MacAskill quotes Billy Connolly in Westminster Energy Debate to ask UK Minister “Where's ours?”
ALBA Depute leader and MP for East Lothian Kenny MacAskill is to lead and open a Westminster Hall Debate on “The Level of Public Ownership in the Offshore Wind Sector”. Mr MacAskill will demand that the people of Scotland benefit from the profits generated by offshore wind, not the multinational, often foreign state owned companies, which dominate the offshore wind sector and are owned furth of Scotland. Mr MacAskill will argue this can only be done by government establishing a state energy company and by taking a public stake, as Denmark has done, through a 20% share in every new offshore wind development.
Mr MacAskill will also highlight the extent to which foreign state owned companies are prevalent in the offshore wind sector. These include:
- Neart na Gaoithe, Firth of Forth – jointly owned by French state owned EDF and Ireland’s majority publicly owned ESB.
- Inchcape windfarm, Firth of Forth – 49% of shares owned by SDIC Power Holdings Co Ltd of Beijing in China.
- Aberdeen Offshore windfarm – 100% owned by Sweden’s state energy company Vattenfall.
- Peterhead Hywind – 75% stake held by Norwegian state energy company Equinor.
He will condemn the “charade of a government opposed to state owned companies allowing foreign state owned energy companies to profit and perhaps even plunder with abandon” and go on to argue “It’s a dereliction of duty and the price is paid not just in the loss of profits, but the scandalously high prices paid by struggling families trying to power their own homes.”
He will argue that “there should be a Scottish State Energy Company and it should be operating and taking a share in all fields being developed.”
Mr MacAskill will quote from the great Scottish comedian Billy Connolly’s song “Oh Sergeant Where’s Mine”:
“Oh sergeant, is this the adventure you meant
When I put my name down on the line
All that talk of computers and sunshine and skis
Oh, I'm askin' you, sergeant, where's mine?”
He will state: “Well all I’m asking you Minister where’s ours. All that talk of the Saudi Arabia of wind and the work and the jobs, where are they? And when other nations whether Ireland or France, Denmark, Sweden or Norway, China have a share of our natural bounty, oh Minister where’s ours?”
He will conclude “by asking the Minister to confirm that his government will neither oppose a Scottish state energy company nor Scotland seeking to take a share in its natural wealth. The absurdity of an Energy Rich Scotland yet Fuel Poor Scots must end. We demand a share in our natural bounty.”
In his speech Kenny MacAskill MP will state:
When a natural bounty’s discovered it’s only right that a nation and its people should benefit from it not simply corporations and investors. The fruits of land and sea should benefit all, not simply the few.
Scotland has been fortunate being blessed firstly with North Sea oil and now with renewable energy, in particular offshore wind. Scotland has been gifted a further natural resource offering great opportunities and of such extent that it should be transformative for both. As even a recent Prime Minister stated “the Saudi Arabia” of wind.
Other Nations have shown what can and should be done. Scotland discovered oil at the same time as Norway. Now Scots can only look with envy not just at the standard of living in their Nordic counterpart but at the Norwegian Oil Fund. Now valued at $1.4 trillion and its suggested that it owns an average of 1.5% of every listed company in the world.
The British National Oil Company sold off whilst Equinor owned by the Norwegian State goes from strength to strength. Funds which should have seen Scotland bloom were instead used by Thatcher to smash organized labour and by New Labour to wage illegal wars.
That mustn’t be done with offshore wind. The people of Scotland must benefit from this bounty, not just multinationals. As Norway has shown what should have been done with oil and gas, Denmark’s showing what can be done with offshore wind.
It’s taking a 20% stake in every new offshore wind development. This is not North Korea but a European democracy nor has it seen investors flee. Also showing that public ownership needn’t just be a state energy company operating sites desirable as that is but can be through actions such as this. Ensuring that people and nation gain from their natural resource, ensuring benefit for the many, not exploitation for the few.
That’s what should be happening here even if the UK Government remains wedded to a privatization route which has created a dysfunctional energy sector that we’re all paying for now. A Scottish Energy Company was promised by SNP promised and then shamefully abandoned. It must be delivered.
The absurdity’s that there are public ownership and state companies operating in the Scottish and UK offshore wind sector. The absurdity is that they are neither Scottish or UK, but foreign state firms operating in Scottish and UK waters. Delivering profit not for governments in Edinburgh or London but furth of these shores and with the wealth benefiting lands many far from these.
Let me begin by narrating the situation at the Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind field. Despite the Gaelic name it’s located in the Firth of Forth between the my own constituency and that of my party colleague Neale Hanvey MP. Pillars and a turbine are now visible, and the energy will come ashore at Innerwick, just along from where I reside in Dunbar.
All good you’d think. But who owns it? This government is hostile to state ownership, but it’s operated by two state owned companies. One half of the partnership operating it’s EDF – Energie De France. The French state energy company which also happens to own Torness nuclear power station just along the road and adjacent to where the energy comes ashore. State ownership isn’t opposed it seems, so long as it’s someone else’s.
The other half of the partnership operating the field is ESB. The Electricity Supply Board is the majority publicly owned energy company of the Republic of Ireland. The Consul General in Edinburgh tells me that this investment in the Firth of Forth is that state companies largest ever investment outwith Ireland.
And so, we have the perversity that the wealth and profits generated won’t come to Edinburgh or London benefiting Scottish or UK citizens. Instead, they will flow to Paris and Dublin and the citizens or Ireland and France will reap the benefit that nature bestowed upon us.
Of course, big energy multinationals are also involved, SSE, Scottish Power, though in fact owned by Iberdrola from Spain and BP amongst many others. But the state-owned firms form other lands are also there and many significantly bigger than the Irish Electricity Supply Board, no denigration intended on them, who’ve done well to provide for their people. It’s a lesson that Scotland must learn as in so many other aspects our Irish cousins, blessed with less, they have delivered so much more.
But Neart Na Gaoithe isn’t alone in this charade of a government opposed to state owned energy companies allowing foreign state-owned energy companies to profit and perhaps even plunder with abandon. It’s a dereliction of duty and the price is paid not just in the loss of profits, but the scandalously high prices paid by struggling families trying to power their homes. Many living where they can see the turbines off their shores or in the lea of those that operate on the land. Energy Rich Scotland Fuel Poor Scots indeed.
It’s not just France and Ireland who are receiving a warm welcome despite government political antipathy to a nationalized energy sector. Research from the House of Commons library has disclosed that in UK Offshore waters that the state controlled Danish company Orsted and the Norwegian state operator own the largest share of UK offshore wind at 20.4% and 9.2% respectively. UK public entities own 0.03%.
But I’m concentrating on Scottish waters where the Scottish Governments ScotWind auction sold offshore wind farms at absurdly low prices. Compounding the perversity of failing to deliver the state energy company. Yet Scotland’s offshore wind resource has 6 state companies operating within it.
Along the A1 from Innerwick in Cockenzie, in my East Lothian constituency, energy’s to land from the Inchcape windfarm farm again in the Firth of Forth. It’s owned by Red Rock Power. That company’s a European subsidiary of SDIC Power from Beijing. SDIC Power Holdings Co Ltd is a listed company on the Shanghai Stock Exchange but a state-controlled enterprise holding over 49% of shares. Not just public ownership but communism is frowned upon by this government but it’s fine for a state-owned company from Communist China to benefit from Scotland’s offshore resource. You couldn’t make it up.
But there’s three more. Further north in the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm off the Aberdeenshire coast sees 58 turbines turning and owned by Vattenfall. Generating wealth for the Swedish people as Vattenfall’s 100% owned by the Swedish state. Showing that not just communist countries but even ones with conservative governments benefit in state ownership.
Further north off Peterhead’s Hywind. That’s a development which sees Masdar hold a 25% stake with 75% held by Equinor. As stated Equinor’s the Norwegian state energy company and benefitting its people through the gas and oil resource in Norwegian waters but adding to that through expansion into Scotland’s offshore wind.
It’s a joint enterprise again seeing two state owned companies cooperating to exploit Scotland’s natural resource. Masdar, also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company’s a UAE government owned company, securing Abu Dhabi’s future not Scotland’s though.
So, in those fields some already operating with others being developed we’ve the absurdity of foreign state ownership of Scotland’s natural resource. And it’s costing us. The organization Commonwealth in their paper “Power to the People; the case for a publicly owned Generation Company” noted that in 2021;
“Our energy bills combined with Contracts for Difference payments contributed £2.56 billion in payments to offshore wind generators owned by foreign state entities.”
Meanwhile, we’re told ownership doesn’t matter though it matters to the governments of Sweden, Norway, France, Ireland, China and the UAE. They seem to see the benefit in not just managing their own but our natural resource.
Why? Because it underpins energy security, provides affordable energy for households and businesses, supports a Just Transition from fossil fuel to renewables, and allows for investment in technologies. All of which help hard pressed households, boost indigenous business and create a more vibrant and competitive economy.
It needn’t just be outright ownership of energy welcome though that would be. But as Denmark shows, a stake can be taken allowing the nation and its people to benefit and prosper from their natural bounty.
And it’s not just the slippage of profits and wealth to foreign shores but loss of control and influence over your natural resource. The evidence is that we are losing out in more ways than simply the profit from the energy produced.
Scotland’s losing the turbine manufacturing. A few to be built at Nigg, meanwhile as hundreds are commissioned orders are going elsewhere. Yards such as Arnish and BiFab lie empty even when proximate to the site. Not one turbine for a Forth field will be constructed in Scotland. Assembly’s a poor substitute for manufacture, seeing lower profit and requiring less skilled labour. Every Firth in Scotland should be manufacturing turbines and expanding to meet growing need, yet other than at Nigg they lie idle and our folk face unemployment and our land a loss of skills.
Benefits from the supply chain’s a mantra from the UK Government shamefully echoed by their Scottish counterparts but it isn’t being born out in practice. In my East Lothian constituency where the turbines offshore are now visible and the horizon will change irrevocably in coming years there’s no work being generated. What should benefit current and future generations is seeing folk unable to heat their homes and youngsters struggling to access skilled employment. Local business hasn’t benefitted and new businesses in the sector are not being created either dealing with the offshore work or providing onshore opportunities through Long Duration Battery storage or hydrogen production.
Let’s look one of these sites owned by foreign state companies to confirm that. Neart na Gaoithe owned by EDF from France and ESB from Ireland is seeing the work likewise go elsewhere. The turbines are being produced at Siemens in Humberside, albeit assembled in Dundee, with the foundations laid by Saipem from Italy. They’re being taken out to the field by Fred Olsen Renewables and the cabling being done by DEME Offshore from Belgium. Where’s the contracts for Scottish businesses and the work for local folk?
There should be a Scottish State Energy company and it should be both operating and taking a share in all fields being developed. Other nations do it and as I’ve shown are doing it in our waters. Denmark with both its company and its public stake is showing what can be done. Just as Norway showed what can be achieved with an oil and gas bounty.
Scotland has lost out on the former and must not do so with the latter. The bounty from the energy off our shores must benefit our people not just corporations and even state-owned companies from other lands.
The great Scottish comedian Billy Connolly penned a song “Oh Sergeant Where’s Mine” describing the plight of a soldier with life changing wounds reflecting on the prospectus the recruiting sergeant had first given him. Lying in his hospital bed he says;
Oh sergeant, is this the adventure you meant
When I put my name down on the line
All that talk of computers and sunshine and skis
Oh, I'm askin' you, sergeant, where's mine
Well all I’m asking you Minister where’s ours. All that talk of the Saudi Arabia of wind and the work and the jobs, where are they? And when other nations whether Ireland or France, Denmark, Sweden or Norway, China have a share of our natural bounty, oh Minister where’s ours.
I conclude by asking the Minister to confirm that his government will neither oppose a Scottish state energy company nor Scotland seeking to take a share in its natural wealth.
The absurdity of an Energy Rich Scotland yet Fuel Poor Scots must end. We demand a share in our natural bounty.