SNP leader shifts to domestic issues

Sturgeon plans publicly-owned energy company

Nicola Sturgeon cough sweets

Nicola Sturgeon holds up cough sweets in a joke aimed at Theresa May (photo by Terry Murden)

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon today revealed that the Scottish government will set up a publicly-owned energy company, promising low prices for consumers.

The company will buy its energy on the wholesale market or generate it in Scotland – from renewable sources.

She told the SNP annual conference it would give customers more choice “and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers”.

She made no comment on any state aid implications or whether the European Commission had been consulted. The government’s plans to reduce and scrap air passenger duty has run into problems with the EC and 15 years ago Scottish Enterprise was penalised for setting up a state-run telecoms operation.

Ms Sturgeon said more detail will be given when the government publishes its energy strategy.

“But I am delighted to announce today that by the end of this parliament we will set up a publicly owned, not for profit energy company,” she said.

In a speech that was primarily focused on boosting public services she confirmed a doubling of investment in early years childcare from £420 million to £840m per year and pledged more support for housing and for families trying to cope with the cost of living.

“At the heart of all that we do is a determination to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up,” the SNP leader said.

“By 2020, we will deliver around 30 hours a week for every three and four year old and eligible two year old. It will give children the best start in life. And working parents will save around £350 a month on the costs of childcare.”

She said that the increased budget is a commitment “unmatched anywhere else in the UK.”

Ms Sturgeon is also planning for a further 10 years in power, telling conference: “Over the past ten years, we have led the way. We should be proud of what we achieved.

Nicola Sturgeon conference 2017

SNP leader: ‘our responses must be transformational’ (photo by Terry Murden)

“Our focus now is on the next ten years and beyond. The world we live in today is changing at a faster pace than we have ever known.

“The challenges we face are generational. Our responses must be transformational.”

Athough Ms Sturgeon focused on domestic matters, she expressed concern about the outcome of the Brexit talks.

She said that Scotland faces “the added uncertainty of a UK now being driven down the most uncertain path in modern times.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted that her long term aim remains independence and that Scotland does better when it makes its own decisions.

“We can trail in the wake of the change that is coming – or we can choose to shape our own future,” she said.

“Let’s resolve this today. Let’s not wait for others to decide for us. Let’s put Scotland in the driving seat.”

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