Skip to main content

Offshore Wind: Employment

Volume 732: debated on Wednesday 17 May 2023

1. What recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) the Scottish Government on maximising employment opportunities in the offshore wind sector. (904919)

The future for Scotland’s offshore wind sector is bright. As part of our “Powering up Britain” package, the floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme is currently open to applications. Through the scheme, we will distribute funding to support critical port infrastructure that will enable the delivery of floating offshore wind and provide quality employment opportunities for years to come.

It is not just in employment, but in community benefit that we are losing out. Ireland has ensured that €24 million per annum will go to coastal communities hosting offshore renewable projects. In the UK, there is a legislative gap, where onshore wind is providing benefits for communities but there is no provision for offshore wind and the communities onshore. In East Lothian, we have Cockenzie and Torness where the energy will come ashore, and on the horizon there will be turbines. Where is our share, if Ireland can see €24 million per annum going to its communities for far less hosting?

The growth of our green industries will lead to new jobs and many benefits for our communities, whether they be in East Lothian or in other parts of Scotland. To support this transformation and help people take advantage of the opportunities that the transition will bring, we will be producing a net zero and nature workforce action plan in 2024. We are starting with a set of initial proposals and actions from the net zero power and networks pilot working group, followed by a suite of comprehensive actions from those sectors by summer 2023, to ensure that communities such as those in East Lothian and across Scotland can take full advantage of the benefits of these projects.

Mr Graham, I am sure that you must have had many conversations with the Scottish Government, so I look forward to the question.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Of course, equally important to offshore wind and the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland is marine energy, particularly from tidal stream. The Minister will know the importance of the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. Does he agree that the whole process, and the special pots arranged for marine energy under contracts for difference, could be improved if Marine Scotland increased the speed at which it approves sites for future tidal stream development?

My hon. Friend is very knowledgeable on such matters affecting Scotland. Scotland has indeed benefited significantly from the contracts for difference scheme, which is the Government’s flagship support scheme for large-scale renewable projects—some 27% of all CfD projects and around 23% of total CfD capacity. In relation to tidal, the contracts for difference round 4 awarded over 40 MW of new tidal stream power, and I think there are great opportunities going forward for Scotland to benefit further.

With the energy crisis, the importance of developing Scotland’s renewable energy sector has never been higher. The UK Government have no energy strategy—indeed, it is a sticking-plaster approach to the energy crisis, all paid for by the taxpayer, of course. In the 16 years of the Scottish Government, they have regularly launched glossy policy documents on renewables but have never delivered, especially on jobs. A scathing report from the Scottish Trades Union Congress said of the Scottish Government that “with energy bills soaring, climate targets missed and job promises broken, more targets without the detail of how they will be realised is unacceptable.” Does the Minister agree that only Labour has the solution to this crisis, creating high-quality, well-paid renewable jobs so that bills can be lowered, energy can be secured, and Britain can be an energy superpower?

I do not agree that Labour has any answers to any of the challenges facing our country, but the hon. Member is correct to highlight the targets missed by the SNP Government in Edinburgh. More than a decade ago, the SNP promised to turn Scotland into the Saudi Arabia of renewables, but just like the SNP’s promises to close the attainment gap, build ferries and create a national energy company, that promise has been broken and quietly abandoned. The growth of Scotland and the UK’s renewable sector will generate many new jobs across our country, and this United Kingdom Government are determined to maximise the opportunities for the Scottish workforce.

This UK Government want only to turn the UK into Saudi Arabia—never mind the Saudi Arabia of renewables.

It is critical to develop green energy jobs, but we also have to protect our environment—that is crucial. Unfortunately, waterways and coastal communities across the UK are being polluted by this Government’s refusal to stop pumping the equivalent of 40,000 days’ worth of raw sewage into them every year. It is little wonder that the SNP did not support Labour’s Bill to stop this disgraceful practice, as the Scottish Government do exactly the same. It was recently revealed that the equivalent of 3,000 swimming pools’ worth of raw sewage was dumped on Scottish beaches, waterways and parks last year. With both Governments allowing that sewage scandal to go on every day, and promises about green jobs and renewable industries broken, why should the public believe a word that the Scottish and UK Governments say about the environment?

This UK Government have a proud record of tackling sewage discharges. As the hon. Gentleman highlights, the policy is devolved to the Scottish Government. The SNP has a truly appalling record on allowing sewage to be dumped into Scotland’s waters, including at many environmentally protected sites. Recent press reports suggest that 7.6 million cubic metres of sewage were released into waterways of significance last year, including award-winning beaches and the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders. This is yet another example of where the SNP needs to clean up its act.