Minister warned not to allow private firms to squander ScotWind benefits

Michael Matheson was urged to ensure that offshore wind contracts bring jobs and benefits to Scotland, not just to overseas companies.

Tom Eden
Tuesday 18 January 2022 17:02
Michael Matheson said the Government was doing all it could to ensure offshore energy contracts benefit Scotland (Fraser Bremner/PA)
Michael Matheson said the Government was doing all it could to ensure offshore energy contracts benefit Scotland (Fraser Bremner/PA)

Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson has insisted that the Government is “doing everything we can” to ensure offshore energy contracts benefit Scotland, after criticism that they were awarded to private, overseas firms.

The ScotWind leasing process awarded contracts worth £700 million to 17 projects for new offshore wind farms along Scotland’s coasts, including deals with BP and Shell.

Mr Matheson failed to answer whether there would be any specific, binding commitments for winning bidders to deliver investment and jobs in Scotland, after being urged to make sure the benefits are not “squandered”.

I accept that we have not achieved the level and scale of inward investment and supply chain development in our renewable sector that we would have wanted

Michael Matheson MSP

Scottish Labour’s Colin Smyth challenged the minister on how he would ensure that the bulk of the work on the project takes place in Scotland, rather than merely “crumbs”.

Warning that the “penalties for failing to deliver developer statements are negligible”, Mr Smyth said: “The award of these licences is an opportunity for the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs. But this time it must not be squandered.

History has shown us that developers can go elsewhere, they will go elsewhere.

“Just weeks ago, the Government sank plans for a publicly owned Scottish energy firm and Scotland’s seabeds are now being franchised entirely to private, overseas-owned big multinationals and investment funds – a move I hear welcomed by the Tories.

“It will raise around £700 million to the public purse, but billions more for firms, none of which are registered in Scotland or owned in Scotland.

“It’s not just a case of offshore wind energy, but offshoring the profits from it. It cannot also mean offshoring the jobs.”

Mr Matheson, who previously stated that he would be meeting with all the successful bidders on Wednesday, said: “I accept that we have not achieved the level and scale of inward investment and supply chain development in our renewable sector that we would have wanted to.

“That’s why it’s absolutely critical that we maximise the potential benefits from this particular ScotWind leasing round.”

He added: “We are doing everything that we can to ensure that those who are stated in our supply chain development statements, the level of investment that they will make in the Scottish supply chain – which as I stated works out at roughly £1 billon for every gigawatt that comes on stream – that that is delivered and that it is our expectation for that to be delivered.

“The processes that we have in place through our strategic infrastructure assessment and also through the collaborative framework which has been developed are all about maximising that opportunity.

“And it’s doing so in a way that ensures that we reap the economic and social benefits that can come from such a significant level of financial investment within the Scottish supply chain, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that they deliver on the commitments set out in their statements.”

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