Whatever the SNP’s green ambitions, Putin has proved we MUST prioritise our energy security
ONCE the mainstay of the SNP’s blueprint for separatism, oil was seen as the prime generator of Scotland’s wealth after independence.
Now senior Nationalists have turned their backs on untapped North Sea reserves in favour of a greener future — even if the plan is, well, a bit vague.
Nicola Sturgeon has pledged the ‘fastest possible transition’ away from fossil fuels which she says are not consistent with the country’s ‘climate obligations’.
But the idea that renewables can meet all of our needs simply isn’t credible — and in the meantime ecological correctness necessitates a reliance on gas imports.
The Ukraine crisis has demonstrated the immense dangers of that dependency culture, highlighting how a gangster state can hold Europe to ransom — or attempt to.
And the supreme irony is that the North Sea could yield another 2billion barrels of oil, while the industry supports around 100,000 jobs — which are now under threat.
The net zero crusade may have noble intentions but — from inefficient heat pumps to electric cars — it comes at a stratospheric cost, which its champions don’t much like to talk about.
But is it viable at a time when once against the West is engaged in a deadly struggle with a dictator, who casually suggests he may use nuclear weapons to further his aims?
Green aspirations can’t be jettisoned, but they are a peace-time pursuit — the more pressing priority is national and energy security, not placating eco-radicals like Patrick Harvie.
The U.S., the EU and UK buy £200million of gas per day from the Russian state-owned Gazprom, as well as £300million of oil; after the invasion started, exports of gas through Ukraine, the route of key pipelines to the rest of Europe, increased, jumping 38 per cent overnight.
This price rise could mean Russia’s income will increase as a result of the Ukraine invasion, making it effectively self-financing — albeit sanctions are clearly starting to bite.
The UK has one of the most extensive national gas grids in the world but we receive only 4 per cent of our gas from Russia, with the rest from North Sea reserves, imports from Norway and imports of liquid natural gas from the Middle East.
But the international market means gas prices shot up when Putin sent his soldiers into Ukraine, so in the coming months more of us will face agonising decisions about whether to switch on the heating.
Household bills were already about to soar by 50 per cent to an average £2,000 a year, leading to the worst squeeze on household finances for 30 years.
Analysts believe that when the energy cap rises again on October 1, the Russian crisis may send bills above £3,000 .
Levies to fund ineffectual wind farms make up a considerable chunk of those sky-high financial demands — bankrolling an agenda that has failed to come close to fulfilling expectations.
As the green revolution gathers pace, last year less than 50 per cent of UK gas came from the North Sea, compared with 100 per cent in 2004 — and while there are unutilised gas fields, investment is in freefall.
Shell’s withdrawal from the Cambo oil project, near Shetland, came after Miss Sturgeon’s public pronouncement s about the evils of fossil fuels.
This posturing and appeasement of her Green coalition partners, vital for any vestigial hope of another referendum, has jeopardised jobs and the security of our energy supplies.
For her part, Miss Sturgeon has spent a lot of time castigating the UK Government for not doing more to welcome Ukrainian refugees.
But her moralising stance might carry more weight had she not sought to cultivate up to £5billion worth of trade links between Scotland and Russia, a relationship that came to an end when the UK expelled Moscow’s diplomats following the Salisbury poisonings in 2018.
That was back when Miss Sturgeon may have had more faith in capitalism — now a dirty word for the Scottish Government, given that its Green members, like all good Marxists, are fiercely against the very concept of economic growth.
All of which means the omens for Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’s forthcoming plan to kick-start Scotland’s post-pandemic economic recover, to be unveiled today (Tuesday, March 1, 2022), aren’t exactly promising.
According to sources close to its development, it has been ‘heavily diluted’ in order to promote environmental and social policies advocated by the Greens.
Its objective was to ‘unleash Scotland’s entrepreneurial potential’, though how that’s possible in tandem with workplace parking charges and punitive taxation is anyone’s guess.
It should come as no surprise that the finished product is said to ‘pander to every agenda’ imaginable, particularly those backed by the Greens, including ‘pseudo-social policies which don’t have much to do with economic growth’.
Inevitably, doing more to promote green energy supplies is likely to feature as one of the main aims.
In conjunction with nuclear and other modes of energy production, the green focus might be more palatable, but these were ruled out long ago by the SNP.
It is opposed to fracking, as indeed is the UK Government, after an onslaught by eco-lobbyists, despite the fact that it could generate billions of pounds and thousands of jobs for the Scottish economy.
Kremlin-backed TV channel Russia Today liked to spread anti-fracking propaganda, including the suggestion that fracking enthusiasts were morally equivalent to paedophiles.
One of its erstwhile stalwarts was, of course, Miss Sturgeon’s former mentor Alex Salmond, who took his show off the air after the Ukraine invasion.
Fracking was bad news for Putin because it challenged his control of Russia’s gas and oil exports, worth £180billion to Moscow annually, or 15 per cent of GDP.
Unwittingly, perhaps, the SNP played into the Russian leader’s hands by rejecting fracking at the urging of its vociferous critics, including the Greens.
Putin is a fan of Scottish independence (maybe that’s why Mr Salmond once praised the despot for restoring a ‘substantial part’ of Russian pride, back in April 2014) because he’d love to see Britain broken up.
Indeed, in 2020, a report by Westminster’s intelligence watchdog concluded that Russia interfered in the Scottish independence campaign in a bid to weaken the UK.
These are uncomfortable truths for the SNP as it rails against Putin and pressures the Prime Minister to allow more Ukrainians to seek sanctuary — after being forced to flee their country by the man once held in such high esteem by the party’s former leader.
Like many others, the SNP’s hierarchs fell under Putin’s spell, at least for a while, and it may have clouded their judgment of the threat he represented, and the urgent need to shore up our energy supplies.
For all their condemnation of Putin, Nationalist leaders still cling to Scottish independence as their overriding goal — an objective they share with the Kremlin.
For now, chillingly, the responsibility of keeping the lights on rests partly with a party which has accepted deluded Marxist eco-zealots into its government leadership team — and is intent on smashing apart the safe harbour of the UK even as war rages in Eastern Europe.
- This column was published in the Scottish Daily Mail newspaper on March 1, 2022.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant