Scotland is an energy rich nation and energy has always been at the forefront of the row for Scotland’s independence. For example, in the 2014 referendum the issue of North Sea Oil and debates about who owns it and how it should be administered was a recurring theme in Scottish National Party’s (SNP) independence discourse.
Upon it the Scotland’s former first minister, Alex Salmond, suggested that Scotland could follow the example of Norway by being independent, building a huge sovereign wealth fund from its natural resources.
“Scotland can be part of Northern Europe’s arc of prosperity”, he stated in one of his speeches as he reckoned Norway as one of the young countries that had become independent in the 20th century and now is among the richest in the world, “Norway is the second most prosperous country in the world… With distant London in charge, Scotland will just keep slipping further behind”, he added.
Even before that, when in the early 1970s oil and gas was discovered in the North Sea it was seen by the Scottish nationalist as something that they could make their economic case for Scotland’s independence on it.
But, when in 2022 the war in Ukraine broke out and Russia weaponized energy supplies against Europe, Scotland started viewing its potentials for producing renewable energy as equally important in its assertion of Scotland’s independence.
In fact, with European countries already forcing to change their energy strategy and looking for alternative energy resources to replace oil and gas, Scotland as a capital of Europe’s green energy faced a golden opportunity to use its own renewable resources for creating wealth and bringing in a prosperous economy.
“Independent Scotland in an independent world would contribute to the collective security…In Scotland we have a very sharp focus on how the northeast of our country, currently known as the oil and gas capital of Europe, can become a global green energy capital”, stated the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
This article first, introduces different types of Scotland’s renewable energies. Second, it interrogates Scotland’s green energy and Scotland’s potion in producing in the Europe. Third, it examines Britain’s position on Scotland’s potentials in producing green energy.
Scotland’s renewable resources
While Scotland is a relatively small region, it has very significant reserves of renewable energies. In fact, if there is one region that is synonym with marine renewable energy, it is Scotland.
As for wave and tidal resources, the region has 16, 500 kilometers of coastline and a population density of 64/km2, which place Scotland in a strong position to make use of its abundant wave and tidal resources to generate electricity.
Moreover, Scotland has numerous narrow channels, seaways and firths interspersed around it. For example, in extreme Northern Scotland, between the mainland and the Orkney Islands, lies Pentland Firth, which is known for having the strongest tides and often, nicknamed as the “Saudi Arabia of tidal power. The Pentland Firth’s powerful tides, then, presents potentials for generating electricity.
As regarded wind power, Scotland is the windiest region in all Europe due to eastward moving Atlantic depressions that brings strong winds and clouds continuously throughout the year. Given the high average wind speeds in the region, Scotland is an ideal place for building wind farms to harness it for producing electricity.
Scotland also has great potential for hydrogen power and has 78 hydro dams that can make significant contribution in producing Scotland’s green energy.
Scotland’s renewable energy and its position in Europe
As it was mentioned earlier, Scotland has very significant reserves of wind, wave, hydro, and tidal power. Within the country, Scotland has about 60% of the UK’s onshore wind capacity and 90% of its hydro capacity. In European context, however, it has 25% of Europe’s total offshore wind and tidal resources and around 10% of its wave power.
This capacity, therefore, allows Scotland’s green energy that goes beyond its own demand. For example, in 2020, Scotland produced enough electricity through renewable energy to power all Scottish household for over three years.
In the meantime, there are plans to increase producing Scotland’s renewable energy even more. A new report into Scotland’s renewable energy confirms potentials of increasing Scotland’s green energy output from the current capacity of 12 GW over five time to 80 GW by 2050.
Moreover, according to a draft energy strategy that is recently published by the Scottish government, it is devised that by 2030, Scotland would have an additional 20 GW of renewable electricity capacity to its current capacity of 12 GW. In this respect, about 8-11 GW of additional Scotland’s renewable energy would come from offshore wind and 12 GW additional Scotland’s energy would flow from onshore wind.
This draft also sets out visions for wave energy and solar power so as to provide growth in these sectors.
In addition to it, the draft sets out an ambition of 5 GW renewable hydrogen production by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045. The ambition of Scotland to become a hydrogen center of excellence in Europe was also highlighted by the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
“We aim to have the capacity by 2030 to create five gigawatts of hydrogen…however, our plan is that by 2045 we will have the capacity to produce 25 gigawatts of hydrogen, and much of that will be exported”.
Consequently, the huge production and export of Scotland’s renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen would change Scotland to the Europe’s renewable powerhouse. This, in turn, brings economic growth, job and investment to the region and reinforces Scot’s appeal for Scotland’s independence.
Even now, the future of Scotland as a producer of reliable and low cost renewable energy and its significant contribution to energy security is acknowledged by Europe, as Nicola Sturgeon pointed it out in her speech in 2022.
“Scotland’s potential is already being recognized by other countries. In the past year (2021) alone, we have signed memorandums with Denmark and with Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany”.
Britain’s position on Scotland’s green energy
Today, Britain’s position on Scotland’s green energy is affected by different factors. On the one hand, there is a rising demand for national sovereignty and control over energy resources in Scotland, as many Scots are already discontented with the Westminster’s cutting Scotland’s renewable energy’s budget. In fact, after 2010, different Conservative governments slashed state funding for Scotland’s green energy projects to eliminate Britain’s budget deficit.
But, on the other hand, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rising energy bills in 2022 changed energy strategy of European countries including the UK and have placed further pressure on the government to accelerate transition to green energy.
Furthermore, the UK has a legally binding emissions target of net-zero by 2050, which requires the country to move away from fossil fuel and decarbonize its different sectors in the coming years.
Against this backdrop, therefore, while the UK is now working to invest and develop Scotland’s renewable energies, it is doing everything to contain Scotland within the Union. Although for a short time Britain can raise legal case against Scotland’s quest for Scotland’s independence, yet, in the longer term politics may win over law.