The news comes as a host of energy giants have signed multi-million-pound contracts to build energy farms. The money comes from an auction to triple the UK’s offshore wind power. Shell, BP and Scottish Power want to build more floating and fixed turbines but face opposition from fishermen and conservationists.
The move presents a test for UK planning laws, with a potential clash between the race towards net-zero carbon emissions and the need to protect wildlife.
Energy giants including Shell, BP and Scottish Power have agreed to pay £700m collectively for the rights to build 25 gigawatts of offshore wind around Scotland – both floating and fixed turbines – according to auction results announced on Monday.
Projects are expected to bring in about £25bn investment in Scottish supply chains and put the UK at the forefront of nascent floating offshore wind technology.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said it was “hard to overstate” the importance of the auction results for Scotland, which will bring “massive economic benefits” for the country.
Projects now face the often lengthy processes of securing planning permission and grid connections, however. Experts have previously warned that such “non-financial” barriers are among the biggest barriers to rolling-out offshore wind.
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, which advises the UK Government on climate policy, said: “In theory, the advantage of offshore wind is that consenting should be easier, but this will be an interesting test of that. One of the key consenting issues is the impact on wildlife offshore.
“The consenting regime is now really front-line now when it comes to net zero. If that starts to be a barrier then we will start to see what looks at the moment to be a very good news story becoming a drag on net-zero overall. So all eyes are on that consenting procedure.
“Authorities will need to be well resourced – making sure we have people working on this so we can move at the pace necessary.”
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On Monday the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said it was “anxious and concerned” about offshore renewables projects’ impact on the fishing industry. The latest auction covers around 7,000km2.
Opinion over Scottish independence has swung wildly since the last referendum.
In 2021, the Yes vote started at 58 percent in one poll, falling to 47 percent halfway through the year in another poll and then end at 55 percent in the last poll of the year.
Those poll figures are based on the path to independence being a Section 30 agreed referendum, with 10 percent knocked off the Yes cause if a non-Section 30 referendum without first having exhausted all routes to an agreed plebiscite.
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A poll undertaken by IpsosMori for STV, interviewed 1,107 adults aged 16 and over by phone between November 22 and 29.
Survey results state that 52 percent of Scots would vote in favour of independence should an election be held, with 43 percent backing No and 4 percent saying they did not know.
Speaking of her desire to force through Indyref 2, Ms Strurgeon, speaking to ‘Scotland Tonight’ said: I intend to do everything that is within my power to enable that referendum to happen before the end of 2023.
“And we will set out exactly what that means in terms of the date of introduction of legislation when we’ve taken the detailed decisions around that but more importantly, well it’s not more importantly because obviously enabling the referendum was important, but actually what I think is much more exciting as we come out of the pandemic, and certainly the acute phase of the pandemic, are the opportunities that come with Scotland being independent.”
Ms Sturgeon has previously pledged to hold indyref2 in 2023 as long as the pandemic allows it to be run safely.
Speaking to the SNP’s conference in November 2021, the party leader said: “I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023.”
Some said that the language used by the First Minister implied a backpedalling on such previous assertions.
James Kelly, the ScotGoesPop blogger and member of Alba’s ruling committee, commented: “The clarity of language was becoming more encouraging, but this is a step backwards.
“‘Everything in my power’ could be code for just asking for a Section 30 yet again, and helplessly taking no as an answer (while muttering ‘this is totally unsustainable’).”