Friday, 27 February 2009

On course to be the clean energy capital of Europe

Published in the John O'Groat Journal, 27 February 2009

IT makes your eyes water thinking about the demands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling.

He wants us to find "efficiency savings" of £1 billion on the Scottish budget from 2010 to 2012. Right now, as agreed with local councils, actual savings of two per cent from the services and costs of all public bodies are being returned for frontline use. Mr Darling's ideas are very different. They amount to a £1bn raid on the Scottish budget.

The Downing Street downturn is going to hit every family and community. That's why the Scottish Government's First Minister, Alex Salmond, told the British-Irish Council last week that Scotland and Wales need borrowing powers just like Westminster. This week he has met with Messrs Brown and Darling to press the point.

Some of you may know of the Calman Commission, a damp squib lit by the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties in the Scottish Parliament to review devolution. You will be keen to know how such issues like borrowing powers for Scotland were received by Calman to dig Scotland out of depression. It seems that a veto has been placed on anything radical like tax powers, but Andy Kerr, speaking for Labour, agreed to the need for borrowing powers. After 10 years of devolution when Scotland's Parliament takes on more and more responsibilities, the Labour Government in London is hanging on grimly to every lever of control that it can.

The polls in England suggest the Tories are set to trounce Labour whenever a UK election is called. My hunch is that we will have to wait until spring 2010 for that.

This year, meanwhile, on June 4, the European Parliament elections are held.

Most electoral tests are a referendum on the popularity and effectiveness of the current UK Government. So it is obvious to me that Labour will get a shock.


A YEAR ago I was on committee business in Brussels exploring the development of climate change laws. Earlier this month, as part of a delegation from the energy committee, I joined colleagues in Brussels to take the temperature on the EU Commission's plans for clean energy, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) plans which hugely affect Scotland.

The message is that Scotland has 40 per cent of the EU's renewable capacity. So why does London's man in Scotland, Jim Murphy, keep pestering us with demands to build nuclear power stations? The fact is that we have a growing UK distribution grid. Ofgem, the electricity and gas regulator, forces our producers to pay more to access the grid if the source of the power is north of Derby.

So I very much welcomed comments by Scotland's chief scientific adviser Anne Glover about the enormous clean, green-energy potential that exists in Scotland.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Politics Show last Sunday, Professor Glover confirmed that Scotland has the scientific and engineering skills to develop 40 per cent of Europe's renewable potential. Her intervention confirms that Scotland's ambition to develop our renewables potential is matched by our capability.

Scotland can and will be a world leader in clean, green energy. Our wealth of natural resources, combined with our scientific and engineering leadership, means that the country can develop 40 per cent of Europe's renewable potential.

I hope Jim Murphy and Labour leaders were listening to the chief scientific adviser's remarks. Every penny wasted on new nuclear technology in Scotland would be a penny less for the development of clean, green energy. Scotland is well on course to be the clean, green energy capital of Europe – we already have a greater installed capacity of renewable energy than nuclear.

Developing this massive potential is the way forward for energy security and safety in Scotland.

We can secure clean, low-carbon energy by harnessing Scotland's vast green potential and tackling climate change without adding to the burden of toxic radioactive waste.

That's one of the reasons why the SNP Government is so enthusiastic for clean power in the Pentland Firth as a key to our local economic future.


OVER the recess, from February 15 to 23, I have undertaken a series of meetings with the Scottish Ambulance Service, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the UHI Millennium Institute and, along with other MSPs, British Telecom, to discuss how we kick-start the Far North economy. I am hearing positive messages. So when it comes to speaking up for the Far North I am optimistic; if we pull together we can sort out various issues.

The Working Time Directive will have to be negotiated and the SNP and UK Governments will get it fixed for retained firefighters and ambulance crews without scaremongering.

The UHI is gradually reaching the point when it will be a full university and be ready to play an even bigger part in the knowledge economy we need to succeed.

British Telecom will have to show us what it takes to get satisfactory broadband speeds for our rural areas. This will require government help, hopefully backed by the European Recovery Programme which identifies broadband connection as a key tool in spending our way out of the recession.

With the Euro polls coming round in June, a big SNP vote will underpin that positive message and show that Scots are ready to take advantage of our great resources and ride out the international financial gloom with the determination to land on our feet.

The Scottish Political Scene Today

Scotland: Questioning National Identity

Presented at the Nantes Conference by Rob Gibson MSP

Held in the University of Nantes in October 2007. The transactions of the conference were published recently by the Nantes University Research Centre for National and Intercultural Identity. They were compiled by Bernard Sellin, Annie Thiec and Pierre Carboni. It is published by CRINI in 2009. ISBN 2 - 916424 - 14 - 8.

"Scottish identity is clear. The idea of Scotland as a historic nation has meant that whilst for nearly 300 years Scotland did not have a Parliament, it retained a civil society which included control of local government, the Church, the law, and it was the way in which education and this civil society perpetuated the nation that allowed the twentieth century flowering of a national movement. You will know in more detail in your history about how that developed, like the small nations after the First World War, but Scotland as a historic nation was very much involved in the Empire – the British Empire – and we can compare cities like Glasgow and Nantes and Bordeaux and Bristol, which made their money from slavery, and the cities look very similar and they were involved in a world project.

When the world project imploded, with decolonisation, Scots started to think what they had to look forward to in the future and in most of my political lifetime the battle to change Scotland from being a unionist country, as it was in the 1930s, to a nationalist country as it is increasingly today, in terms of politics, has been the backdrop that is different from the politics of Britain as a whole. So, we have as a result had the rule of the Labour Party for basically 50 years in local government in Scotland and, apart for the Tory 18 years, for much of the last 30 or 40 years in the British government. But the Labour Party had to confront, not the Conservatives who were a diminishing force in Scotland, the rise of, not an even rise, but the rise and fall of the Scottish National Party. So in 1997, when Tony Blair was elected overwhelmingly in Britain he had in his baggage, in his manifesto, the unfinished business of creating an assembly or parliament in Scotland with domestic powers, and, although he was sceptical himself, the people in Scotland overwhelmingly, by two thirds, voted in favour of the package. They put in a second question to make it more difficult, about varying the taxes, but they insured that the people had to vote strongly for it and they did. So they voted for the idea; what they received was a limited set of powers over the local economy, health, education, the environment, some transport, agriculture, fisheries, but the purse strings controlled in London, no control of tax, only receiving a block grant, allowed to make subventions through local government taxation. So this tension about how much power the Scottish Parliament has, or should have, is the underlying battle that is involved in Scottish politics today.

In the first eight years of the Parliament, after the referendum on September 11th 1997 - which of course becomes 9/11 in everybody’s mind several years later, but we have a happy remembrance of it – that’s the day in which you could say people were most united, but in the elections which followed there were expectations which led to a Labour and Liberal Democrat administration, a coalition, which lasted for four years, and then a second four years till May of this year. The voting system is a modified version of de Hondt Additional Member System, which is practised in Germany, but it is fixed, so that there is less proportionality than in Germany, and it is very difficult for any one party to get a majority. So in this election, to make any change in Scottish politics, people had to vote for the party most likely to change things, which was the Scottish National Party, which had been ahead in the sondages, in the opinion polls, month after month in the whole of the year preceding the elections; and this meant there was a squeeze on other parties such as the Greens and the socialist parties which split up, and the Conservatives went nowhere, and the Scottish elections led to the circumstance where I think about 50,000 more votes went to the Scottish National Party than to Labour. So the SNP actually won one more seat, 47 seats out of 129, and tried to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who refused, and so Alex Salmond sought the support of the two Green Members who were left in the Parliament, and we had elected a minority government. At the same time the voting system, thanks to the Liberal Democrats pushing Labour, was changed for the local government to Single Transferable Votes in multi-member constituencies, and this actually cut the feet from Labour power in Scotland down to three or four councils instead of about 15. So, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire are the main ones with a Labour administration in local government, the rest of the country has coalitions of all sorts. So it has been a completely liberating experience which will not be changed because the voting system for local government is the one which I think eventually we should have for the Parliament.That made very important that the Scottish National Party was fighting on all fronts and because of the surge in support for Parliament they were able to gain support in many local elections as well and form coalition administrations. Where I live, in Highland, there are many Independent councillors, but there are also 17 SNP councillors, and it is the SNP manifesto which has been adopted because Independents are like a bag of cats. So, we have a situation which has developed in Scotland as a whole, which meant that a new government which had been... you know, it was suggested that with the government of the SNP, everything would be destroyed, the whole country would fall in, the roof would fall down, well it didn’t... indeed there is an enormous liberating experience of the fact that democracy can work because you can change your government. So that’s a step forward for Scotland that you can have a different government than the one which has been there for the previous eight years, and I’m sure that that will happen again, but hopefully not too soon.

Alex Salmond is undoubtedly the biggest political figure, the most prominent political figure in recent Scottish history, and his personality, his determination – he decided that we were going to win and it was possible for us to win for a number of reasons. The negativity of the last three years in the government led by Labour was “no more powers for Scotland, No, you can’t, it’s all going to be terrible if you change things”, but many people realised that Scotland’s economy is underperforming on a British level, and most certainly underperforming compared to small nations in the advanced countries of Europe. So, many people who are financiers, and business people, realised that Alex Salmond, the economist, was a better bet than Jack McConnell, the previous Labour leader and First Minister, who was a teacher, of Maths, that Alex Salmond’s idea that you could grow the economy by liberating business, especially small business, was a good idea. So the former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Mr Matheson, supported the SNP at a critical point in February, and also the entrepreneur, Tom Farmer, gave the party £ 500,000 and, latterly also, the Stagecoach boss, Brian Souter, also gave the party this money. So for the first time the SNP with over a million pounds to spend could take on the British parties financially in an election campaign, for the first time; and that helped enormously to put over a positive message for change.

Basically the political situation is that in a minority government you cannot deliver all your policies, you’ve got to try to get the support of certain other parties, and in this respect, there is a tension with each of the different parties but some support for certain kinds of change. One change which could be achieved in the next four years is to change the system of local taxation from the council tax, which penalizes poor people - because it is a flat rate on property - and old people, and change that into a local income tax. That has the support of the Liberal Democrats, and it is possible that if we can do that many people will be freed from paying tax at the poorest levels and that will be a major gain. The second issue is that the tax on small businesses can be removed. In our powers we can do that; if we can do that perhaps a small business could employ one extra person or make some investment for the ten or fifteen thousand pounds they pay in tax at the moment. It’s a small amount, 150 million in a budget of 30 billion, so it is a lot of incentive to people, and all over the country in the election campaign, these two issues inspired people to say ‘Yes, we want to have these things, they’re fairer, they can help’; and kickstarting the economy at the local level is the sort of thing we can achieve.

In terms of the wider debate, the SNP government set out a list of aims for its first 100 days and it created an atmosphere of change. We were heavily criticised for changing the name of the Scottish Executive, which is in the Scotland Act, to the Scottish Government. We spent £100,000 on changing the signs. But the sheer fact of saying “We are a government, why call us an Executive? It’s so demeaning, that sounds like a civil servant, it’s not, it’s the elected government of Scotland”– sets the tone. Also at the national level, two critical issues were dealt with; first the First Minister launched a civil service based document to discuss the governance of Scotland, called A National conversation on the Constitution. By taking this initiative the other three parties, the Liberals, the Labour Party and the Conservatives, were forced into a situation to respond to this, and although Labour had previously said ‘no change’, the Conservatives said ‘some change’, to make us more responsible for spending money, and the Liberal Democrats wanted more powers for the Scottish Parliament. We now know that no party in Scotland believes that the powers of the existing Parliament are adequate, so the national conversation, which Alex Salmond launched, is a means to say we want to have a referendum on the constitution about independence in 2010, but we know we cannot pass it through Parliament, because the others would vote against independence; but the people can have their say in the conversation – tens of thousands of people have been entering the website to make their comments – and the other parties have now to define what it is they want more than the present.

Secondly, because Britain controls the broadcasting system we have a grave disadvantage to express Scottish opinions about ourselves and about the world directly. Indeed the spending in Scotland on broadcasting through the BBC amounts to 3% of the amount which is spent in Britain as a whole. But Scotland’s population share alone is 9%. So a major argument has ensued because Alex Salmond has set up a National Broadcasting Commission to discuss the future of broadcasting to allow a debate about what should happen. London controls the powers on broadcasting and on many other things. That would be our intention to have these things controlled in Scotland, even a one-hour news programme every evening which was produced in Glasgow and had worldwide feed from all the BBC’s other services but run from Scotland with a Scottish accent, would mean we wouldn’t need to hear about English education, health and other issues and the interesting little funny stories about people with funny hats and faraway places with strange-sounding names. We could have our own funny little people with strange-sounding names. But the point is that you cannot see Scotland through a prism of Scottish views and the world through those views without the diversity of nations. Also these kinds of issues have transformed the outlook of people in Scotland in the last few months to allow a very strong support for the Scottish Government, a very strong support for the First Minister and a belief that the change is necessary. It has got to go on, and although it is possible in some cases in the Parliament for the Opposition to gang up, and they did so a week ago on Thursday - Labour , Liberals and Tories voted about the failure of the SNP’s promises to deliver, they outvoted us – so, what does it mean? They don’t like it, but we are in government; so they have to decide if they want to vote us out of government, the process of that would have to be on some very major issue. The people outside like what we are doing, so the opposition parties in the Parliament can, they can fume about the way that we are making a change and making a difference, and indeed opening up the possibility that Scotland can look at itself in a more relaxed way, we can project ourselves into the world and we can stop being the best little country in the world, which was the slogan adopted by the last government. We are not, nor are we little, because there are about 50 countries in the United Nations that are smaller than Scotland. But if we think of Scotland as being a country which is gaining a more positive view of itself, then that’s what the politics of the present have meant. So, we can be more positive about our languages, we are also existing in politics at a time where there are changes elsewhere. For the first time ever the regional administration in the province of the North of Ireland has Nationalists in government along with Ulster patriots. In Wales, there are Nationalists in government with the Labour Party in a coalition. So Gordon Brown faces a very different United Kingdom where three of the autonomous areas which can make laws have Nationalists of their local persuasion in those governments. So three hundred years after 1707 when the Parliament of Scotland was ended forever it’s all changed.
The way in which Scotland is able to build upon the foundations of the civic state which we are in the modern world means that if we get control of our economy we have huge resources which, when we control them, will make all the difference.
I had better stop because we’re now overtime but I should say that just this week the First Minister was in the USA for his first official visit there and he is speaking with people about financing Scottish projects and the idea is that of course since Scotland’s ideas virtually created the United States of America, the economy, the ideas of government and so on, there is a strong feeling that people in Scotland are trying to do the best for our country and project the idea of being partners, being friends, then that will be a good thing for the future debate; but at the moment we are a minority government, we made a little change, and potentially in the future the people of Scotland can decide, we hope, to give us a majority in the next election in 2011."

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Forests for climate proofing

Published in Am Bratach Magazine


It's a strange argument against global warming to suggest [Am Bratach Jan 09] , on the evidence of US scientists that no forest plantings should be done north of 50 degrees N, i.e. north of The Lizard in Cornwall. Clearly they don't understand a temperate maritime climate such as we have where the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift warm the seas around Scotland and on round Norway to Murmansk. I live in Easter Ross north of Moscow, Russia, should they cut down all the trees on Fyrish - Norse for pine or fir hill?

We have always had woods in high latitudes. Look at the range of Scots pine and birch over Eurasia. Is the Climate Change Bill is to ignore the role of forests in capturing CO2 in Scotland? If so, the North Sutherland Community Forest trust is wrong, the Assynt Crofters is wrong and we should cut down all the trees in Norway to allow the lighter shades of land with winter snows to refract back more of the sun's rays into space to keep the planet's temperature down.

The albedo effect is well known, but it should not deter Scots from seeing the Forestry Commission lands as a possible contributor to mitigate climate change. We also need timber for eco-friendly housing and fuel. So the more we develop woods as there used to be in the North West before over grazing, the better.

The Climate Change Bill has started its Scottish Parliamentary passage. I hope NW Sutherland gains the benefit of sound science to regenerate our woodland cover in a sustainable fashion as part of its work.


Rob Gibson SNP MSP
Highlands and Islands,
4 Grant St. Wick

Friday, 13 February 2009

Borrowing is the key to upgrading country's schools

NOW that common sense prevails and the Scottish budget can set the path for our public services, parliament has turned its attention to improving the powers we need to meet the difficulties of this looming depression in London and across the financial world.

It has to be said that in the snowy north we have particular concerns about gaining cash for public investment to build a sustainable Scotland.

Last week I spoke in two debates with strong local resonance. The first concerned the need for built-in borrowing powers for all levels of government. The second, a member’s debate, concerned the state of the fabric of Wick High School.

Firstly I believe the Scottish Futures Trust must tote up borrowing requirements from around Scotland then deploy our borrowing ability to pay for many types of projects.

That part of the debate about borrowing requirements will not go away.

I said: “Although the SNP believes ultimately in full tax-raising powers – naturally borrowing powers are part of that picture, too – we recognise that the public sector has triple 'A’ credit ratings… this is a great benefit.”

The wider debate on the constitutional future of our country is taking place – through the Calman Commission agreed by the Unionist parties, but to a greater extent through the National Conversation in which there has been huge public involvement.

Scots want more powers for our parliament, enabling us to live a normal national life. As it is, having one hand tied behind our back hampers the government of Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament should have borrowing powers; we should build on them from the base up. That would be a strong step forward for the democracy of Scotland. It is essential that we move forward as fast as possible.

Therefore I am keen for non-profit distribution models to be part of the debate on borrowing powers.

It would help the Highland Council to pay for projects that get round inadequate funds available to Scotland from the London block grant.

Next year the expected £500 million reduction in that grant will need innovative ways to pay for urgent investment. That underpinned my reasoned speech on the Wick High School issue.

I said: “It is important to acknowledge the history of the problems that Highland Council has faced over decades.

“Indeed, I understand that the evaluation that ministers in the previous Executive and the current Government made of the most likely candidates for school improvement funds showed that some 50 primary schools in the Highland Council area have toilets that are not fit for purpose.”

People who were pupils of Wick High School 15 years ago tell me that there were buckets on the floor and broken roof tiles then. Some of them said that when they were concentrated on learning it was not too much of a problem for them, but in the long period since then there has been a decline in the condition of the dilapidated fabric.

I asked the minister Maureen Watt to find out, if possible, why the fabric of Wick High School has deteriorated to its current state, which has forced concerned parents to go to the local MSP with their campaign for improvement.

I understand their concerns for the current generation of pupils. Given the circumstances of this Scottish devolved administration, there is not enough money to do all the required jobs. I hope that the national classification system will put Wick High School towards the top of the tree for being dealt with.

We need to get this matter into perspective and learn from what has happened, and consider more local choices for borrowing requirements.

The potential for prudential borrowing has led, at least in the case of certain local authorities, to emergency work being done on schools. I would like to know whether something of that sort can be contemplated in this case. I will now press Maureen’s successor Keith Brown, the new minister for schools and skills, on this.


ON a sad note, the sudden passing of my colleague Bashir Ahmad, MSP for Glasgow, has been mourned by all sections of opinion.

He was the first Scots Asian MSP in the Scottish Parliament and a kinder, more concerned man would be hard to meet. As I was speaking with pupils at Dornoch Primary School last Friday morning, little did I know Bashir was ill.

I emphasised to the P7 class that no matter where we come from, as we live in Scotland it matters that we all have a place. The SNP has found the broad support of many sections of the people. Bashir was a champion for Scots Asians for Independence. He will be sadly missed.


ON a much lighter note, fans have been making the long trek from the Far North to Glasgow each January for Celtic Connections for the past 16 years. This year I enjoyed five concerts over the three-week event that kicked off this Year of Homecoming. I much enjoyed Jerry Douglas, the US Dobro player who co-hosts Transatlantic Sessions with Aly Bain both on BBC TV and at Celtic Connections.

His own concert in the Old Fruit Market was a treat of sheer musicality, from jazz funk to bluegrass. His latest album Glide is a fair showcase.

I was also struck by the support act, the all-action family band Cherryholmes who I can imagine gracing the stage at the Northern Nashville Caithness Country Music Festival at some future occasion.

Check them out on My Space Music for yourselves.

It all adds to the great wealth of Scottish musical experience to hear such an international array from across the globe. Let’s get more of it played here in Caithness.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Rural Affairs and the Environment


Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans there are for the establishment of a new marine management organisation in Scotland.

Mr Richard Lochhead : Following consideration of the responses on the recent consultation exercise on Sustainable Seas for All a Consultation on Scotland’s first Marine Bill and related delivery arrangements, we plan to establish new integrated marine management arrangements for Scotland – under Marine Scotland as part of the core Scottish Government, as of 1 April.

This will enable coherent management of the seas with integration of policy alongside delivery functions, as well as contributing to the Scottish Government’s aim to simplify the public bodies landscape. Our proposals signal our commitment to a step change in marine management arrangements for Scotland.

Marine Scotland’s role will be, in partnership with others, to deliver our marine vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments within the overall Government’s purpose of sustainable economic growth. This will include, for example, working closely with bodies such as SEPA and SNH. It will manage Scotland’s seas for prosperity and environmental sustainability both by leading and working with others and in carrying out its own functions of evidence-based policy development and marine planning, streamlined marine licensing and consenting, sound science and effective compliance monitoring and enforcement.

We plan to establish a Marine Strategy Board, to be led by Marine Scotland and involving key partners with marine management interests, to deliver strategic management of Scotland’s seas.

Marine Scotland will have direct responsibility for core marine functions, which include both the existing functions of the Marine Directorate, Fisheries Research Services (Marine and Freshwater Fisheries) and Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, and also planned new functions of marine planning, improved nature conservation measures and better integrated licensing, consents and monitoring arrangements. There is strong support for the establishment of such a body with the largest group to comment on status supporting its establishment within Government. It will build on the success of the organisation involved and will enable a strategic approach to marine management.

In light of the importance of the new body’s science function we will, as part of the new governance arrangements, also be establishing a Scientific Advisory Board to assure its scientific objectivity and credibility. We will also be developing appropriate appeals mechanisms with an independent element.

We believe it is important to establish Marine Scotland quickly so that it can begin the process of integrating and streamlining currently separate functions and processes and so that it will be well placed to deliver new functions and responsibilities, following agreement on new marine legislation, effectively and efficiently. Decisions now about its role, status and establishment will also remove uncertainties for the staff involved, partner organisations and stakeholders and help us to gain the benefits of better integrated, more streamlined arrangements more quickly.

EU Sustainable Energy Week February 2009

I attended sessions of the programme with MSP colleagues as part of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee's Energy Enquiry. The meetings focused on carbon capture and storage (CCS), marine renewable development and the need to accommodate areas of high nature designations that are most suitable for Scotland's contribution to EU energy security. From Commissioner Piebalgs and the EU Parliament Committee clerks we got a range of views. They underlined the opportunities that Scots should grasp with both hands when we contemplate our contribution to EU 20-20-20 targets. With unique resources of clean power, especially in the Pentland Firth and Moray Firth, a European supergrid has to be built.

Friday, 6 February 2009

An urgent need for concensus

THE passage of the Scottish Government's budget has occupied the headlines following the Labour and LibDem parties playing politics with the proposals ten days ago.

Additionally the two Green MSPs would not accept the assurance of John Swinney the Cabinet Secretary for Finance that the home insulation scheme they desired would be funded to the tune of £34 million.

Under threat was the process of setting the council tax in each local authority. The council tax freeze which has cushioned hard-pressed householders in this recession was threatened. If the budget was not adopted over £220 a year more would have been demanded from Highland taxpayers. A whole raft of proposals was included in the SNP Budget to help us ride out the recession. Of course with no borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament, unlike Westminster, the Northern Ireland Assembly and local councils, the SNP plans had one hand tied behind our backs.

In effect Labour and the LibDems voted against abolition of business rates for 120,000 struggling, small businesses, against accelerated investment in affordable housing, cash for free personal care, additional spending in the NHS, extra cash to put more bobbies on the beat and funds to reduce prescription charges.

Last Thursday common sense began to dawn as the Labour leader had his ears pinned back by Mr Salmond. Iain Gray in voting against the budget had put 35,000 jobs in jeopardy said the First Minister as he underlined the SNP's determination to pass the budget quickly to insure that these investments can be saved. Now this will involve moderation from all parties. Why did Labour and LibDems play politics with local services in a recession? I'm sure Gordon Brown would not want a Scottish election at this time.


THE SNP government has approved 24 renewable energy developments in the last eighteen months — more than in the whole four years up to May 2007.

With the recent approval for the Siadar marine energy project in the Western Isles — an internationally significant development — Scotland is leading the way in green energy. Siadar, the two bio-energy plants under way at Tullis Russell and Diageo in Fife, offshore energy in the Pentland Firth and Scotland's future role in the North Sea Super grid will all create jobs in construction and in operation as well as cutting our reliance on non-renewable energy sources.

The Energy Committee enquiry continues to occupy my attention and I am delighted about the above news. However, we need to gain support from the European Investment bank for our renewable energy developments. I am deeply dissatisfied with the failure of the formerly high flying Royal Bank of Scotland which played no part in funding renewable projects in Scotland, instead it supported such clients abroad. I am hoping that the UK Government's control of the bank's assets will bring instructions to reassess the risks of tidal and offshore wind projects. They certainly can't be as crazy as the billions lost to sub-prime mortgages that were waved through by the previous management.


THE Climate Change Bill is now centre stage. House insulation was an issue regarding Green dissent from the budget, but the same day I shared a prize in the MSP Home Challenge for the Best Future Energy Saving Plans. In attempting to get the biggest reduction in CO2 equivalent emission from our Evanton home we started favourites. Our house has the lowest overall emissions even after others did better at reducing electricity uses. I will report on the difference our solar panels make when fitted.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Energy Saving Awards

I shared a prize in the MSP Home Challenge for the Best Future Energy Saving Plans. In attempting to get the biggest reduction in CO2 equivalent emission from our Evanton home we started favourites. Our house has the lowest overall emissions even after others did better at reducing unnecessary electricity uses. I will report on the difference our solar panels make once fitted.