Sturgeon defends wind contracts amid claims of ‘woeful human rights records’

Anas Sarwar accused the Scottish Government of selling offshore rights ‘on the cheap’ to firms with questionable pasts.

Tom Eden
Thursday 20 January 2022 13:36
Nicola Sturgeon this week announced almost £700 million of contracts for offshore wind projects (PA)
Nicola Sturgeon this week announced almost £700 million of contracts for offshore wind projects (PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of allowing overseas firms “with woeful human rights records” to profit from Scotland’s offshore wind projects.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the ScotWind deal announced by the First Minister had “sold on the cheap” permission for 17 new offshore wind farms along Scotland’s coast.

Contracts worth almost £700 million were awarded on Monday, with Ms Sturgeon describing the deal as “one of the most exciting things for Scotland in a long, long time”.

But at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Sarwar raised the “questionable human rights records” of some of the successful firms.

He also warned that foreign countries would have a bigger stake in the offshore energy produced in Scotland than the Scottish Government

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the deal ‘offers massive potential to Scotland’ (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Mr Sarwar said: “This SNP Government have sold on the cheap the right to profit from Scotland’s energy transition to multinational companies with questionable human rights records.

“One of the new owners of Scotland’s seabed were fined 54 million US dollars for bribing Nigerian officials and 88 million US dollars for bribing Indonesian officials.

“Another one was found to have contributed to human rights abuses at one of its construction sites, of destroying villages in Myanmar, of relying on forced labour and using slavery to build pipelines.

“Surely these aren’t people the Scottish Government should be doing business with?”

Cases referenced by Mr Sarwar include the Marubeni Corporation that, in partnership with SSE, has been awarded rights for a floating offshore wind turbine site across 858 square kilometres of seabed.

The Japanese organisation paid a the multimillion-dollar penalty in connection with a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials for engineering, procurement and construction contracts.

France’s TotalEnergies, which in a consortium secured rights to develop a wind farm off the west coast of Orkney, was implicated in historic claims that the military government in Burma had used forced labour and its soldiers had employed murder and rape in the laying of a pipeline through the country.

Ms Sturgeon said there were “appropriate processes in place to do due diligence” on the consortiums allowed to develop the offshore projects, and said the deal “offers massive potential to Scotland”.

Responding to Mr Sarwar, Ms Sturgeon added: “Not only does this give us the potential to meet our own energy needs from renewable sources, it positions us with the ability to be a major exporter of renewable energy, including green hydrogen, and it gives enormous potential for our supply chain.”

Mr Sarwar replied: “This is about the Scottish supply chain, Scottish companies and Scottish jobs.

“Because the sad reality is that this is an SNP Government that doesn’t understand economic development: Scottish bridges built with Chinese steel, Scottish wind farms with turbines built in Indonesia, ferries not built at Scottish shipyards but built in Poland and Turkey, and now Scotland’s seabed owned by foreign multinationals with woeful human rights records.”

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