Scotland sets its sights on energy after election gains

1st June 2015


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  • Generation ,
  • Renewable ,
  • Conventional

Author

Amy Johnston

The Scottish government wants to increase its influence over UK energy policy, including giving Holyrood ministers a veto over cuts to subsidies for onshore wind, a key policy pledge of the new Conservative government.

The SNP has 56 seats in Westminster, 50 more than before the general election. Party leader and Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged the UK government to make key decisions on energy policy only after the agreement of the Scottish government.

She said Scotland wants prior agreement on changes to subsidies for onshore wind, and more broadly on medium-term budgets for offshore wind and other renewables through the levy control framework to give the sector the confidence to invest.

Sturgeon said: "Scotland is an energy powerhouse but we have very limited powers on energy policy. I am calling on the UK to take a much more collegiate approach to policymaking on energy and ensure proper consultation with the Scottish government on major areas of energy policy.

New energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd claims to have already "put a rocket" under a team at Decc to fast-track removing onshore wind subsidies and transferring decisions on planning applications for projects over 50MW to local authorities rather than the Planning Inspectorate. Reaction from the environment sector to Rudd's promotion from minister for energy and climate change to secretary of state was positive, with many hoping that it was a sign that the government would act on climate change.

Her experience as parliamentary private secretary to chancellor George Osborne was also seen as a boon. However, she has a mixed parliamentary record on energy and climate issues, having voted in favour of cuts to subsidies for renewable energy, according to the website theyworkforyou.com.

Rudd is joined at Decc by Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire, whose responsibilities include energy infrastructure, nuclear, renewables and shale gas; and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, who will look after policy on smart meters, energy efficiency and climate science.

Tunbridge Wells MP Liz Truss remains secretary of state for the environment and will be joined at Defra by George Eustice and Rory Stewart but their ministerial responsibilities had yet to be decided as the environmentalist went to press.


IEMA's top 10 sustainability actions for the government

1 Give greater prominence to environment and sustainability across government thinking and action.

2 Prioritise energy conservation.


3 Develop a cross-sector skills strategy to enable the UK to compete globally on sustainability.

4 Implement a nature and wellbeing act to improve and reverse the UK's current rate of loss of biodiversity and natural habitats.

5 Improve air quality in the UK.

6 Deliver a "Stern for resources" style report to make the economic case for better resource management.

7 Strengthen the UK's international leadership on climate change.

8 Prioritise national needs over local concerns to deliver the infrastructure critical to the UK's transition to a sustainable economy.

9 Give the Green Investment Bank a greater role in taking forward nationally significant infrastructure.

10 Establish an independent body to scrutinise the government's progress on sustainability.

"It is vital that the new government realises the importance that environment and sustainability issues have to play, not only in ensuring that UK business can compete on the global stage, but also in protecting and delivering a sustainable future. These 10 actions should be placed at the heart of its thinking and action," said Martin Baxter, IEMA's chief policy adviser.

IEMA developed this action plan from the results of its polls of members in the run-up to the UK general election (p.32). Of those surveyed, 91% said the new government should prioritise tackling climate risks, while 89% want air quality to improve.

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