ECCC not in favour of Scottish independence

Scottish independence will have a "detrimental" effect on the UK's energy budgets, climate change objectives and energy security, was the overarching opinion from the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC).

In yesterday’s (April 17) first public evidence session on the impact of potential Scottish independence on energy and climate change in Westminster, London, the committee heard evidence from Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government’s Energy & Climate Change director David Wilson.

Despite the clear differences of opinion it was agreed that England would continue to need Scotland’s renewable supplies to help it meet a climate change targets of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.

As a result, Mr Wilson anticipated that Scotland would be increasing its renewable energy exports, although noted that as it already has renewable targets that it would not be expecting that “trajectory to change”.

Strongly in favour of the Scottish Party’s push for independence, Mr Ewing disagreed with committee chair Tim Yeo that the proposals had created “uncertainty” for energy investors, instead he kept it vague, saying “there is no certainty in life”.

While it was apparent Mr Yeo and Mr Ewing were of differing opinions, Mr Yeo did agree that “we now need to take Scottish independence seriously”.

Key topics discussed by the group included the implications of Scottish independence for energy security and cross-border markets, the likely impact on energy prices north and south of the border and how climate change objectives would be affected.

The committee also heard evidence from two academics from the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen on the value of future oil and gas revenues.

In particular, dispute arose over a potential Scottish oil fund, in which Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond wants to contribute £1bn per year for the next 30 years, with professor Alex Kemp saying it will provide a “key economic driver for independence”.

This, he said is because there is “likely to be a stabilisation of oil” over this period as Scotland obtains extra oil from Shetland – although he noted that gas will continue to decrease.

However, professor said that research had shown that 18% of this oil product would cover GDP for Scotland. The committee disputed this evidence, questioning whether that likely was to continue and whether Shetland’s oil would come fast enough to maintain this GDP.

The session grew heated when the committee heard from Mr Ewing that Scotland expected the UK Government to contribute to the estimated £30bn cost of clean-up and decommissioning processes by 2040 after claiming the UK had already benefited from Scottish oil rig revenues.

He added that it should “in principle be the UK’s responsibility” despite Scotland taking control of the oil or gas.

Following on, Glasgow north west Labour MP John Robertson questioned how the spilt would affect energy prices for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as whether it would lead to public spending cuts in Scotland in order for it to accrue the oil fund.

Responding, Mr Ewing said that for Scottish independence “most important of all is that oil and gas fiscal measures are taken which enable investors to have certainty over periods of development”, which he said hasn’t happened in the UK yet, adding that variety of supply is needed.

Carys Matthews

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