Revealed: policy dropped

Holyrood scraps plan for public energy company

Michael Matheson and ChargePlace

Michael Matheson: no longer planning for an energy company

A plan to set up a state-owned energy company has been dropped by the Scottish Government, Daily Business has learned.

Four years after promising a state-backed company delivering low cost power, ministers are now focusing efforts on a “new dedicated national public energy agency” that will be more of an advisory body.

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told delegates at the party’s 2017 conference that the government would create a not-for-profit energy company promising low prices for consumers.

It would buy its energy on the wholesale market or generate it in Scotland – from renewable sources.

Since then there has been little sign of progress and in June this year, Green co-leader and now government minister Lorna Slater, criticised Ms Sturgeon for not moving fast enough on the plan.

At the weekend Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said the new SNP-Green partnership made no mention of the energy company plan in a 50-page joint policy statement.

“It’s astonishing there is not a single mention of a public energy company in the SNP and Green coalition agreement,” he said. “It adds to an ever-increasing list of broken promises from the Scottish Government.”

Labour, he said, has been calling for the proposed company to move beyond the paper stage so that it can start supporting the development of renewable energy in Scotland.

“Nicola Sturgeon and her Green partners must live up to their promises and deliver a new public energy company,” said Mr Murray.

However, Daily Business has learned that the government has dropped the proposal and that Energy Secretary Michael Matheson has switched to an energy efficiency strategy.

A Scottish Government spokesperson confirmed: “Work on a planned public energy company was halted during the pandemic.

“As announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport in June, ministers will now focus government efforts on a new dedicated national public energy agency.

“This will coordinate and accelerate delivery of heat and energy efficiency work, inform and educate the public on the changes required, provide expert advice to national and local government, and work with public, private and third sector partners to deliver this transformative national project.

“Further details will be set out to Parliament in due course.”

See update: Failed energy company plan ’embarrassing’ says Lennon

The switch of plan emerged ahead of today’s Programme for Government which is expected to focus on further action to tackle the Covid crisis, including the introduction of vaccine certification to gain entry to large gatherings.

Economic measures are likely to focus on efforts to create green jobs.

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Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “Proposals to rebuild Scotland’s economy must have top billing.

“The SNP must heed warnings from the business community, who are fearful of the growing influence of the Greens and their extreme economic ideology.

“Nicola Sturgeon must avoid at all costs the uncertainty and damage that could stem from shunning the oil and gas industry, punishing car drivers or worst of all, seeking to break up the country in the middle of a crisis.”

Scottish Labour has called on the Greens to keep their manifesto promise and ensure the Scottish Government sets up a statutory Just Transition Commission. It was launched in 2018 to advise on how Scotland achieves a carbon-neutral economy without leaving anyone behind.

The body was disbanded earlier this year after its work concluded, and Labour says the SNP has failed to respond to the recommendations and has ignored calls to make the body permanent.

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