‘Scottish independence would hurt renewable ambitions’

Scottish independence would hurt farmers and see them lose essential long-term funding for farm renewables, a Scottish MEP has warned.

Scottish MEP George Lyon has challenged the SNP government to answer some difficult questions farmers are asking ahead of the referendum to decide Scotland’s future.

George Lyon, Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland, wants Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead to explain how the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland will work in practice, including key questions that remain over funding for farm renewables.

Mr Lyon said large numbers of farmers were borrowing millions from the banks to invest in wind turbines and hydro-schemes – and that long-term funding was guaranteed by substantial and ongoing subsidies from 60m UK consumers in the form of feed-in tariffs.

“Without that subsidy, which is estimated to cost UK consumers over £400m a year in higher electricity bills, none of these projects will stack up financially,” said Mr Lyon.

“The question many farmers are now asking is if Scotland splits from the rest of the UK who will foot that huge bill?”

“It is time farmers received straight answers to these very serious financial questions that affect their businesses.”
George Lyon, Liberal Democrat MEP

An independent Scotland would see the whole burden of subsidising the massive expansion in Scottish renewables fall on five million hard-pressed Scottish consumers, he added, rather than being shared by 60m UK consumers.

“Will ordinary Scots be willing to foot the bill for all the wind farm subsidies through much higher electricity bills? If not, what happens to future funding for Scottish renewables?”

Farmers and landowners were taking on long-term financial commitments in these projects and they needed “absolute certainty” and “cast iron guarantees about future funding”, Mr Lyon said.

“It is time farmers received straight answers to these very serious financial questions that affect their businesses.”

At the Highland Show in June, Mr Lochhead said Scottish farmers could potentially be £150m better off every year if Scotland became an independent nation.

In response, Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said a single Great Britian energy market would be maintained post-independence as part of an “increasingly unified single EU electricity market”.

“Mr Lyon appears unaware that in June 2011, the British Irish Council agreed an All Islands Approach to energy resources across the UK and Ireland for cost-effective exploitation of the renewable energy resources available, increasing integration of their markets, and improving security of supply,” added Mr Lochhead.

“As 2020 approaches, countries across the EU – not just the UK – will need to source affordable renewable generation from nations such as Scotland, which are blessed with major renewable resources. Given Scotland’s vast renewable resources, under independence it will be in the rest of UK’s overwhelming interests to ensure support arrangements to secure Scottish renewable energy.

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