Alison Johnstone: Let’s invest in what we have

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This week has seen more bad news for Edinburgh’s cutting-edge engineers, with the news that another wave-energy firm based here is shedding jobs.

Between the companies Pelamis and Aquamarine Power, up to 100 skilled jobs are at risk in an industry which clearly has massive potential to power Scotland in the future.

Yesterday bids closed for Pelamis, a company known as a global leader in wave power technology, but one that went into administration last month after funding troubles. We don’t yet know who will buy this Leith-based company, but it would be a tragedy if a home-grown company got snapped up by an overseas investor. This could mean that in five or ten years time, we end up importing back the very technology that Scotland leads on right now.

With ten per cent of Europe’s coastline and a growing expertise in renewables, this country has a huge opportunity to benefit from our natural resources and secure economic benefits as well as clean energy.

Last week, as a result of the UK government’s budget plans, the Scottish Government received more than £200 million in new money. Roughly half of that will be spent on the NHS, but surely we should use some of this money to support those people who face redundancy just weeks before Christmas? It’s unclear exactly why public funding was withdrawn from the technology projects that both these companies were working on, but here’s the perfect opportunity for the Scottish Government to rescue its reputation for supporting renewables.

What makes this all the more frustrating is that at the same time as the development of clean, exciting technology is being put at risk, the SNP refuses to rule out fracking across the Central Belt – an energy source that is wildly unpopular and risks polluting both the local and global environment.

Yesterday we also saw a press release from the Scottish Government on fuel poverty statistics, blaming Westminster for not doing enough to bring down energy prices. Yet the same figures show that our leaky Scottish housing is in terrible shape, with 36 per cent of houses in a state of urgent disrepair and 51 per cent failing the Housing Quality Standard. Nicola Sturgeon’s government has complete power over housing as well as much control over energy efficiency and energy production.

The Scottish Government needs to sort out its priorities. I supported a Yes vote in the referendum and I’m disappointed with the Smith proposals too, but they simply must take responsibility for the powers they have. Let’s not wave goodbye to high-quality technology jobs in this city but back an industry of the future with new public investment. Let’s not go down the fracking dead end but focus on meeting those climate targets, and let’s make a massive effort to upgrade our substandard housing.

It’s the time of year for thinking small and donating to charity

IT was heartening to see lots of public support for Small Business Saturday at the weekend.

I’ve bemoaned the rise of the supermarkets and the tax-dodgers enough and it always feels better being in favour of things rather than against them. More than 90 per cent of Scottish businesses are classed as small, but how many of us instinctively head to Princes Street or a retail park for our Christmas shopping?

Edinburgh has some brilliant wee shops full of unique products so why not give them a try this year?

I’m always impressed by the charity campaigns at this time of year, which bring out the best in people. Shelter’s #SocialMediaSanta campaign, which provides gifts for homeless children, is running again this year and you have until Friday to donate a present. On a similar theme, the new ‘Meal on Me’ project allows you to buy a meal voucher for vulnerable people in our city.

More than 700 meals have been provided so far, and I wish all the volunteers the best over this festive period.

Why goalposts need moving

IT’S sad to see that Livingston Football Club are in the Court of Session today and face financial crisis, again. It has been another year of turmoil for Scottish football, but one with signs of hope too, with Hearts getting out of administration and Hibs fans beginning to look at fan ownership options


In the new year I’ll be proposing changes to the government’s Community Empowerment Bill to give far more rights to fans to have a say in the running of their club, and right of first refusal when the club comes up for sale.

We also need to establish a secure ‘exit strategy’ for those responsible owners who, for whatever reason, find they need to leave their role as a club’s custodian.

It’s clear we need a lot more transparency in the game if it’s going to have a vibrant future that continues to play a big role in our communities.