If SNP don't apologise for lying to us about Scotland's offshore wind power potential, then they are clearly using Donald Trump's playbook – Alex Cole-Hamilton

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It was Kellyanne Conway, one-time senior counsel and pollster to Donald Trump, who introduced the world to the concept of “alternative facts”. I say facts but they’re famous because they were actually fabrications, used to deflect or justify the agenda of the Trump administration.

In the smoke and mirrors of the Trump White House, it actually described pretty well what the administration was dishing out on a daily basis. Alternative facts are outright lies.

It was perhaps wishful thinking that the post-truth world of Donald Trump wouldn’t take hold in Scotland, but it has. In fact, the SNP could actually teach ‘The Donald’ a thing or two.

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It was revealed last week that Scotland’s governing party has been caught lying to the Scottish people about something really significant. It is a lie that litters the transcripts of the proceedings of the Scottish Parliament over the past ten years. One that casts serious doubt on the government’s energy strategy, our ability to meet Scotland’s climate targets and the economic case for independence.

Since Alex Salmond was First Minister, the SNP have claimed that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe's off-shore wind power potential. He said it could make Scotland the “Saudi Arabia of renewables” and would lead to a golden age of wealth in a newly independent Scotland.

It’s a claim that has been repeated by the current First Minister, her deputy, her Net Zero Secretary and a string of environment ministers. It was even reheated by Scottish Green minister Lorna Slater in this paper last week. It turns out that it’s mince.

A research paper released by the think tank These Islands revealed that the 25 per cent figure came from a bogus analysis of a mixture of reports dating all the way back to 1993, when the technology was in its infancy, and using a definition of Europe that excluded renewable powerhouses like Sweden, Norway and Finland.

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In a further attempt at deflection, an SNP spokesperson stated it was accurate in 2010 when the analysis had been carried out, but the report proves that’s wrong – it was never accurate. Civil servants have been privately warning against the use of the 25 per cent figure for at least two years, warning it has “never been properly sourced” and that the figures had been quote “recycled robotically without really checking them”.

Donald Trump's 'alternative facts' have no place in Scotland (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Donald Trump's 'alternative facts' have no place in Scotland (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Donald Trump's 'alternative facts' have no place in Scotland (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

I cannot recall a comparable situation, where a completely fictitious statistic has been relied upon so often and so widely. This matters, because this Scottish Government has put this claim at the heart of the debates around so much of Scotland’s future.

I fully support the expansion of Scotland’s renewable sector and I desperately want to see Scotland fulfil our renewable potential, but lying about the reach of that potential does nobody any good and harms Scotland’s credibility internationally.

Scottish ministers, including the First Minister, should fess up to this decade-old lie, correct the records and resolve to never use it again. If they don’t they’re operating straight out of the Trump playbook.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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