If anything illustrates the disconnect between the market-driven aims of the UK Government’s energy policy and the vision and ambition of Orkney’s renewable energy sector, it is the recent announcement on the Orkney interconnector.
News that should be a cause for celebration in the islands was instead met by disappointment due to the high bar set by UK energy regulator Ofgem. An island energy sector hamstrung by lack of grid capacity didn’t even have the champagne on ice after the regulator insisted 135MW of new renewable generation would have to be awarded a Contract for Difference or be likely to be developed by December 2021 for the new 220MW transmission link to be triggered.
UK energy policy is stacked against the islands, and while an interconnector runs from the west of Scotland to carry renewable electricity to England and Wales it appears that Orkney’s hopes of exporting its renewable potential are being kicked another couple of years down the road.
It is shocking that islanders generating more electricity than they can use are still top of the fuel poverty league table. The Scottish Government is doing all it can to remedy that, but UK energy regulation needs to change so households in the north of Scotland no longer pay more for their electricity than anywhere else in the UK.
Such a situation can only cause more frustration and economic harm, and is one that the Scottish Government will work hard to overcome until Scotland can take control its own energy future.
And Scotland’s future becomes more critical by the day. So much has changed in the past five years since September 2014. Scotland is being ripped out the EU against its will by the most dangerous Tory government in modern history. It is worth remembering that nobody born this century had a say in 2014, or indeed in the UK’s ill-fated EU referendum. But young people from every town and community in Scotland will have their say in a fresh independence referendum – and I am confident that they will overwhelmingly vote Yes.
No Westminster government, of any party, has the right to stand in the way of the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future. An SNP win in any upcoming election will simply reinforce that – the Westminster wall of opposition to an independence referendum is already crumbling, and another election win for the SNP will wash it away.
The EU’s fundamental values are ones we cherish – freedom, democracy, the rule of law, equality, and respect for human dignity and human rights. EU membership is good for our businesses, our universities, and our people – who have the freedom to study, live and work across the continent.
The many EU citizens who have made their home here have enriched Scotland. There is still a very real risk of the UK leaving without a deal. That would damage our economy and communities and the SNP will do everything in our power to stop that happening.
This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space in the Orkney News to share their opinions.