The decision by the UK government to exclude windfarm projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles from the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction has been labelled a “betrayal of island communities” by an SNP MSP.
Maree Todd was highly critical that the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy had published detailed budgets of the next auction round for CfD, which covered offshore wind, wave and tidal, but had delayed access to the competition for remote islands.
Her comments followed those of isles MP Alistair Carmichael earlier in the week, who said windfarm projects in the Northern and Western Isles, including the controversial Viking Energy scheme planned in Shetland, could grind to a halt because of lack of government commitment.
Ms Todd said: “The UK government’s announcement that island wind power will be excluded from the Contracts for Difference auction is quite simply a betrayal of our island communities. The decision will delay £1.3 billion worth of investments offered by island renewables projects, which will hurt the economy for our island communities.
“Our islands are already discriminated against due to excessive transmission fees and this decision only worsens the islands’ disadvantage. The decision goes back on previous commitments that the government made to support island renewable projects and it goes against the express wishes and advice of the Scottish government, Orkney [Islands] Council, Shetland [Islands] Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
“Yesterday I raised this during First Minister’s Questions, and I’m glad that the First Minister responded by defending our island communities. I hope that with her support we will be able to get through to the UK government.
“I have also submitted a parliamentary motion calling on the Scottish Parliament to collectively condemn the UK government’s decision and calling on Greg Clark to urgently reconvene the Scottish Islands Renewables Delivery Forum to explain the decision.
“It’s vital that politicians come together to present a united front to defend our island communities.”
Replying to Ms Todd’s question, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The decision that was announced yesterday is deeply concerning. The UK government, after a great deal of delay, announced its decision on contract for difference and there are two aspects of that announcement that are of extreme concern to Scotland.
“First, there is what I can only describe as the betrayal of our island communities by not treating onshore wind developments in those communities as an unusual form of energy and therefore able to bid into the auction for the contract for difference. That is completely contrary to commitments that were given to our island communities.
“Secondly, not having a ring-fenced amount for marine technology in this contract for difference raises real concerns for world-leading projects such as MeyGen.
“We will continue to liaise with the UK government. Again, though, just like the basing review that we have been discussing, this announcement was made yesterday, when eyes were elsewhere, without any consultation with the Scottish government.
“I do not think that that is the right way to proceed, particularly when these decisions have such an impact on our economy right across the country.”