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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Sturgeon floats hydrogen exports in bid to power Scottish independence

Last week, Sturgeon also said that Cambo, a controversial new 25-year oil field in the North Atlantic, should not go ahead. Offshore oil and gas licencing is supervised by Westminster, which is developing a climate checklist for new projects to pass, but the First Minister said: “I think the presumption would be that Cambo couldn’t and shouldn’t pass any rigorous climate assessments”.

Cambo has become a lightning rod for tensions over the pace of the shift away from fossil fuel production. Supporters point out that cutting off domestic supplies when the bulk of the UK’s power stations, cars, boilers and industry have yet to move away from oil and gas only leaves it more reliant on imports.

The Scottish Conservatives say Sturgeon has abandoned Scotland’s oil and gas industry and “painted a target on the backs of 100,000 workers” over her stance on Cambo, which followed fierce opposition to the project from the Greens.

“It is ever clearer that the Greens have no real understanding of how business works, how energy is generated and how an economy functions,” says Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative MSP and shadow cabinet secretary for  energy. “Having that reactionary, Luddite tendency at the heart of government is hugely concerning.” 

How effectively the ruling parties can create new jobs in green industries will be key to the partnership’s success or failure. The SNP branded it a betrayal last month when the UK Government put a major Scottish carbon capture project, estimated to support more than 20,000 jobs in 2031, on a “reserve” list for possible fast-track funding behind two projects in the north of England.

Unions are also warning the Scottish Government over its opposition to replacing its ageing nuclear power plants, unlike Westminster which is bringing forward new plants in England. Holyrood opposes existing nuclear technology, but says it has a “duty to assess” emerging small modular reactors.

Politicians need to reject “obstructive dogmas” around nuclear, Keir Greenaway, senior organiser for GMB Scotland, said this month. “We need to deliver the next generation of low-carbon jobs, and policies that lead to redundancies without transition won’t be forgotten in energy communities like North Ayrshire and East Lothian.”

Against that backdrop, Scotland’s hydrogen ambitions with Germany carry heavy expectations.

“Scotland is well placed to meet the growing demand for hydrogen in Europe, and that’s why we are investing £100m in renewable hydrogen projects over this parliament,” said a Scottish Government spokesman.

“We are taking action to deliver a green recovery that delivers a just transition for our energy sector. This includes a £500m Just Transition Fund to support the north east as one of Scotland’s centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy, and we have called on the UK Government multiple times to match this investment.”

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