Scotland will be Saudi Arabia of renewable energy and is well-placed to profit from Arctic trade routes to China – Angus Robertson

Scotland’s geographical location as a northern European nation provides massive opportunities and some emerging challenges for this and future centuries.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 9:05 am
Scotland is well-placed to benefit from new trade routes to China as the Arctic ice melts, while it also has vast amounts of wind and tidal energy (Picture: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Firstly the good news: we are truly blessed as a renewable energy-rich country, the scale of which few people have fully grasped.

We have won twice on the natural lottery, having been the largest oil producer in the European Union over past decades and now, more sustainably, having amongst the highest per-capita renewables potential anywhere in the continent.

Unlike the mismanagement of Scotland’s oil by the UK government, with no long-term saving, we should make sure that people across Scotland benefit properly from the renewables revolution for generations to come.

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Statistics have just confirmed that 97 per cent of Scotland’s electricity consumption was from renewable energy in 2020 and will break through the magic 100 per cent target shortly. From then on Scotland will become a net-exporter of renewable energy in addition to being self-sufficient for domestic demand.

At the moment, onshore wind provides around three-quarters of capacity, followed by hydro and offshore wind as the main sources of renewable power. In other words, we haven’t even begun to see the major ramping up of renewable wind and tidal production in Scottish waters and around our coast.

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Scotland can and will become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy production. Not only can can we export clean, green electricity to England, (which is still dependent on nuclear), but to the European continent.

When technology allows, energy-rich northern Europe nations including Iceland, the Faroes, Norway and Scotland will have an inter-connector directly linking us to the European mainland.

In Scotland, we must also be aware of the massive environmental impact on our northern back-yard. While we try as a global community to stop and limit the damage of global warming, receding Arctic ice will open the direct sea-route from Asia to Europe.

The ‘North Sea Route’ or NSR should halve the length of time taken to ship containers from the Far East to the biggest single-market in the world, and without depending on the Suez Canal.

Scotland is literally the gatekeeper to Europe in this scenario with the Atlantic to our west, Icelandic gap to the north and North Sea to our east. What future do we aspire to have as trade routes change to pass our shores? Should we just leave everything to the major continental shipping destinations at Hamburg, Rotterdam or Antwerp?

In the decades ahead, the world is going to change around us. Scotland is in a hugely important geographical location, endowed with renewable energy riches and the potential from changing global trade routes. Our location is of significant geo-strategic importance too, where we must support stability and conventional security.

The High North is being increasingly militarised by Russia to the alarm of our close neighbours including Norway. New capabilities including the nuclear-capable ‘super weapon’ Poseidon 2M39 torpedo are being developed and will be deployed in northern facilities. Cold War bases are being upgraded along the northern coast and fears are growing about attempts to control the northern trade route as it opens up.

To make the most of Scotland’s changing circumstances, we should have the same powers as our northern neighbours including Norway, Denmark and Iceland. To do that we need the powers of independence.

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