SNP ministers have quietly downgraded their claim that Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind potential to just 7%, in a major blow to their economic case for independence. The Telegraph has the story.
Neil Gray, the Scottish Energy Secretary, wrote to a Holyrood committee with the revised estimate after SNP ministers were forced to admit that the 25% figure they had used for years was false.
Emails disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act showed Mr. Gray wanted to bury the update, with his officials writing that he was “not sure we need to draw attention to the issue with a letter to committee”.
His civil servants told him that was not possible as the Scottish Government had committed to informing Parliament when a new figure had been calculated.
But they agreed to hush up the 7% estimate, saying: “No proactive communications are recommended.” This meant that no press release was issued or announcement made when he wrote to Holyrood’s Net Zero and energy committee in September.
The SNP had used the 25% figure since 2010 and it was a keystone of the party’s economic case for independence. It was included in the Scottish Government’s white paper on separation, published before the 2014 referendum.
But a freedom of information request by think tank These Islands disclosed that servants had concerns about its accuracy more than three years ago, with officials stating in Oct 2020 that it had “proved very difficult to source”.
Internal Scottish Government correspondence showed an official warned that it had “never, to my knowledge, been properly sourced”.
In January 2021, another civil servant warned that “we did recycle those figures quite robotically without really checking them”.
These Islands discovered that the 25% figure was calculated by combining statistics from two old reports, one of which used a definition of Europe that included only 11 countries and was based on information from 1993.
But Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Constitution Secretary, was among the SNP ministers who persisted in using the figure and it was included in the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which was published in March last year.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s then Westminster leader, and other nationalist MPs repeated the claim again during a Commons debate on Scottish independence a year ago. The SNP’s Scottish Green coalition colleagues also tweeted it.