renewable Energy [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Renewable Energy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7269, in the name of Liam McArthur, on renewable energy.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson:

This has been an interesting debate, if not a particularly consensual one. I will try to respond to points that have been raised, but I say at the outset that I have heard nothing to alter our perception that the UK Government's proposal on the fossil fuel levy is nothing but a bad and very late deal. As such, it is not appropriate.

Scottish Water has been mentioned a couple of times. I am working hard on the future for Scottish Water, and we will be excitingly engaged in that in the future.

Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Excitingly engaged?

Stewart Stevenson: It is always exciting when I am involved.

Ross Finnie made an interesting contribution. He actually said—I am going to check the Official Report—that it is not our money. The reality is that I have a statutory instrument on the matter signed by Allan Wilson in 2005 and another from 2002 that clearly indicate that the powers to collect and attribute the money lie here. Under the proposals in front of us, control is to be taken away and given to others.

Ross Finnie: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I simply do not have time.

Gavin Brown quoted Scottish Renewables. Perhaps he should read more carefully what has been said elsewhere. In today's Daily Record, Scottish Renewables says:

"It would be a massive missed opportunity if this money cannot be freed up"

to support Scotland's renewables sector over the next six to 12 months. No contribution to the debate has suggested that we are even faintly near that. Indeed, on the Liberal Democrats' position, today's Daily Record leading article states:

"It is a bad deal and the Lib Dems' brassneck in defending it, as they will at Holyrood today"—

the newspaper is correct on that—

"is breathtaking."

Jeremy Purvis: If I understand the minister correctly, he is saying that the money should be Barnett consequentialled. The only area to be protected for Barnett consequentials in this spending review is health. Not one penny of that money has been committed for renewables under the Government's own preferred method.

Stewart Stevenson: I am really quite baffled by the introduction of Barnett consequentials to the debate. This is our money. It has been taken away from the control of the Scottish Government and this Parliament and put elsewhere. There is no new money. Absolutely fundamentally, and leaving aside questions of ownership and disposition, the critical thing is that it is being delayed by three years, in particular comparison with what the Liberal Democrats stated before the election. I do not know whether that was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, but it was certainly in a document for the election, and on page 74 the Liberals said that in 2011-12—

Duncan McNeil: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I will.

Duncan McNeil: If we had the money, would the minister seriously spend £65 million on the development of Hunterston? What do we need to do to ensure that the west coast cluster is viable?

Stewart Stevenson: The £65 million is the total project cost, not the Government's cost. It is also worth making the point that there is a cluster approach that will ensure that we look at the opportunities. I give that assurance to the member, and we will hear more about it at a later stage because he makes an important and relevant point that it is correct to draw to our attention.

Sarah Boyack says that independence is a distraction, but forgive me if I take a fundamentally different view. If we could take independent control of the money, we could decide how to spend it, notwithstanding the issues of being in the sterling area or not, which are entirely a red herring that we need not concern ourselves with.

I say to Jackson Carlaw that soor plooms are one of the traditional Scottish sweets, and I am happy to sook them to boost my energy levels at any other time—if only we could suck the money out of the coffers of Ofgem so that we could refresh the economy of Scotland.

Sarah Boyack: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am now 30 seconds from the end. I am sorry but I simply cannot.

It is absolutely vital that the money is made available to Scotland immediately and in a way that is additional. It will enable us to start making investments in Liberal areas right across Scotland—Scrabster harbour, Orkney, Shetland and Kishorn. Liberal voters will be looking at the behaviour of their MSPs in denying them access to the money with some grave concern indeed.


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