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Artillery Row

Lights out for Sturgeon

The powers she wants will guarantee darkness across Scotland

As COP26 dances towards its choreographed tumultuous end (it was never going to be anything else) Nicola Sturgeon can kick-off her stilettoes and smile, without the mask she still enforces in Scottish schools. She is looking self-satisfied for, despite having no official role in the proceedings, she has presided over many irrelevant side-shows and fringe events designed to make international bit-part players justify jetting into Glasgow to look important. Add to that her prowess as Scotland’s Selfie Queen, obtaining photos with international “leaders’ who fit her code of political acceptance, she has no doubt pumped-up her ratings at home and boosted her curriculum vitae for an NGO job when she inevitably takes early retirement.

Yet for all Sturgeon has had a good COP, all is not well. Covid cases are still worse in Scotland than the rest of the UK, the natives remain restless about failing public services — not least the poor state of cities like Glasgow itself — and the obstacles to her dream of secession continue to mount up.

The Scottish Greens, whom she is in formal coalition with, continue to make utter fools of themselves. The latest episode, after voting dutifully against policies they had previously advocated, was to turn their wrath on Greenpeace, after the daddy of green campaign groups criticised Sturgeon’s environmental record. In the weeks before COP26 the same politicians had wanted to bask in the glow of Greenpeace’s international reputation, but now it has become green kryptonite to them.

It is fair to conclude the only purpose the Scottish Greens serve, beyond securing a majority for Sturgeon in the Holyrood parliament, is their comedic act provides ample distraction from all the failures the SNP is racking up on real issues such as A&E and ambulance waiting times, falling school attainment and mounting drug deaths.

Scottish wind turbines will soon look more like stranded assets than worthwhile investments

With ironic timing that could not be bettered for COP26, the UK’s becalmed wind turbines came to a stuttering halt within days of it opening and coal-powered electricity generation had to be ignited to keep our lights on. That most of our wind turbines are actually in Scotland made the point all the more acute and highlighted a conundrum the SNP refuses to acknowledge, never mind address. An “independent” Scotland that is currently fully integrated in the UK’s National Grid would, every time the wind stopped blowing, literally, be powerless. Independence would become a chimera as desperate efforts would be made to import English and Welsh electricity — but in a future requiring new interconnectors to be erected Scotland would be shivering in the dark.

Currently there is enough power generated by Scotland’s two nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness (2400 MW) and the Gas-powered operation at Peterhead (1500 MW) to provide a balance for the renewable sources providing 8600 MW of which 7000 MW relies on unpredictable wind turbines. Usually there is spare capacity from the 12500 MW total available for “export” to England through interconnectors that can cope with 5750 MW. 

Unfortunately, Holyrood’s hatred for all things nuclear means that within three years Hunterston will have been decommissioned and Peterhead will have been phased-out too, while wind turbine generation will have almost doubled. 

Total Scottish capacity is planned to grow to 15000 MW, of which wind power will be 12000 MW, meaning the current interconnectors between Scotland and England will need upgrading to handle this extra power and balance the shift towards erratic wind. 

The intention to export excess wind powered electricity to the rest of the UK fails to take account of an independent Scotland no longer being part of the National Grid. 

The current infrastructure would require at least two new interconnectors to allow wind-generated Scottish power to be exported or — more importantly — for UK power to be imported to keep Scotland switched-on when the wind turbines don’t turn. But why would UK taxpayers pay for that infrastructure when there are already interconnectors from the Netherlands and France — with a new one just switched on at Blyth coming from Hydro powered Norway? Before devolution Scotland exported its nuclear power to England — but Holyrood decisions put a stop to all that and the next ten years will see those policies bite the Scottish public where it hurts. 

New domestic generation, much of it nuclear, has also been commissioned in England and Wales, making the Scottish wind turbines look more like stranded assets than worthwhile investments.

This scenario, of a post-industrial Scotland posted powerless, was laid bare by a timely detailed report commissioned by Scotland Matters, written by Paul Spare, an engineer of 30 years relevant experience and published by ThinkScotland. Not only does it reveal the sham of the SNP’s goal of independence it exposes the flaw in the green policies of all parties.

The idea an independent Scotland will be a major exporter of power is built on the fallacy that the National Grid being cut in two will be of no consequence, yet it has existential possibilities.

It should be remembered also that wind turbines are subsidised currently by the UK’s 67 million population, but after secession that ballooning bill would have to be picked up by fewer than 5m Scottish taxpayers already reeling from record deficits and debt built up by the SNP.

Thus, COP26 might have been a superficial success for Sturgeon, but we now know the powers she wants will guarantee darkness across Scotland. The inability of a separate and lonely Scotland to supply its own electrical energy in the coming electrical age now joins the questions over currency, the fiscal deficit, national and hard border that she, her SNP and the Greens do not have an answers for.

Scotland does not need the international politicians from COP26 to turn its lights out when Sturgeon and her comrades would manage just fine themselves.

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