Kenny MacAskill calls for legislation to ensure East Lothian benefits from offshore wind energy coming ashore
Offshore wind energy could bring East Lothian a cash bonanza if it was allowed to take a share in the wealth from renewables as Sheltand did from oil, MP Kenny MacAskill has said.
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Two offshore wind projects are due to land their energy from the North Sea in East Lothian and Mr MacAskill argues the county should be able to reap the benefits from providing the crucial locations.
But he says there is a “legislative gap” which means at the moment any community gain is left to the benevolence of the energy companies.
He has already raised the issue in the Commons and has written to the UK government pressing the case.
He cited the example of Shetland, where in the late 1970s, the council negotiated a deal which resulted in them being paid a fee for every barrel of oil processed at the Sullom Voe terminal. The money was invested in an oil fund which over the years has seen £320 million spent on services on the islands, including social care, welfare, arts and leisure.
He said: "If East Lothian could emulate the Shetlands it would be transformative."
There are examples elsewhere of communities receiving funding as a spin-off from renewable energy projects.
“It's clear other areas are benefiting and East Lothian should benefit as well,” said Mr MacAskill. “But rather than just being at the whim and fancy of large energy companies who may just give a bauble or two, there should be legislation that allows communities to get a reasonable benefit without undermining the viability of the projects.”
In his letter to the government, Mr MacAskill said the oil and gas wealth that flowed ashore in Scotland largely by-passed local communities other than in Shetland, where the council negotiated its ground-breaking deal. "That was a very modest sum to the corporations involved but was of huge benefit to the local communities."
He continued: "Now the offshore bounty isn’t oil and gas but offshore wind. Community benefit arrangements exist for onshore wind developments but that isn’t matched for offshore developments. I believe that to be a legislative gap."
Inch Cape Offshore Ltd has planning permission to build a substation at the site of the now-demolished Cockenzie power station for energy coming ashore from the Inch Cape wind farm off the Angus coast.
And energy from the Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind farm project 10 miles off the Fife coast will be brought ashore at Thorntonloch, near Torness, in cables under the beach which will connect with the grid at Crystal Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills.
Mr MacAskill told the government: "What I am seeking to ask is whether you will consider creating arrangements that would allow local authorities, where wind energy is landing, to benefit as Shetland did from oil and gas.
"These arrangements would obviously be available anywhere in the UK where such resource is landed. The rate that could apply would no doubt also be limited.
"However, if, as with Shetland or indeed with community benefit for onshore sites, the rate is modest it’s a situation that neither impedes development nor restricts competition. Moreover, it offers the opportunity for local communities to benefit from the bounty and to create a far better relationship between the corporate providers and those local communities."